Friday, December 29, 2006

Seriosity and the email conundrum

One of my pet peeves about working in an email-oriented company is the fact that I receive a flood of emails with no prioritization whatsoever.

In the end, my de facto priority system is a function of the sender and the recipient (hint: frequent senders to mailing lists end up at the bottom). But I've always wanted something more elegant.

Now I've discovered that my friend Helen Cheng and her company Seriosity, have an actual product, integrated with Outlook, that brings virtual world economics to the workplace. Employees receive a virtual currency, Serios, which they then use to bid for their co-workers attention.

That's pretty darn cool.

Of course, I suspect that many companies will also suffer the ravages of inflation after certain senior managers discover just how many Serios it will take to get their employees to read VP-level emails!

6 comments:

Isabel Wang said...

Holy cow! I recently had dinner with a friend who complained that his employees are sending him an overwhelming number of emails. I joked about setting up daily auctions for a limited number of message slots. Or creating a public mailbox where everyone could Digg emails that seem CEO-worthy. Helen's idea is soooo much better than either - and actually feasible. This is way cool!!

Chris said...

In many ways, this is like the increasing use of prediction markets and internal stockmarkets for ideas. All of them are ways to tap into the wisdom of crowds and implicit knowledge in order to better prioritize and organize work.

Foobarista said...

I'll admit to being a Bad Boy when it comes to emails; unless it's "To" me, with an actual email address, it gets read at the end of the day. List emails that don't have a compelling Subject may not get read at all.

Fortunately, we're a smallish company which has valued autonomy in decision-making, so long "email discussions" are unusual. Also, I'm a fan of picking up the phone and doing a con call if I sense that the issue can be dealt with in ten minutes on the phone, but will be complex and tricky if done over email.

Foobarista said...

Also, any email scheme that requires use of Windows should be terminated with extreme prejudice. Our engineering team is pretty much an all-Linux bunch, so it wasn't too hard to get our company to adapt more open standards for email and calendaring.

Chris said...

Foo,

I'll never understand what motivates the CC: bandits who seem to include every single person in the company on their emails. These guys drive me nuts!

Email is for quick hits; for real discussions, pick up the damn phone or, God forbid, go see the person in f2f.

What Linux email system do you use? Are people still using elm?

Foobarista said...

Most of us use Thunderbird on Linux, although we have one grizzled veteran who insists on Pine.

As for the "CC warriors", we have a couple of those. A somewhat bigger problem, especially in the past, was long email debates, where each person involved would spend hours to write emails expressing ideas that could be said in a few minutes in person. I adopted a "two reply rule": if a subject couldn't be disposed in two email dialogs of no more than a couple of text paragraphs, it should be talked about in person or on the phone.