Collaboration: death by email

It hit me today!

I’m working on a personal project and discussions started running in email threads (supported by Dropbox for storing and sharing some files and a couple of interactions on a Facebook Group). I thought of suggesting a collaboration platform but since everyone seemed comfortable with this modus operandi I let it be.

Today one of the team members called to discuss something and mentioned “did you read those suggestions on the email?”. I had no recollection of them and went to check it back. I had in fact read the email but the suggestions had escaped my attention. And suddenly it hit me: email is a hyper stimulus tool, demanding so much of our attention that it is, in fact, sometimes difficult to focus.

You see, together with messages on this project, I receive several others – from friends, the university, other projects, the occasional spam, pure nonsense/fun (less and less frequently I’ve been noticing), and all kinds of “hello, just catching up on you” emails. On top of that there’s that cute and highly useful chat embedded functionality that adds to the attention dizziness. And let’s not forget checking email via mobile phone with probably more external stimulus fighting for the A word.

So despite prioritizing messages and labelling them, the fact is that in a tool such as email it is hard to focus (not to mention keeping track of the discussion when you easily mix subjects in different threads).

This stands in sharp contrast to what I experienced last year when planning Cidadania 2.0 at a distance from my organizing partner, or to what I’m experiencing currently when working on a collaboration platform with an external company for professional reasons. When I’m in the collaborative workspace for each of these projects my attention is much more devoted to each of the topics being discussed (not to mention the fact that different aspects of the project are much more “tidy”).

I already saw the advantages of online collaboration tools, but let’s just say that regarding email I had one of those aha moments today!


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