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Start Page: Exploring alternatives to using email

Kim Brand
February 15, 2012
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Kim BrandEmail is war – you are a prisoner. Your inbox, once littered with annoying spam, now delivers a super-abundance of information. The torrent defies your effort to organize, classify, prioritize and respond to those that are critical versus those that are merely interesting. Bad news: it’s only going to get worse.

According to Pingdom.com, there were 107 trillion emails sent in 2010 from 2.8 billion email accounts – expected to grow to 3.8 billion accounts by 2014. Since the Internet makes the world a small place filled with lots of people who want to be your “friend,” you can expect to start receiving email regularly from most of them.

Unlike paper mail whose volume is expected to drop six percent in 2012, the “machinery” that delivers email is getting faster and cheaper. The natural forces that restrain growth are absent. Email is like a species obrand1.giff animal that has no natural predator.

Many practicing attorneys started their careers before email was possible, let alone popular. Prior communication technologies – mail and phone – evolved slowly enough that systemic and cultural accommodations kept pace with their growth. You delegate opening mail to assistants; someone – or something – answers your phone. Not so with email; most of it gets delivered straight to your inbox. Productivity fail.

Here are five alternatives to email you should know about.

Just call – You can’t deny millions of years of evolutionary predisposition: We like to talk. (See: Pink Floyd’s 1994 song, “Keep Talking.”) Some messages are just better communicated in person or at least in a conversation. Emotion and interaction are absent in email. Rule: After two or three emails on the same subject: JUST CALL!

What’s old is new again: fax – I still get funny looks from 20-somethings about what a fax is or why they’d want to use one. Most businesses have a fax machine. Few are as busy as they once were. That makes fax a quieter channel to deliver a message and one that gets disproportionate attention.
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Instant message quickies – We think of instant messaging as a communication channel for teens – like texting. But it can be the antidote for phone slips and the one- or two-sentence messages that litter your email inbox. Be careful to allow only your colleagues, friends or family to communicate with you this way or it will become a constant annoyance – like email.

Email was not designed for attachments – The Internet protocol that delivers email is incompetent at delivering binary files like Word docs, PDFs and photos. Attachments strain mailbox size and “hide” files in your email program that should be shared on your network and/or filed with other client materials. The solution is to use a file sharing service. With these, you upload the file to a secure website then simply send your correspondent(s) a link to it.

Wikis - your personal Wikipedia – To truly exchange ideas, documents and other files you need a web-based tool. Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites on the planet – and you can have one for yourself, your firm, or dedicated to a project, client or case. The principal attraction of a wiki is that information is presented in context. Supporting resources can be uploaded and/or linked on a page viewable over the web from anywhere. Security is managed using encryption, logins and passwords.

They say that if the only tool you have is a hammer, all your problems look like nails. Such is the case with email. It may be the only tool you have so you are tempted to [mis]use it for everything. Take my advice and expand your toolkit to include these alternatives to email.•

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Kim Brand is a technology expert and president of Computer Experts Inc., a 27-year-old IT services company in Indianapolis. He has presented to local and state bar audiences and written for West Publishing and the ILTA. Kim contributed to the “On-Premises” section of the recently released ILTSO.org legal technical standards, and he is the inventor of the FileSafe Server used by many law firms. For a free Audio CD on email management tips write to the author and request “Breaking the Rabbit Habit.” He may be reached at Kim@ComputerExpertsIndy.com or by phone at 317-833-3000. The opinions expressed are the author’s.

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  1. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  2. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  3. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  4. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  5. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

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