Thursday, October 11, 2007

Merlin Mann, Email, Scarcity, and Text Messaging

Merlin nailed it when during a talk at IDEO he said that the problem with email was one of scarcity, or rather lack thereof. It is so easy to CC Jane and Mark on the email you are sending to John, that many of you just do.

Merlin plays with the idea of artificially introducing scarcity in the system. Text messaging (SMS) in a way adds scarcity to messaging, especially when compared to IM or email. This is at the same time a strength and a weakness:
  • A weakness first because text messaging is entirely controlled by carriers, it is both expensive and very limited compared to other forms of messaging (namely email).
  • But it is a strength because of the sheer fact that sending (and sometimes also receiving) a text message costs money. This means you are not receiving that many text messages. And when you receive one, it does capture your attention, much more so than, say, an email. This means a lot in a world where attention itself is a scarce commodity.