One of the paradoxes I always liked at school was the thought experiment called Schroedinger's Cat. It is a nice illustration in Quantum Physics, and as you all know the cat is for a period of time simultaneously alive and dead. When I was a teenager, I even had a T-shirt saying: "Hi Schroedinger, how is your cat?". I found this very very funny.
The Financial Times recently titled The End of Email suggesting that email may be dead. I have not made up my mind yet. It might be dead and alive at the same time. Just like Schroedinger's cat.
Early evidence from a study done for Hewlett Packard, but never published thoroughly, suggests that e-mails make stupid. CNN reported, based on this study, that emails damage your brain more than marihuana. Due to the distraction by constant bombardment of messages, the subjects in a study lost 10 IQ points on average. This might bring us down to 150 and we start doing silly things, like playing golf and listening to the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Since I read Niclas Carr's book The Shallows, I am getting worried that the little idiots with their Nindendo brains which are now joining the workforce, might really not be able to pay for my retirement. Some companies are going so far that they want to ban internal emails completely and others switch to internal networking tools like Yammer. I tried Yammer, and found that the time you don't waste on emails you then waste on Yammer. Yammer is a social networking site for companies. It is in principle a good idea, but might just become a "corporate Facebook". And that Facebook is stupid, there is no doubt. I am also worried about the security on Yammer. If Facebook turns bad, then it means just a bunch of idiots are disclosed with their private matters to another bunch of idiots. That's pretty harmless. But if Yammer turns bad, then your corporate secrets might end up in the hands of your competitors. So, you can not do any serious work on it and just chit chat. And this I prefer in the coffee corner over over a little walk in the factory or on campus after lunch. Having a chat is actually a good way to get people away from the computer screen for a while and not tugging them into it even more.
There is nothing wrong with email, but sometimes with the people who send them. But it is also not too hard to keep the Inbox clean. I just added a few automatic rules to my mail client, respectfully diverting obvious rubbish into a folder called "Read later/never". Just yesterday I wanted to add keyword "Merry Christmas" to the rule. Actually, I like Christmas greetings - but of course not by email. But then I came up with the better idea of setting my server to automatically fire back 1001 mp4 video clips of "Snoopy Against the Red Baron" and choking the attackers account by a temporary overload. Finally, I decided not to launch a Cyberwar triggered by actually well meant greetings. So, I saved the server script as draft. Perhaps next year.
Sure, Metcalfe's Law, is saying that the value of the network is determined by the number of knots and users. But this is anyway just something to put in business plans to ask other people for money. The value of a network really is to bring the right people together. Or why to you think some organizations have a "Red Telephone"?