Posts from November 2005.

Happy Thanksgiving from ClearContext!

I wanted to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!  In particular, we would like to give special thanks for everyone who has helped ClearContext grow throughout the past year.

We would also like to thank in advance all of those who are helping or will be helping us test our next major release, ClearContext v2.  Yesterday we released ClearContext v2 Beta 1 to a limited group of testers.  We will be gathering feedback, integrating changes, and release a public beta as quickly as it makes sense.  If you aren’t on the current beta test list, feel free to send us a note to and we will notify you when we have something ready to look at.

So, enjoy your holiday and watch our blog for future announcements regarding v2.

Email in the News

I’ve been busy testing ClearContext v2 (more on that in a day or
two) and let a couple of stories pass by without comment.

First,  Udo Shroeder has posted Email, Not Worth It? – another rebuttal to all these recent articles published predicting email’s death:

"[Email is] easy to archive, searchable, can be filtered, topics can easily be
scaled to additional people, it doesn’t take a lot of time to bring
some points across. Everything is documented, for eternity. And the
most important aspect: email doesn’t interrupt me."

Well said!

Also, the Radicati Group has posted the results to an email usage survey
(have I mentioned before that I love a good email survey?) that finds
that nearly 25% of email at work is considered personal in
nature.  Coupled with spam, the study indicates that more than 50% of "business" email is not related to business at all.

The Story of Email’s Demise is Greatly Exaggerated

OK, I’m biased.  We write email tools.  I have a vested interest in people continuing to use email.  All that said, I really don’t get it when writers use the imminent demise of email to discuss the proliferation of spam and IM and collaboration tools.  There’s always going to be a need for the type of communication email provides – personal correspondence between a few that can be consumed on the recipient’s time schedule and used as documentation of decisions, information, etc..

Though the title of BusinessWeek’s article, E-Mail is So Five Minutes Ago indicates otherwise, they appear to agree with me. While business folk are starting to find new ways to collaborate using web based tools like wikis, email’s not really going to go away:

‘Though the likeliest
scenario is that e-mail will remain the prime tool for notification and
one-to-one communication, "a huge percentage of collaboration will
occur outside of e-mail, with a continued rise in these other tools,"
says Clay Shirky, associate teacher in the interactive
telecommunications program at New York University. "There’s an enormous
untapped value to be gotten by getting collaboration right."’

This is spot on.  There are some tasks that people try to perform within email that are best implemented using other tools.  One of my first jobs was working for an IT Consulting firm that heavily invested in Lotus Notes.  We had 100’s of Lotus databases for all our collaborative work.  Our employees were more productive, clients could see the value, and we built internal communities that formed the backbone of a very successful corporate culture.  Email was not the right place to do this.

But it’s not going away.  Just look at the results of this informal IM vs. email test.  Or the analysis here that talks about the productivity gains to be had from being connected via email.

Email’s not going away.  But Bob Geldof is right – we could all stand to figure out how to make better use of it.

Should Microsoft Invest in Features?

Ezra Roizen features ClearContext in the Roizen report as a companion article to yesterday’s AlwayOn piece on Microsoft Innovation.  I quote:

‘As I listened to Deva I began asking myself, "Who needs lots of little innovations to improve its products? Who has the luxury of taking a long-term, contemplative, and iterative view of innovation? Who can offer entrepreneurs attractive mid-tier economic outcomes?" Answer: Microsoft.’

For more detail, read Should Microsoft Invest in Features?

Trust in Email

Anne Bonaparte, CEO of MailFrontier, has published their findings on the impact that phishing and other email scams is having on user’s trust in legitimate email:

"But e-mail’s functionality has been devalued by unrelenting abuse in
the form of spam, viruses and phishing. We’ve even reached the point
where one must ask whether fed-up users are ready to declare "lights
out" on e-mail."

The "lights out" scenario she speaks of is clearly not likely to
happen, but it is interesting to note that as users become more
suspicious of email content, they are reporting more and more
legitimate email as spam.  For more detail read her
article, Is it ‘lights out’ for email?

Followup TPN Podcast

I had the opportunity to sit down with Buzz and talk to Cameron over at the Podcast Network yesterday.  The result has been posted as Productivity Show #15.  Take a listen for more on ActiveWords, our ActiveWords/ ClearContext agent, and a discussion on gmail vs. Outlook.  Thanks, Cameron and Buzz – it was a pleasure as always!

OnTheRun Podcast

Robert Scoble is interviewed by Marc Orchant and James Kendrick over at the jkOnTheRun podcast weblog.  They talk about  Slingbox, Virtual Earth, Tablet Enhancements for Outlook, and a myriad of other items.  But of course, I’m noting it because anytime someone professes love for ClearContext (as Robert does at approximately minute 40:55) that’s going to merit a mention in the weblog.  I am pleased to hear that Inbox Manager continues to shine and can’t wait for Robert to try v2.0!

NYT: Got Two Extra Hours for Email?

The New York Times ran a story this morning on exploding email usage.  More email usage data:

"Dealing with e-mail – filing it, cataloging it, prioritizing it – has
added hours of extra work a week, much of it done by people in the late
evening and early morning. In a recent survey by America Online and
Opinion Research Corporation, 41 percent of the respondents said they
checked their e-mail in the morning before going to work. More than 25
percent said they had never gone more than a few days without checking
e-mail, with 60 percent saying they check it on vacation. Four percent
looked at e-mail in the bathroom."

The article goes on to talk about the inherent stress of email because
of its immediacy and the feelings of guilt involved in having an
overfull inbox.  For more, read Got Two Extra Hours for Email?


“I am a fashion god.”

CNN has posted excerpts from former FEMA director’s Mike Brown’s email during the Katrina crisis.  Though I am certain that you could pull selected messages from my email history and make me look like a bungling idiot, some of this stuff would be laugh out loud funny it if wasn’t so sad.  For example, the day of the storm, Brown writes:

"If you’ll look at my lovely FEMA attire, you’ll really vomit. I am a fashion god."

Why am I linking to this?  Whether you’re an effective leader or not, make sure that you never put anything in email that you wouldn’t want to be made public.  It could come back to bite you in a big way.  See Top Five Ways to Improve Email Etiquette:

5.  Don’t send confidential information.
It is very easy to forward email and consequently very easy to break confidentiality expectations. Don’t send anything that couldn’t be published in a newspaper or posted by the water cooler.

Maybe if Mike had been a ClearContext user he could have avoided some of the problems he’s had!  😉

I love a good email usage survey…

…and apparently a lot of other folks do, too.  ZDNet cites research that indicates that 65% of workers are spending 1 – 3 hours per day in email.  This jives with our findings earlier in the year.  The spin on the results is that the problem is the result of poorly written communication, with 40% of the respondents spending 1/2 to 3 hours/ day wasting time on poorly written email.  IMO this is a chicken and egg problem.  Are people spending too much time in email because the messages are poorly written, or are the messages poorly written because they get too much email to deal with effectively on a daily basis?

43Folders is running their own informal poll on how many actionable messages a user receives in a given day.  Here’s what we found in our survey: 56% of our respondents received between 15 and 100 emails/day, with 62% reporting that 50% or more of that email was work related.  See our graphs on email volumes for more detail.