I have written before about how email is still the killer app. There are lots of new dedicated applications to serve specific needs, but often I find myself reverting back to the trusty email. But one area that I have a love-hate relationship with is the massive email thread.
Email threads have their limitations
This annoyance has recently reached a new high as I have three of these massive email threads going at the same time, one for a local Boston/Cambridge tech geek pickup basketball and soccer, and two for soccer leagues I play on. We use the email thread to announce game times, check who’s coming or not, coordinate rides, or make jokes. It’s convenient and annoying at the same time.
Email threads are easy and comfortable
Email threads are great because they require no work or learning to use. It is an invisible “product” (use case really) that relies on a platform people are already using every day (email). You compose an email, fill out the addresses automatically, and hit send. And to reply, it’s one click or keyboard shortcut. No new usernames and passwords, no new places to check out, no new service to learn.
Online groups have too much friction and are not the solution
One common solution to this problem is online groups, but they have continually disappointed me as a replacement for the massive email thread. Yahoo Groups and Google groups are great for lots of collaboration, forums, or development projects, but for a simple email thread, they are terrible.
First off, they require people to register for the group before accessing it. No matter how tech savvy the group is, there will never be 100% participation, and in many cases people have to create new accounts for a new service (and nobody wants to create yet another account that they will soon forget). Second, they require a motivated and dedicated admin to create the group, manage members, and eventually possibly pass the group on to someone else. Third, they require people to either continue receiving all emails (thereby not saving the inbox), or remember yet another website to check out on a regular basis. And finally, they are not stick: I have never participated in an online group discussion that endured past the initial excitement of the first few weeks.
What’s the solution?
Is there room for a Posterous for online groups and email chain management? I hope so.