May 31, 2007
Gmail is Good, But ...
Posted by Gordon Smith

Since going Google last month, I have been adjusting to Gmail. The more I use it, the more I like it. That's a good sign for any service, especially one based on software.

But there are days when I wonder about email. William Birdthistle has a series of interesting posts on scholarly productivity over at Prawfs (see here, here, and here), and email is one of the villains: "My advice to new professors would be to ration your time on email and the web to the absolute minimum, perhaps even to the point of spending most of your day on an unconnected computer. I found email, in particular, a tremendous way to fritter away days of my life."

Fred Wilson also feels burdened by email, but he is not interested in unplugging. He is looking for options: "text messaging, instant messaging, and site messaging for one to one messaging. And blogging, twitttering, and social networking for one to many messaging." All of that seems like it would send William, already teetering, over the edge. Me, too.

In the end, I suppose this is all about maintaining communities -- or, if you prefer, networks -- right? Each of us is a member of multiple communities, and we need to figure out the best way to maintain those connections. Some thoughts on the relative merits of these technologies:

  • At the moment, I use email and telephone for one to one messaging and blogging for one to many.
  • I do not like text messaging, though it has the dual virtues of cheap mobility and asynchronicity. I am tempted to go this direction for my family communications, which are getting more complicated by the year with five growing children.
  • IM is not asynchronous, which is a big problem for me.
  • My children enjoy site messaging with their friends, but that seems like a generational thing. Can you imagine lawprofs communicating via Facebook? Ok, maybe it isn't unimaginable, but like any social networking service, it requires some critical mass before it becomes worthwhile.
  • I don't use LinkedIn, either, even though I am registered and receive periodic invitiatons to link. So few people I care about use it that it just isn't worth the effort.
  • Finally, I have experimented with twittering, and I like it. I think it has potential.

As always, I would be interested to hear others' experiences and recommendations on this score.

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