Ray is picking up on the thread of the brokenated horrorfulment that is email, and advocates migration to more bounded collaborative workspaces:
People who use Groove today, and people who used Notes in its early years (before most enterprises locked down the creation of databases), understand the personally-empowering feeling of doing work in “collaborative workspaces”. What, you might ask, is the big deal? It’s actually quite simple: When you have a space (a workspace) online to do your work with others that truly feels more effective and more convenient than eMail, you start relying less and less on eMail for critical work processes. In Groove, for example, once you start experiencing the swarming aspects of work within its workspaces, you’re hooked.
Unlike Ray (or Ross, for that matter), I love email. Love it, love it in the way it allows for what Fukuyama called ‘spontaneous socialbility’, a thing workspaces reduce. However, I also have the same pit in my stomach about email in 2003 that I did in 1997 about usenet. I loved usenet as well, too literally and too well — in the early 90’s, I poured two years of my life into that sink. But by 1997, I could see that the twin pressures plaguing usenet — volume and spam — had no easy solution. That’s how I feel now about email, and what makes it worse is that its starting to be how I feel about openess. Open systems allow for innovation, because you don’t need to convince anyone else that something will be a good idea before you try it. Innovation creates value, and value creates incentive and if that were all there was, it would be a virtuous circle, because the incentive would be to create more value. But incentive is more neutral than that. Incentives also create distortions — free riders, attempts to protect value by stifling competition, and so on. And distortions threaten openess. This is the process that led to the overgrowth of usenet, and its what’s threatening email now. And the thing that makes me sickest is that I may already have lived to see the high water mark of openess in my lifetime. Email’s loss (and in some ways its already happened, so enormous is its current debasement) is both tragic in and of itself, and possibly a warning about the future.