Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist
11 May 2006

David Tebbutt, an old friend, posts hopefully that ‘social software’ (wikis, blogs etc) could reduce the amount of ‘occupational spam’* we get. Alas, groupware apps like Lotus Notes and intranet messageboards were also supposed to free us from corporate email spam and in theory they could. But simply introducing the software is only the beginning. The main problems are organizational and psychological. 1) it is much harder to change people’s habits than it is to add a bit of software 2) for better or worse people feel an email to someone will at least get glanced at while other means of electronic communication (internal wikis etc) because they are not “pushed” may never get looked at and 3) having lots of communication options can lead to confusion. People think “does this belong on the project’s wiki? On the intranet? On my blog? Oh sod it I will email it to the people who need to know.”
Organizations can cut down on email spam but they need to start with a change to the organizational culture and lead from the top (with bosses participating in the online spaces they want their employees to use) rather than installing software and hoping for the best. If I had had more space in my book – Dealing with Email – that is what I would have stressed. I am sure that David knows this as well of course but I am afraid that reading this article business leaders will just see ‘social software’ as a quick fix. Unfortunately, as I said, we have been down that road before…

* Emails cc:ed to lots of people who don’t need to see them, personal email like items for sale circulated around an organization, announcements of fire drills etc.


  1. Hi there David. Nice of you to link.

    “because they are not “pushed” may never get looked at”

    I use Socialtext quite a bit, with different communities. I ask the participants to subscribe to the RSS feed on the ‘Recent changes’ page. This way they are tipped off when anything happens.

    Users can also request email notifications at a frequency of their choice. It’s a lot less email than it would be without the wiki.

    Comment by David Tebbutt — 11 May 2006 @ 1:40 pm

  2. As you imply though, push systems like forums and wikis require people to actively follow these sites. Maybe the advent of RSS feeds could change this. However it seems it will be a long time before everyday people adapt.

    Comment by Jase — 10 December 2006 @ 3:38 am

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