Flattened Email

Recently I’ve been thinking of services like Google+ and Chatter as flattened email. A post on one of those networks is quite similar to an email that you send-to-all, and to replicate email in Google+, you can simply make a post private between you and another person. The differences, then, lie in your interface to the conversation. This interface has profound effects – just think if you had to click the subject of every post on Google+ to open it for reading, then click back out of that post to see the stream again. Would that change how you used it?Email is peaked, Google+ is flattenedEmail shows you the tip of each iceberg, whereas Google+ flattens them out and shows you the whole chunk at once.

We could say that Google+ and email are merely different interfaces to the same core features. Email is an efficient way to get an overview of all of your active or recent conversations, since it hides most of the content. Google+, on the other hand, splays it all out in front of you, which makes access to threads from further in the past more difficult, but makes interacting with recent content much easier.

Flattened-email products, which seem to be on the rise, tend to focus on the now, and less so on the ease of finding a conversation from the past, or storing it for reference. These problems will need to be dealt with quickly, or flattened-email will end up having usability problems that are different than, but equally maddening as, those that email has today.

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One Response to Flattened Email

  1. Patrick says:

    I just wanted to agree with you on this post. I find that in G+ it’s easier to just @ tag someone and limit the conversation to them for information. They receive it instantly and can easily comment back to me. If the meaning is somehow lost, we can “hangout” and I can show them what I need or whatever. I don’t see email going away, that’s for sure. There are clearly inherent problems in only using “flat email”, as you call it, like size limits of data, etc. I certainly couldn’t send a .zip file for instance through a G+ post. The corporate world also benefits from actual email for record keeping. And I like that I can search in my Gmail for a message that I may have written back when I first got my account…coming from Hotmail.

    Thanks for your blog and for your work regarding Ingress!!

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