is Email a necessary or Unnecessary evil? (interview with IBM’s Luis Suarez)

email - luis suarez

I have been a long time fan of Luis Suarez whom I was supposed to meet at the Enterprise 2.0 summit except that my clients decided otherwise. Fortunately, I was able to reach out to Luis and send him, ironically, my questions via email.

That’s my point precisely. Email is one of those necessary evils. A system which is broken but difficult to break away from. At least, this is my perception. I have managed, over the years, to cut through the clutter… yet, I have never managed to do away with email completely.

Even worse, whenever I spread the good news that one doesn’t have to use email and that other solutions exist, there is always at least one person in the room who takes it personally and gets very very cross. It happened to me again last Monday after a lecture at HEC, while we were all having lunch. There was only one person around the table who seemed very angry with me but it got me thinking. Why would people be so in love with e-mail. Is it because this is the only online system which is close enough to the old world and mimics – vaguely – traditional letter writing?

Well, I don’t know. So I turned to Suarez instead, a man who is supposed to have turned off his mail reader completely … except for my questions. Good man!

photo by Londonbloggers

Doing away with email: Interview with Luis Suarez

1. You have been heralded as a no-email evangelist. How and why did you decide to do that?

I initially started this journey of Life Without eMail over six years ago (On February 2008) and, mainly, for three different reasons:

1. Over the course of time you realise that e-mail is not really a good collaboration and knowledge sharing tool. Quite the opposite. It’s today’s productivity killer, not necessarily because of the system itself, but more than anything else because of how we have abused it over the course of time resulting in all sorts of political games, bullying, managing up (or down), and overall unnecessary stress seeing how plenty of people keep using it as a way to protect and hoard their knowledge vs. helping one another.

antimuseum.com-inhouse-4480

2. The second reason why I stopped using e-mail was because over the course of the last few years I have been having hundreds, if not thousands, of interactions with younger generations of knowledge workers, whether they are working already or before entering the workplace, and all along I realised that we were using all sorts of various different collaboration tools, except e-mail and we got the job done, just as effectively, so I thought if they could pull it off together, why couldn’t we, right?

3. The last reason as to why I started this movement over six years ago was essentially to demonstrate, as a social business evangelist, that there is a work life without e-mail. That, nowadays, we do have more appropriate and relevant collaborative and knowledge sharing tools that help us get our jobs done much more efficiently and effectively. Time and time again, plenty of people came to me indicating, as a show stopper, that they couldn’t do social networking at work because they just didn’t have the time and when asking additional questions about why that is happening I realised how they were all saying a large chunk of today’s interactions are happening through e-mail as a time sink, which is why I decided to challenge the status quo of e-mail in the enterprise and, instead, prove and demonstrate, day in day out, that you can eventually have a very productive work life using social technologies versus just e-mail.

2. Wired pointed out that you had reduced email volume by 98%, does that mean that now you only receive 2 million emails a year?

Well, before I started this movement of Life Without eMail I used to get about 30 to 40 e-mails per day. Over the course of the years, that amount has gone down substantially till it reached that 98% of e-mail reduction to the point where I was getting two e-mails per day a couple of years back, averaging about 15 per week, which, I guess, is not too bad after all. The interesting part is that I have not reduced my interactions with others though, quite the opposite, they have increased a great deal, so the main difference is that the vast majority of those conversations are now happening through open, public social networking tools allowing for knowledge to flow freely helping people make better decisions with that information.

3. Honestly, who can really get rid of email. I can’t imagine telling my clients I don’t want to communicate with them in that way?!

You would be surprised about the large amount of people (Customers as well!) who are most willing to reduce their e-mail Inboxes in order to collaborate and share the knowledge across much more openly and transparently through social technologies. It’s that inertia that’s killing us, that is, the one where we don’t challenge the status quo and we all keep resorting to e-mail because “Everyone uses it, so why change?” Well, exactly because of that!

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Google Plus Engagement Leaves Big Data Experts Nonplussed

Today’s selection …

Is this piece in Adweek about Gigya’s insights regarding Google+ and the fact that, although it is said to be the second biggest social network in terms of users, engagement on Google’s social platform is still low and even at its lowest. I have been very critical of Google’s efforts to mimic Facebook over the years and even though some of these efforts haven’t paid off I, as an amateur photographer, am beginning to witness changes in engagement in G+ as I am shoving more and more of my pictures into “communities”. And bingo! it works. It’s true that engagement is low in profile pages and posts, but communities, and mostly photographers’ communities like “landscape photography” or “street photographers” is now clinching it. It has taken its time but maybe Google+ has found its niche… Yet, those guys from Gigya are less than extactic:

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depending on what pictures I choose, I can get up to 30 or more +’s and a few shares on individual photos; not bad for an individual I’d say and better than most platforms (including Facebook)

Google Plus Shares Least Among Social Networks | Adweek

It’s the second most popular social network by some measures, but when it comes to sharing, Google+ has the least reach compared to its rivals, according to the latest data from the social media tech firm Gigya.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn all incite more sharing on their networks than Google+, per Gigya, which claims to measure how 1.5 billion Web users share content each month.

In fact, Gigya manages the sharing functionality for more than 700 partners online. According to its data, just 3 percent of all social sharing went to Google+ from July to September.

By comparison, 41 percent of users shared content on Facebook; 20 percent shared on Twitter; 20 percent posted to Pinterest; and 4 percent to LinkedIn. Google+ counts more users than all of these platforms except Facebook because any user of Google services has a corresponding Plus account.

via Google Plus Shares Least Among Social Networks | Adweek.

LinkedIn Reaches 200 Million Member Limit

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By Yann Gourvennec

As an early adopter (beginning of 2004) adopter and future “ambassador” of LinkedIn, I am very pleased to be able to reblog Deep Nishar’s post about the professional social network reaching the 200 million user bar today. A great achievement for what I consider one of Social Media’s best tools in the market. For memory, as of Dec 2011, LinkedIn only had 136 million users. The growth has been staggering, as stated in this earlier blog piece.

200 Million Members!

We recently crossed an important and exciting milestone for the company. LinkedIn now counts over 200 million members as part of our network, with representation in more than 200 countries and territories. We serve our members in 19 languages around the world.

I’d like to thank each of you for helping build the LinkedIn network into what it is today. It’s been amazing to see how our members have been able to transform their professional lives through LinkedIn. You truly grasp the power of LinkedIn when you start to focus on these individual success stories.

Take for example, Akshay Chaturvedi from New Delhi, India who was able to use LinkedIn as a launch pad for his career. Not only was he able to lead an international project at AIESEC for a project on AIDS right out of university, with the help of LinkedIn, he was recruited by KPMG and continues to receive career guidance from his LinkedIn network. Then there’s Robyn Shulman who stepped out of her comfort zone from teacher to now a published writer and leader of a ESL Bilingual Educators group on LinkedIn. She has rediscovered former talents and changed her life through LinkedIn. One of my favorite stories comes from Leonardo Brant from Brazil who founded Cemec, an organization to help Brazilian professionals and entrepreneurs think creatively about their business challenges. Today they use LinkedIn as their digital classroom to exchange information and foster a meaningful community to share relevant knowledge. Everyday we hear stories like these from our members and we look forward to hearing many more.

So, who are LinkedIn’s 200 million members? This infographic captures the diversity and magic of your professional peers.

via 200 Million Members! | Official LinkedIn Blog.

Facebook’s very traditional advertising campaign

new Facebook advertising campaign

I’m not sure about the purpose of this commercial which I tend to find very depressing and not really inspiring. Facebook is understandably under pressure from its investors for monetising after it’s disappointing IPO and a flurry of announcements were made recently in that domain, not always convincing by the way.

I am neither certain this campaign will help sell on site advertising nor that this will help improve Facebook’s image in the eyes of its disgruntled investors.

Feel free to share your feelings.

Is app.net ‘s Dalton Caldwell the new Zuckerberg? – #blogbus

Dalton Caldwell, 32, is the founder and CEO of app.net but how he got there is a long story. A native from Texas, he went to university in Stanford, Calif., then joined Symbolic Systems in 2003. He was a precursor in social networks (check his bio on wikipedia) at the time (2003) when Friendster was around; he is the creator of Imeem, which was “originally a Skype-modelled Desktop social network in a peer-to-peer approach”.  After multiple incarnations it became a music sharing system, the 75th largest website in the world and “the first legal music downloading system”. Imeem, as it was called, was eventually acquired by Myspace in 2009. Caldwell was also awarded the best mobile app award by Techcrunch as early as 2008, when mobile was unknown to most. Now you start to understand. Dalton Caldwell is a trail-blazer, and anything but the average start-up founder, he is a true wizard, a brilliant mind who is responsible for the latest buzz in social media in the valley … and the rest of the world. Imagine that, he turned down an “acqui-hire” offer by Facebook which could have made him even richer than he already is.

[will app.net turn out to be a home run? photo antimuseum.com]

Now, will app.net replace Facebook and Dalton Caldwell be the new Zuckerberg? If he dons the same kind of hoodies, needless to say his philosophy is entirely different; and I have to admit that I like it a lot … Let’s zoom in on app.net with the notes taken during the interview we had with him last week during the blogger bus tour in Soma*, San Francisco:

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[Dalton Caldwell, the CEO and founder of app.net]

Caldwell launches mobile photo sharing app before Instagram and loses

Caldwell and his teams wanted “to do something which is mobile first”. What with the immense success of applications like Instagram and Pinterest, the focus is on mobile. Facebook is getting to grips with this now that analysts are criticising them for not being able to monetise on mobiles at a a time when users are shifting from Web to smartphones.

Two and half years ago, the team started working on a mobile photo sharing “pre-instagram” application named Picplz. After they raised funds and came to realisation they would only lose the battle against Instagram, they did the right thing, folded Picpliz and went on to the next thing. It often happens like this in Silicon Valley. In the high-tech business, Pivoting moments like this happen all the time. Don’t forget that Google ended up being a search engine after Yahoo! had refused to buy their algorithm (as per the story described in Scott Berkun’s The Myths of Innovation).

Caldwell turns down acqui-hire by Facebook

The team then “took a few shots with the same infrastructure” and of Caldwell’s own accord, “this is why they were able to catch up so quickly with App.net”. The first idea was to help third party developers find how to integrate their apps within Facebook or Twitter. Caldwell’s team started building more tools for the Facebook platform and after opengraph “came to fruition, it all worked so well with Facebook that they wanted to “acqui-hire” them”. Yet, Caldwell “wasn’t enthusiastic” to put it in his own words. A friend of his then suggested not to worry about the websites but to focus on the APIs. This was in 2008-2009. App.net wasn’t yet what it is now.

Social Networks becoming ad companies will shut down their APIs

If most social networks like Twitter and Facebook started off as APIs and helped build entire ecosystems around them, “[they] couldn’t stick to this because of monetisation” Caldwell explained. He then wrote a blog post (What Twitter could have been) on July 1 (a Sunday) in which he vented his frustration. Little did he know that his post would attract a hug following and that he was about to start something new. The blog post “took off, with hundreds of thousands of visits, (even though it only consists of a few paragraphs). In that piece, Dalton Caldwell contends that “every API will be closed by social networks because [popular social networks] went away from being API companies to become ad companies and it means that they have to control everything”.

if they decide to close their APIs, then why not build an API?

“The idea then became to build an API company!” Caldwell went on. “Most people don’t know how bad things are, and they will notice in the next few months that certain applications stop working” he said.

[apps.net : global feed page]

crowd-funding … in a matter of weeks

$-largeThis is how app.net was given a front end which “looks like Twitter looked in 2007” the young entrepreneur added. Just as a proof of concept, for this front-end is not meant to be a Twitter replacement. Developers are proposed to build applications on it. Imagine a social chess game for instance, all built on the common API and digging from the common user base.

The new project son attracted 10,000 users in a matter of weeks. Which means that the $ 500k goal the company had set up for themselves by the end of August. “This is how start-ups work” Dalton Caldwell explained: “if Youtube had launched 6 month later or before it wouldn’t have succeeded. Social media made it happen it wasn’t us. We are just under 20,000 users now. No idea how long it will take for them to have million of users versus the current 20,000. I don’t know how long it will take us to reach millions, maybe it will never do. In fact in depends on whether somebody develops a killer application based on the App.net AP!” he said.

a lot of people got angry

Caldwell admitted to making a lot of people angry; with a few lines he put his finger on a fundamental issue which is plaguing the current development of social media. Social networks were developed with the idea that Marketing could be done differently and barely 3 years ago, the world was buzzing with Tara Hunt’s Whuffie Factor concept, a founding book placing social capital over financial value. With the race to monetisation – which grew even worse with Facebook’s IPO – all of this is gone for good. We are left with advertising and I admit to sharing Caldwell’s frustration; a frustration I had already vented a year and a half ago as President of Media Aces in France.

“We are building a privacy model and we are not going to impose a business model” Caldwell concluded. “Those who build the best apps will be rewarded and there are 6 apps in the application store so far” he said.

embrace the philosophy … well worth $50

It’s hard to tell whether App.net will scale to millions of users like other platforms. As a matter of fact, it’s not even competing on the same level at all. At any rate, for social media veterans like me, Caldwell is spot on in terms of how he approaches social media and it’s well worth $50 in my eyes. After all, app.net may well just remain a social network for the happy few who want to escape interruption marketing and the use of your private data and content by public companies. If only for that, I feel like joining App.net and supporting Dalton and his teams.

Caldwell may not be the next Zuckerberg after all, maybe just the other way round. Small is beautiful!

notes


*Soma = South of Market (downtown San Francisco district situated south of ‘Market’, a major artery in the centre of the City.