Thursday, October 14, 2010

Out Though the Blog, In Through Email

With the communication world seeming as unstable as the Genesis Planet, I'm wanting to retreat to the blog as the only reliable home for my outgoing messages.  It's relatively permanent (as things on the Internet/Web go) and I “own” and control all of the content.  I can edit or delete any posting at any time.

The next problem is notification.  How do I let particular friends or readers know I've posted something.  They could subscribe to an RSS or similar feed from the blog, but that requires action on their part.  I doubt they'll do that, so I need to send a notification to them.   If they tend to be gathered in one of the usual places like Facebook or Buzz, then the blog can be gatewayed into those sites.  However, the most reliable of all is to use old-fashioned email.  In spite of the fact that, apparently, almost noone uses email any more, generally everyone still reads it.

Finally, there's the need for a back channel for comments, where individuals can post a follow up to something that has been said or, even better, a conversation, where a group can accumulate on-going comments that they all see.   This is still the missing link, IMHO.  There doesn't seem to be a good general mechanism for doing this. You can do it with Buzz, Facebook, but those may be subsets of people and the groups, e.g., on Facebook, don't always align with the set of people I might want to have a conversation with.

And, for some of these sites, you never know what crazy things they'll go off and do with your privacy or sharing permissions.

Right now my personal solution is to use email to collect responses then manually publish them, if requested, and manually fan them back out to the list (if there is one) if it involves a small, closed group.

I still say the classic BBS is the best solution, but it only works if everyone in the group joins the BBS and then, either they read it regularly, or it has a notification system that will work for all of the participants.  Again, the only such notification system I know of is email.  Well, I guess text messages to phones works pretty well, too.

I have to say that it looks like Posterous really seems to handle all of the above really well.  It's highly email-oriented to the point that you can practically do all of the above including posting and follow up comments via email.  You can limit a blog to a particular set of participants using only their email addresses which means they don't have to set up accounts on Posterous and don't have to log into the site.  In fact, a particpant can never look at the blog at all, so it all functions like an ad hoc email list.  This is quite huge, really.

Another similar and interesting site is does actually require you to log in or authenticate to continue on a conversation, which ends up being similar to a Brizzly picnic.  But watch out for that Libian domain name!