Tech Crunch, etc

I just signed up for an email subscription to TechCrunch. Probably about 3 years later than most people. And I'm not sure of those signing up how many are currently doing so using email. Techcrunch offers 6 ways of subscribing – RSS, email, app for browser, twitter, facebook, and some google profile thing.

I chose email because I've deactivated my twitter and facebook accounts, I haven't got to grips with RSS, and I don't know anything about the Google profile thing – but I don't want to put everything in one Google basket: mail, search, desktop, etc is sufficient.

I heard in various places that email is passé and everyone who is anyone communicates in ways other than email. So by deactivating twitter and facebook I immediately became a nobody rather than a somebody.

Sidebar: Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank, by
Robert W. Fuller is a good read and a different take on the organizational caste system I mentioned in a previous post.

Back to the death of email. On June 17 Fast Company had a piece discussing the end of email. It's a fun read because it says 'yes','no', 'maybe', and 'don't know' all in the space of about 800 words and three graphics with lines going in inconclusive directions. Here's one of the paragraphs:

To further complicate the situation, tech market research firm the Radicati Group released a report in April which estimated that social networks will grow at a remarkable pace in the next few years–but it also showed that worldwide email usership would balloon as well. "The number of worldwide email accounts is projected to increase from over 2.9 billion in 2010, to over 3.8 billion by 2014," the report said. "However, Social Networking currently represents the fastest growing communication technology among both consumers and business users, with over 2.1 billion accounts in 2010 which are projected to grow to over 3.6 billion accounts by 2014."

I signed up for TechCrunch because of an article that a colleague sent me. Location 2012: Death Of The Information Silos by Robert Scoble. It's a wonderful piece which for me felt as if I've been learning a foreign language in a remote location and I finally got to hear it spoken by natives in their home territory. I only understood about 3 in 10 words – getting flummoxed by Waze,, geofence, Glympse, Siri, Plancast, Blippy, Expensify, Loopt Star, PepsiLoot, CloudMade, Gowalla, Brightkite, Whrrl, simplegeo and OpenStreetMap. I did manage to recognize McDonald's and Harrah's but they're old world bricks, and I felt reasonably ok about Foursquare but that means I've still got a lot of learning to do to be able to converse with Scoble in his language should I ever meet him.

I enjoyed the read because last week I ran an exercise that didn't fling around website names but did try to get people to imagine what it would be like working in a radically different work environment – a similar approach to Scoble's. "Put yourself in this situation and see what it feels like". What came out of it was a mass of questions that need to be answered in order to get us to that new style of working. Like Scoble's observations many of the questions relate to the interoperability of organizational functions, systems, and processes, and require the will of people to get them to interact.

Scoble was somwhat optimistic on this saying

Some companies are trying to integrate these services, or provide infrastructure that makes integration possible as well.

Last week's Economist had a leader, The Webs New Walls, and a briefing "A virtual counter-revolution" that were less optimistic noting, for example, that:

The trend to more closed systems is undeniable. Take Facebook, the web's biggest social network. The site is a fast-growing, semi-open platform with more than 500m registered users. Its American contingent spends on average more than six hours a month on the site and less than two on Google. Users have identities specific to Facebook and communicate mostly via internal messages. The firm has its own rules, covering, for instance, which third-party applications may run and how personal data are dealt with.

There seem to be many parallels between internet interoperability and the forces working for and against it, and organizational knowledge sharing and collaboration and the forces that work for and against it. Most organizations I work with want to break down silos. But as the internet experience is beginning to suggest it's a much more complex process than it might seem.