The Communications Maelstrom: What's the Best Way to Be Reached?
Not so long ago in relative terms people who owned things such as car phones and fax machines were likely fodder for Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Today, it’s easier than ever to reach people and to be reached.
Nowadays we have e-mail, which is still one of the best and most amazing things you can do online. But how people are e-mailing each other is getting more interesting, refined, and in some cases more confusing!
For example, a post about e-mail by Fred of A VC reminds me that for some, social networking websites like MySpace are used as primary e-mailing platforms. It’s always a bit of a surprise to me when a friend of mine e-mails me through my (seldom used) MySpace profile, particularly when I know they have my primary e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org). But for these and many others, social networking has become so part and parcel to their online experience that it simply makes all the sense in the world to e-mail via MySpace or Facebook, etc.
Instant messaging has also become an indispensable communications tool of the online world. As e-mailing is an art form distinct from other forms of communication (to emoticon or not to emoticon, that is the question ) instant messaging requires a different form of etiquette and set of rules. While you can set up status alerts (Busy, At Work, etc.) it’s often difficult to tell when it’s a good time to essentially bug someone or not. Drawing that line for yourself and for others can be a challenge in a global world where the workday never ends.
GTalk, the instant messaging tool within GMail, forms a slightly hybrid category all its own. I’ve noticed that people feel more comfortable using GTalk for quick questions/interruptions than other forms of communication, such as AIM. Perhaps this is because communication in this case is between two people who already know each others GMail address, and therefore feel a little more familiar than in an AIM environment.
There are more variations on this theme (some people I know prefer to e-mail via Twitter!) but I think you get the idea.
Back to GMail for just a second: Tony Hung would like to see column sorting added, and it’s hard to disagree. Personally, I’d love to be able to add widgets to my GMail page as it’s something of a personal communications hub for my online life. For example, a Google calendar overlay that can be minimized or maximized (in the same way as GTalk windows) would greatly help me keep organized.