Invite-to-discussion would be a good feature in an enterprise email client

How many emails have you received at work that contain the body:

Adding Bob to the discussion.

Well, if your place of work is anything like mine it happens regularly, and if you’re anything like me you cringe every time. All of a sudden I have to remember that any replies should be checked to make sure Bob receives them. Due to how email works adding Bob on one thread of the discussion doesn’t mean he’s automatically involved on all threads. Then Alice is added… then Ian… It’s obvious this doesn’t scale.

It highlights that email isn’t suited for this type of usage. It works fine for one-to-one communication, it also works fine in collaborative environments where a large portion of the involved are interested in the majority of the discussions (like mailing lists, with an archive). However, it doesn’t fit for ad-hoc communities, short-lived communities that form around one single discussion and then is dispersed. That is, email doesn’t work that well in enterprises.

So, what could a solution look like?

I suppose some light-weight mailing list server with archiving would do. The only caveat is that every email has to go through it, because every email is either a part of a discussion or a potential start of a new discussion. I guess that makes it a new kind of animal, some combination of mailing list server and MTA. Does such a beast exist already?

Another possible solution I see is an extended Google Mail for the enterprise. Think about it! Put all company email on a Google Mail box. They are already offering Googel Mail to companies, and if they are a little smart about it they don’t actually create individual copies of mails sent to several internal email addresses. (Something equivalent to a symlink would do.) Then just add a feature that takes a discussion and adds a user to it. That is, it takes every email in the discussion and adds the user as a recipient. From then on the added user sees the full discussion in their inbox and he/she would be included on every response from then on.

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2 Comments

  1. @Felix, Yeah, I know. They really ought to pay me some money for using my idea ;-)

    Apparently I have an invitation on the way, so I’ll soon get to see whether Google Wave can be used the way I’d like to.

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