Email, Am I Fighting the Inevitable?

July 31, 2008

I hate email. I get hundreds of email a day. At work, email = work to be done. So, of course, I have created a natural aversion to the archaic form of communication. Whenever possible I prefer RSS/Atom, the Delicious for link, Digging, Remember The Milk, Joomla, or any other communication tool I can use instead of yet another email message with embedded content. Then I read a recent Subtraction post:

Subtraction: Email As a Bridge or a Wall

If there’s one skill we can count on in this medium where we can count on virtually nothing, it’s that people know how to send an email

What?!? Have we, as netizens, not evolve?

Slow down. Read the post fully. TripIt built an information aggregator based on confirmation emails from travel websites. You forward the confirmation email to TripIt. The site parses the email for the important data (e.g. dates, times, locations) and builds a readable itinerary. Additionally, the site adds in Google Maps and other web 2.0 mashups for extra information at your finger tips.

Now, I cower at my prejudice. I dismissed email because I hate using it; yet, email often contains a wonderful amount of data in a plain, readable format. This reminds me of the benefits of XML. Human readable data. Yet, in my “Email is Evil” crusade I failed to see the hidden value. All the information is there. Make the computer work harder (another recent slogan of mine) and the data can be acquired with no development overhead. No standards committee. No specifications. Ah, bliss.

Well not really. It makes it incredibly difficult for the computer and the developer. They will have to code a dozen different ways for handling all kinds of different confirmation emails. But, it’s suppose to be hard for them. For me, I click forward the email. Everything works. Kind of like the telephone.

So thank you Mr. Subtraction for an eye-opening post on the value of email.

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