Grounded & Steadfast

The journal of Chris Bowler, a collection of thoughts on faith, business, design, and the creative process.

Is Email Broken?

.Mail?

Tobias van Schneider thinks so. He shared his thoughts on the subject, including his idea for fixing email. I've read his post several times, but, apart from appreciating the thought he's put into it, his solution is lacking.

He's trying to solve the wrong problem. Email clients are not broken. True, there has been no real innovation around email clients since the inception of the platform. But that doesn't mean our current tools are not doing their job.

The problem is what we do with email. We communicate, for sure. But many people use email as storage, not for communications. They store documents in their email client. They store things they need to do in their email client. They store reference information in their email client. And, like iTunes, once an application has to meet more than 2,3 vital tasks, it becomes cumbersome in and of itself.

When an application needs to be managed, you have a problem.

Patrick Rhone beat me to the punch on this idea. He states:

… it is (obviously) really, really, hard to divorce oneself from 20+ years of re-enforsement and habit. I certainly don’t have my ideas completely fleshed out. What I do know is that the picture in my head looks nothing like those boxes above and behaves like no email client I’m aware of.

The habits he references are what make this exercise hard. Do we really need new email clients? Maybe. But what if we used the ones we have for communicating, and moved all the content within our messages to tools better suited for managing information and tasks?

My feeling is we'd loathe our email clients a lot less.