Mirrorworlds for the masses
David Gelernter’s company, Mirror Worlds Technologies, tried to put an interface on Windows that reflected how people actually remember and link their experiences, rather than some CompSci metadata accommodation.
The company ceased operations three years ago, and at the time I recall wondering why. Last week, on a concall with CEO Ray Bingham of Arcmail, I started thinking about what email *really* is. Arcmail makes email archive servers and they’re announcing something but there’s an embargo on it for some time – days? weeks? – so that’s probably the last you’ll hear of them from me.
Not what I thought
I always thought it was about communication. And it is. Email speaks to me. It isn’t the email. It is the by-product: an organized record of communication.
Why else do I keep 15,000 emails?
Email is my journal, my archive, my most used and reliable search tool. It tracks relationships. Helps keep cryptically named documents associated with something I do understand. It is easy to organize temporally, easy to search.
I’ve used email for 25 years. Yet I never thought about how I used it. Maybe its because I’m now also IM’ing and video chatting – methods with the immediacy that email seemed to have over snail mail – that I’m starting to get it.
My email client is where they all come together.
It is the original online social network
And we treat it like it is email. It is identity. In a very real sense it is who we are.
Email: your personal metadata generator
Email adds value because it adds context – metadata – to raw files and communications. Context that is human readable and human memorable. That fits the relational database in our brains, not our computers. That provides metadata that people use, like names, conversations, topics and words that mean something.
Ray made the point that email servers, like Exchange, are just email servers. They aren’t designed to handle multi-gigabyte mailboxes, frequent individual searches or company-wide searches. Arcmail is.
Fear trumps greed
I pointed out some of the business advantages of big mailboxes as a business tool to Ray. He responded that he agreed, and that he’d tried some of those messages. Yet the chief buying motivator is fear of lawsuits, not the business process advantages.
Thought leadership, anyone?
I’ve come to believe that innovation happens regularly where ever people confront problems. What changes is our individual and cultural receptiveness to innovation. I think we may be getting ready to accept that email is one of the most valuable organizational tools we use and that there could be new ways of extracting business value from it.
The StorageMojo take
Email isn’t electronic “mail,” any more than cars are “horseless carriages.” Email not only goes faster than snail mail, it also provides its own infrastructure that makes it uniquely accessible and valuable.
Instead of thinking of email “clients” how about “communication clients” where email, chat, downloads, uploads and VOIP contacts are logged and are reviewable and searchable. I’d love to be able to go to one place to search my email, Adium and Skype chats, review my downloads – Safari’s 20 download history is inadequate for me – uploads and surfing history. All the information exists, but only in stovepipes. I want it all, on my local machine, always available, with an easy archive function.
Comments welcome. I can’t be the first person to think of this, so has anyone done an open-source comm client?