Question: What is one of the most frustrating aspects of using instant messaging, group chat, forums, Slack, Skype, IRC, and nearly every other digital communication tool out there?
Answer: Finding information you know you have.
That’s because all those tools require you to allow them to put your sent and received messages in a way that they designed, not how you think.
Email’s search feature is inevitably better than all others — and usually faster.
But wait… there’s more. Those other tools not only store and archive your messages their way, but also require you to process new incoming messages their way.
Not so with email. Email gives you complete control and lets you organize all your messages how you like.
Want to have your bosses messages marked as important, put into a separate folder, and a duplicate of it sent to a secondary email address of yours? Email can do that in its sleep. Try that with other apps.
Or how about this one? Want to have daily news alerts all taken out of your inbox automatically, marked as read, scanned only for certain keywords like “nuclear weapons”, and then have only those ones put back in your inbox and marked as unread? Easy with email.
Or what about this even? Have all your friends emails go into a ‘friends’ folder, have your family’s emails go into a ‘family’ folder, but not alert you on either of them unless the friend is your buddy Jay Rollingstone or the family member is your wife?
We haven’t even talked about intelligent folders which email clients like Apple Mail and Thunderbird have that continually monitor all your emails (new and old) and if they meet your criteria, have a copy for handy viewing in that folder. Apple Mail calls them Smart Mailboxes and Thunderbird calls them Saved Searches. Powerful stuff.
The best a tool like Slack can do is let you control some notifications based on channels. Paltry and weak. Wouldn’t it be nice if Slack would let you be alerted (i.e. interrupted) in the #management channel if you were mentioned, but only if your boss or the CEO was the one who mentioned you and contained the keyword “budget”?
Then, we get into the matter of storage. Email is portable. Move to another email client if you want and its no problem. Good luck moving all your messages from Slack to Microsoft Teams. Try moving your IRC messages to Facebook Messenger. Never going to happen.
Email is infinitely organizable. From filters, to rules, to intelligent folders, to notifications, to even how messages are displayed in your email client, to privacy options, to much more.
You would think that with all that power of organization and control that email would cost more than those other apps, that it would be a ‘premium product’, that it would be a product from one of those billionaire tech companies. But no, it’s just an open standard that allows any other company to build on top of it.
Although I think you should pay for your email (or else you are the product and your privacy is likely compromised), it’s still cheap compared to other paid products.
For instance, Slack charges $6.67/month for their Pro plan and gives you 10Gb of storage per user. I pay less than that for 30Gb of storage with one of my email providers, and I can communicate with anyone on the internet, not just other users at my email provider’s company. My email plan lets me organize my communication how I want, not how Slack wants. I can control how I process and deal with incoming messages and alerts. I can view my messages how and where I like, send and receive any type of attachment I want, not just what some tech company says is okay. I can write endless drafts with email and avoid arbitrary limits on message length.
If you want to take back control of your digital messaging life, you can learn to master email quickly, and get your messages well-organized. Make email your primary, if not your only, messaging protocol.