One of the things that has fascinated me, but somewhat left me behind with this whole tech thing has been the way technologies to improve communication have been so successful.

When email started, that was really cool, a massive shift in communication ability. Then text messaging, which somewhat perversely, benefited by having restrictive size limits. Then instant messaging, and finally, when I couldnt imagine anything else, things like facebook.

Now, if we look at these technologies, we can see that the major commonality between them is that they reduced barriers to communication. Email is obvious, but the others less so. Texting did, obviously because of the  mobile phone medium, but I believe it also benefited by reducing the mental cost of communicating. You couldnt think that much about it, because u only have 160 characters. So u can’t compose a novel, and you know that. So you don’t think so hard about sending it. The overall cost is lower.

Now, at this point, I didn’t really imagine much improvement, instant messaging, text, and email all seemed to have fairly low costs. But then came facebook et al. The really interesting thing about facebook is it makes it incredibly trivially easy (and extremely low cost) to communicate with people. You just leave a note on the wall, it doesnt even feel like a personal message, just a ‘hey’, so there is less stigma to not responding. You can ‘poke’ someone, or ‘throw a sheep’ at them. It could be argued that the quality of communication is lower, but… thats for others to debate.

so, given that all of the techs that lower communication costs have been so successful, whats next? what could be simpler than facebook?

maybe its a single integrated view of all these forms.  Maybe its an enterprise view. How come the most that enterprises tend to use is email, and sometimes (occasionally) instant messaging? Facebook is a little bit ‘push’, in that it emails you if something interesting has changed. But maybe not enough for enterprise. Maybe there needs to be desktop integration (via RSS?) or similar. A grand unified view of the communication technologies?

or maybe theres something that lowers the cost of communication even further?

ok, Im off travelling for a month! A little bit of the states, a little bit of Rio, a little bit of Mexico, and probably quite a bit of Cuba…


hasta luego!


3 thoughts on “Communication…

  1. Weird, I think about it in completely the opposite way. All of these technologies actually hurt communication because you lose so much. The best communication will always be face to face where you can pick up visual cues, tone of voice, etc.

    One of my friends set his Facebook status to “is leaving” which prompted all kinds of gossip that he was moving to a different city — when the truth of it was that he was leaving work.

    Short communication means more misunderstandings.

  2. true… I shouldnt have used the word “improve”. What I really meant was “Lower cost of”. These are all technologies that lower the cost of communication, not necessarily improve it.

    So its the technologies that make communication easier, not necessarily better, that seem to have done really well. So… how do you come up with a tech that does both? Particularly in a corporate environment? Its an interesting question…

  3. Kerry Nitz says:

    I seem to be getting a duplicate comment mesage from WordPress when I try to post this:

    Simple economics: when you lower the cost of dissemination you automatically increase the cost of filtering. Before email the burden of filtering was limited to checking phone messages, nowadays you still have phone messages to check plus TXT messages, email, etc. One solution used with some new technologies to control these requests for attention has been the “I’m not here” flag – ie IM effectively allows you to broadcast your willingness to receive messages (sort of like unplugging the phone). Bayesian filtering helps against spam but I worry that serendipity is losing out here – we’re becoming dead to unforeseen connections.

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