I spent a chunk of time reviewing my email storage recently. I needed a bit more space. I needed to do a better job filing. And I wanted to clean up the detritus of years of email.
But what I walked away with is a sense that email has just made everything bad about snail mail happen much more quickly and without the pain of creating the communication.
In 1970, if you wanted to send a communication to 100 people, you had to type out the memo, then duplicate it in some fashion, then address the memos and send them on their way. It was a slow and expensive process. In the end, each recipient had a unique copy of the memo and could do what they chose with it. Sound familiar? In those thousands of emails that I looked at, I can't tell you how many were replies and forwards. I can't tell you how many appeared to be the same note, sent to a bunch of people, each with a unique reply that led to numerous additional threads and permutations. And each message, each volley, meant another unique document stored across the email platforms of every recipient. Just. Like. Paper.
Email is everything bad about paper-based communications, on an exponentially larger scale. If we are sending the same exact communication to 100 people, why do we need 100 copies of the same document? Can't we just create one copy, place it in a common repository, and let everyone go look at the original? Can't people reply in a manner that allows everyone to see all the replies in a single thread? If they need a local copy, we keep track of the fact that they made a local copy. If they work in another organization, we'll make sure that they get a unique copy for their record, if needed. But they do these things when they deal with the document, not far down the road.
That, to me, is what the promise of this cloud computing thing is all about. We'll see.