Email Needs a “Reply to Community” Instead of “Reply to All”
Posted by Bob Warfield on January 31, 2009
I read with interest AC Nielsen’s decision to eliminate the Reply All button from their email in an effort, as Andrew Cawood, Chief Information Officer for Nielsen Company, puts it, to “eliminate bureaucracy and inefficiency”.
Robin Wauters thinks the idea this will eliminate inefficiency is absurd, and I agree. In fact, absent an alternative mechanism for communication, Nielsen is eliminating one of the few mechanisms Old School organizations have to reach across silos on any regular basis.
After thinking about the problem, and about how we prefer to use email at Helpstream, I had an inspiration. If Reply All is intended to facility communication with broader audiences, and I think it is, why not make it a “Reply to Community?”
Assuming your company has some for of internal community, as ours does using our own software, one of the biggest problems is getting people to move email discussions into the community where they can be more effective and more accessible. It would be awesome if I had a “Reply to Community” button that would copy the email thread up to that point into a community forum, for example. Instead of a list of recipients, I would be prompted for which forum the thread should be started in, and whether I wanted to just use the Subject as the name of the thread or whether I wanted to create a new name. Everyone on the distribution list would automatically get a note telling them the conversation had been transferred to the community thread, and they would be automatically email subscribed to it as well. While we’re at it, depending on what other tools your organization uses, checkboxes should be available to engage them as well. Perhaps a thread wants to be moved to Twitter, or perhaps you want to Tweet updates to the community thread to a particular Twitter account.
Wouldn’t this be a useful facelift for email? Then it could be primarily used for 1:1 more private communicates while seamlessly transferring broad participation to a tool that’s better suited to it in the first place.