I just had a fascinating Twitter exchange with my colleague and good friend Alan Lepofsky.
I had tweeted: “Reason #71 why I hate email: I start my day playing catch-up.”
Alan replied: “And does the same thing not happen in social software? At least in email its all in one place.”
And I thought to myself: No, Alan, It’s really no the same thing.
I can see where Alan is coming from. He has argued eloquently that shifting correspondence from email to activity streams doesn’t really accomplish anything. Of course on some level Alan’s right: Messages are messages, whether they come through email or an activity stream.
But there’s a huge, fundamental, monumental difference between email and activity streams: Posts to an activity stream are usually public inside the enterprise. (Or at least posted to a group.)
The transparent nature of the activity stream changes everything. When I reply to a post in an activity stream (a “Signal” in Socialtext-ese), I’m not only writing for the person to whose Signal I’m replying. I’m writing for everyone who has access to that conversation thread.
That’s a totally different mindset. When I go through my emails, it’s a series of updates–usually reactive–to individuals: Don’t do this, that is approved, can’t make this meeting, missed you at that conference. When i go through Signals, it’s an opportunity to model, to muse, to question, to inspire in a uniquely public and transparent way: This is how we should think about this, help me understand that, I’m making this a personal priority, let’s celebrate the awesome job she did on that.
So maybe it’s just my Meyers-Briggs type but no, I don’t feel like I’m playing catch-up on Signals. There’s work waiting for me there, to be sure, but it’s work that adds to my energy, rather than taking it away.