John Robb on why weblogs and instant outlining are superior to email and instant messaging
”Here’s my thinking on why Instant Outlining (I/O) and weblogs provide value beyond what’s provided by e-mail and instant messaging. Both IM and e-mail are great tools for conversations between consenting individuals. Beyond that, e-mail and IM break down, and weblogs and I/O take over. Here are three reasons why:
Scalability and information overload. Everyone is facing information overload. There is too much information that the average person needs to know to function effectively. So how should you get this information? Right now, most people get it through e-mail. However, for those of us on the leading edge of online workflow, the volume of informational e-mails has exceeded our ability to parse it. Why? E-mail is a terrible one-to-many publishing tool. Not because the technology can’t do it, it can, but because the volume of information published by an increasing number of publishers crowds out its basic functionality: conversations. Finding a valid conversation in the stack of inbox spam from friends, co-workers, and nameless hawkers of “penis enlargers” is frustrating and increasingly futile. In contrast, weblogs and I/O provide publishers a place to put relevant information where it can be found by interested parties. It rationalizes the flow and allows it to scale. It is a parallel processing environment for the mind.
Passive vs. active. E-mail and IM demand my attention and my time (a dwindling resource) when I am least able to provide it. The tools force me to read something I am not prepared to read (granted, e-mail is more passive than phone calls). In contrast, Weblogs and I/O leverage my time. They put me in control. I can batch process my interactions with individuals and groups. I can expand my circle of personal interactions and collaboration with little fear of being overwhelmed by the resulting interactions. For me, the ability to time-shift in a passive collaborative environment makes me infinitely more productive. Thinking in a massively active and interruption driven environment is like wearing a thought inhibiter.
Quality and complexity. Weblogs and I/O allow me to construct and publish complex thinking. Further, it archives that thinking so it isn’t lost. The conversational nature of e-mail and IM make sharing complex thoughts difficult and more time consuming. It’s hard, if not impossible to build a body of work that conveys a complex idea or plan. Additionally, I can’t easily leverage previous thinking or the thinking of others to create a more complex work. The ephemeral nature of e-mail and IM is like thinking in quicksand. ”