Email needs transformation, not tweak: IBM

Email needs transformation, not tweak: IBM

Summary: Speaking at the TechLines forum discussing the future of email, IBM general manager Lotus Software and WebSphere Portal Alistair Rennie said that just fiddling with current email platforms wasn't going to meet market needs.

TOPICS: Collaboration, IBM

Speaking yesterday at the TechLines forum discussing the future of email, IBM general manager Lotus Software and WebSphere Portal Alistair Rennie said that just fiddling with current email platforms wasn't going to meet market needs.

Alistair Rennie

Alistair Rennie with Intel's Genevieve Bell on the panel (Credit: Suzanne Tindal/ZDNet Australia)

Although the inbox was important to people's lives and it wasn't going away, it needed to change, and that change shouldn't just be a facelift, according to Rennie.

"Our view is that the world is not going to prosper by moderate tweaks in email," he said.

New concepts were needed to make the platform more accessible for business processes and introduce social-networking and analytical elements, he said.

Filters have lagged behind people's needs, according to Rennie, which can end in emails being lost.

Earlier he had talked about the need for filtering mechanisms, which put email into context, helping people prioritise what's in their inbox.

In the morning, there might be 200 emails in an inbox, he said, but what's important might be the sixtieth email.

He believed that systems need to be intelligent enough to be able to put that email at the front for the user.

"What's important to me fist thing Monday morning is going to be different to Friday night," he said, adding that people needed to be able to set account profiles and time profiles, making their inbox tuneable and trustable.

However, he admitted that there might be many different ways for people to want to use their email. "Us telling people the best way to collaborate is crazy." He said that people should be given tools to experiment.

Topics: Collaboration, IBM

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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  • This is mainly true but what is stated is not "new concepts" but typical fluff as Lotus Notes is a system without a database, not very bright, locked-to-the-ground, very cloudy in the smoggy type-of-way and with overheads that are unbelievable. I suggest this is Point 1 of a lengthy IBM FUD exercise to keep accounts on Lotus Notes with the hope that if they stay in the 20th Century IBM will give them a dream of something in the future, instead of moving off now. I have no doubts that IBM do have great analytical elements which they have acquired but turning that into useful text filtering is silly as one main point is that email itself as SMS, is now passive. Maybe IBM need to talk to those under 30 and over 65 and not their clients in the 31-65 age group. Solutions are out there and it is called interactive, multi-media, rich content. IBM will need to acquire a few more new outfits and move very fast.
  • Using Windows mail I have been able to set up rules which direct incoming emails to folders I have created so that essentially the in box will contain mostly junk mail. What I would like to be able to do is set up my email so that the only emails I receive are from those senders whom I have authorised to be able to communicate with me. I should be able to add the email addresses of those persons/businesses from whom I am willing to receive emails to a list. I ought to be able to indicate that only emails sent by those parties will be downloaded into my mailbox and placed in their respective nominated folders there.
  • The now discontinued OE had that option available via it's message rules.
    It could be set to only download messages from a list of those in your address book & either delete or leave on server all other mail.
  • I agree with PeterBastable that Lotus Notes is behind and has huge overheads. But everything has indexing today, so not being 'a database design' is less of an issue IMHO.

    But email could be more easily 'traversed' meaning you could walk along emails from that person or thread (pivot) in an instant re-display and click back to return to plain old date-order emails. Currently you only have confusingly-shown 'threads', or have to do more complex 'structured searches', such as putting a name to search into TO or CC (but most apps don't allow concurrent search across all of TO, CC & FROM!!) and if there was a name (client number, client name, project name, etc) perhaps you ought to be able to click on it (from within body of email) and see all emails re that keyword, with that subset shown in your preferred order (eg reverse date order)... There is lots that could be done for email that does not require major re-think, but just better UI into indexed contents of existing mail.

    Moreover, the 'rules' for filtering mail are hopeless for a few reasons: a) you put them into just this one install of your email software on just this PC; b) they are stored in the program area - not anywhere easy to back-up; c) even 'Firefox Sync' does not similarly pick-up such 'rules' for Thunderbird and migrate them to your other locations and store them as a back-up in the cloud.

    And don't get me started on Outlook archiving into entirely proprietary formats... ask any archivist what they think of that approach! Better to leave all in folders.

    For low-volume email users, the answer was to have them use just the web-versions for email, but those pages are now getting truly 'crowded-out' with ads (spam of another source) in trying to prove the adage that you get nothing for free.

    But the biggest thing ANYONE could do for email would be to correctly implement white and black lists for spam. Everyone you've ever said you want email from should be on a white list (in cloud) and ALWAYS get through to all your devices (even if others have flagged their emails as spam). And everyone's black lists should be communally compared to rank the rest.

    And the real answer to spam is in making commercial spamming a capital offence. As people collectively spend hundreds of man-years manually deleting the crap resulting from their crime, why lot at least lock up any offenders for 30 years or so, "as a message to others" (quote from pre-revolutionary French kings). Short of that, we need the OECD to implement plan where people buy 'e-stamps' - a tenth of a cent per email fee, with long-unique coded permit numbers (mail app uses one each time on a one-use only basis) and the delivery mail systems check that the number is then 'crossed off' when used. So everyone pays a tenth of a cent to send an email. That won't stop any genuine personal or corporate user, but will be expensive for spammers, and give companies incentive to ensure no bots running on their systems. Total proceeds should go to UN global aid/relief programs. And any fraud on these safeguards, the mail servers affected would be 'quarantined' till remedied, and if countries persist, then those countries mail-servers are quarantined.

    Now THAT would do something for email efficiency.
    Graeme Harrison (prof at-symbol
  • Graeme was doing alright until I got to the part where he said "And the real answer to spam is in making commercial spamming a capital offence.". Maybe it's fluff, but I can't take a man seriously when he proposes capital punishment (i.e. taking someone's life?) as a solution for those pesky spam emails that most modern filters handle easily? Personally, I spend maybe 15 seconds a day or less getting rid of the spam I receive after filtering gets rid of the rest. What is he going to propose for those junk mailers who deliver paper junk mail to the letterboxes at home? Cut off their hands? Oh and don't get me going on TV advertising - make the advertisers sit through endless loops of Seinfield as punishment! There's already laws against spam over here, but political parties and charities are exempt.
  • I think that this is I.T. "service providers" looking for something to do. There are much more serious problems. Email is good enough right now. I use it all the time.