Email is social & social networks are bigger email

We read articles on how email is not social and email is a silo then followed with social networks are about openness and sharing. Actually you can make either one exactly the same.

Email buttonWhile social networks have sharing capabilities, it actually follows the same design and structure as email always has.  The difference is email has mentally been grandfathered into our minds as a silo and shelter of knowledge.

If we think of the security and sharing model they inherently act identically.  Both have groups that you can share with, such as Path, Google+ and Facebook.  Both have search ability for yourself or against other’s data if allowed, such as Facebook and Twitter.  Both email and social networks can isolate data from everyone.

So why do we feel that storing identical information in another storage facility is called sharing? Because we are told so. Sites claim email is bad, not a sharing mechanism and then in the same sentences tell you that you sharing in email is limited.

Isn’t sending an email that links to an attachment the same as a tweet that does so? If I select my followers (approve them to a protected feed in other terms) then I am setting a group of who can see my data. The same goes for URL’s. The larger group I send to the more see it.

Social networks do the same and keep track of what you can see the same as email. The interface for storage is just entirely different.  A huge database knows what tweets you have rights to see and search against via security.  Facebook social graph performs the same way. You can only see what has been shared with you or publicly.

So instead of saying the file storage mechanism in email isn’t conducive to sharing the model of access and security may simply need to be retooled to make it so.  Protected folders by groups or privacy.  Public folders for everyone to search against.  Oh wait, email has already been doing that for years.  And IBM tried mapping all this in Raven / Discovery Server years ago.  Yes, ahead of their time.

What do you think? Can email be retooled to act exactly like social networks? Is it one already? I think it is. Let’s debate.

  • Lars Olufsen

    I completely agree, Chris. After all, it’s just storage and distribution channels, anyway. Groups, categories and a segmented security model, and you’re right where “social” is today.
    Come to think of it … mail-in-databases and group mailboxes are quite social as is, and are using plenty for “sharing”.
    What email isn’t, and “social” is, is a portal for the “sharing” culture. But as you say, the mapping and taxonomy power of the Discovery server, and the portal abilities of Lotus K-Station (Which was later merged into Websphere Portal), had all the capabilities needed, back in 2002.

    It does take a bit of effort to actively choose to send links to files instead of shortcuts, but again, this is merely a storage issue, and technology like DAOS can help out in that regard.

    There’s little new under the sun, and the notion that “email isn’t social” or “email is killing productivity” is just plain wrong.

  • IdoNotes

    Thanks for the comments. I am beginning to see where the mindset is only one way since it has been around so long. I know many have tried to rework email but I do not think the killer change or app is available yet.

  • Abby Butts

    I agree with your point that email and social networks are essentially the same. However, the mindsets behind them are completely different and that’s why the idea of email is old/bad and social is new/good is pushed. Email has taught us to be selective about who sees this piece of information and makes us feel powerful because we think we are in control. This is a hard mindset to get past while still working within the same tool. A new tool, or social networks, bring a new set of rules and encourage participation with all instead of the select few.

  • IdoNotes

    This is true and one of the things I thought about. Being around so long is it the old dog that no one wants to teach new tricks?

  • Thomas Bahn

    Hi Chris,

    I completely disagree. 😉

    My main points are:

    While it is easy to share different pieces of content with different people, it’s a lot harder to do so with email in my mailbox. First the database ACL: it kind of all or nothing. Then the $Readers in each email: not so easy to use, hard to explain. And I have to act on each email I get, or it will be visible for all – no privacy in while I’m on a vacation?!

    Discoverability (?): Finding new information on solutions like Connections is easy, since there is a global search. While it is possible to have a Domain Search configured in Notes and Domino, I haven’t seen one customer doing it with mail databases.

    Tagging: My mailbox, my rules! I create a folder hierarchy and assign emails to theese folders. I have some customers using categories (with a modified mail template), but not many. No one lets others categorize one’s mails.

    The tooth of time: When a person leaves a company, its mail database will be thrown away some time later, while content in social tools will live forever.

    Customer and/or business partner facing social solutions: How would you do this with email?

    Versions, versions, everywhere: While in a solution like Connections Files there is a clear way to determine and easy way to always get the newest (or older) versions of a file. With emails the same file will most probably reside in quite some mail boxes. Which is the current one? Where is the version with X in it?

    And this is just, what first comes to my mind…