Archive for May, 2006

Use the right medium – messaging annoyance #1

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

One of the biggest problems with email overload involves not only email, but communication in general.  Between email, instant messaging, text messaging, and phone calls (to mention some of the more common ones), there are so many ways to communicate w/ people these days.  However, using the wrong medium for the wrong type of information and responsiveness expectation can be a big waste of everyone’s time.

I’m going to write some followups to this post that go into greater depth, but at a high level I think it’s important to consider the following types of things when deciding which communication medium to use:

Is time critical responsiveness involved?  Do you need an answer right now?  If so, call or use IM if the person is online.  Expecting people to be constantly checking email sets up an ineffective email processing habit.

Is there a lot of information that needs to be documented (ie: notes, specific steps/procedures/etc.)?  If so, use email so the person has all that information and does not need to write it down and verify it all.

Will this involve some synchronous back and forth?  A lot of times there’s a flowchart-like process in making a simple decision that involves a number of back-and-forth queries.  Again, use a phone call or IM for this so two people aren’t sitting there refreshing their inbox waiting for a response.

These things (and many more) sound so simple, but I find many of us engaging in 15 minute phone calls that could be a 5 minute email or sending five rounds of emails back and forth that could have been a two minute phone call or IM convo.

There’s a lot written about how to process email and stay on top of your communications, but I believe the first step to getting information under control is using the right medium for each situation – something that a lot of very tech-savvy people still don’t do right.

Welcome to Email Dashboard!

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

Well, welcome to my
blog.  Ever since I re-joined the startup world, people keep asking me stuff
about email and startups, and I keep sending them email telling them all about
what’s going on and my opinions on this and that.  And I always think to myself,
boy, it sure would be nice if there were some vehicle available where I could
write this stuff once and people could just go look at it rather than repeating
a bunch of the same discussions over and over again via email.  After about the 50th time I mentioned that to friends, someone said “oh, you’re serious? 
You know you just need to start a blog, right?”

So, here we are.  After
doing my last startup, Moai Technologies, from 1996-2001, I took a couple years
off before deciding to jump back into the tech world.  During that time, I spent
a lot of time talking to people about what was always the biggest pain for me
during my time at Moai – keeping up with the endless stream of email I
received.  And it turned out a lot of people had the same problem.  So, after a
couple of years of traveling, a little consulting, and a lot of research, I
teamed up with my partner from Moai, Frank Kang, and soon got my friend Brad Meador
to join us and we focused on making email better for
everyone at my new startup, ClearContext.

We spend a lot of time
focusing on some specific problems for a very specific subset of email users at
ClearContext – primarily high-volume business email users using Microsoft
Outlook.  But the problems and interesting challenges in email and information
are much broader than that.  That’s what I plan to talk about in this blog.  In
this always-connected, high-tech information world many of us live in, how can
we best keep up without going crazy?  Figuring out how to make email better is
one part of it, but many other types of communication mediums (cell phones,
voicemail, text messaging, IM, blogs, etc.) also come with a lot of the same
problems that many of us are already struggling to deal with in email.  I spend
most of my day thinking about email, so that’ll be a big focus of what I write
about, but I’ll also be giving my thoughts on many of these other mediums as
well.  Hopefully Brad, Frank, and other friends will stop in from time to time
to share their thoughts.

I also get asked a ton
about the business of business itself, specifically high-tech startups.  Having
done the whole “big VC-funded” thing and now taking a largely bootstrapped (with
a little bit of angel money now) strategy, I have plenty of thoughts to share on
the pros/cons of these approaches.  I also serve in an advisory capacity to
numerous startups who all face their own unique challenges.  So, you’ll see
plenty of perspectives on general startup stuff from me here as well. 

And, of course, I’ll do
what every other blogger does and use this as a place to indulge myself by
writing about random things I do or find interesting!  Thanks for checking out
the blog, hope you find it interesting and/or