Usability - Productivity - Business - The web - Singapore & Twins

Inbox vs. Stream interaction pattern

A recent Tweet exchange with Alan got me thinking on (inter)action pattern in the collaborative software we use. On one hand we have the incumbent eMail: time tested, loved, loathed and under (so the hype) thread from the new kid on the block: activity streams (a.k.a. river of news), in various technological implementations (from propriety, RSS, ATOM, JSON to activitystrea.ms). I'll compare the two from the perspective of work, where you need to get things done ( pun intended). I will use email actions from Lotus Notes as example, available actions in your eMail software might vary. Similar I use IBM Connections 4 as stream example. Here you go:
Purpose eMail Social stream
What's new? Scan inbox, look for unread marks, switch to "unready only" mode Scan stream, memorise where you left off
Read details Click on item (with preview pane) or open it Click on item, then click "show all", "show more", click on right arrow (in Connections 4)
See conversation Click on triangle to expand or use show menu (when eMail open) Click on item, then click "show all", "show more", click on right arrow (in Connections 4)
Reply Click reply (with too many options ) Click comment
Tag a reply Send & File, Categorize Use # in the reply
Indicate that you concur/endorse an item Send a reply Click the like button
Mark as read Automatic when previewing or reading n/a
Associate with something File in folder(s), categorize (yep, that's like tagging, but not shared with others and in Notes since 1.0) Tag
Information not relevant Delete or remove from inbox (my favourite for "might be relevant some other time" since it still shows up in all documents and search) n/a (in Activities there is tune out, or remove watching a specific tag)
Read later Keep unread, file in folder(s) n/a
Associate with a project or a customer File in subfolder(s) of project/customer folder, use custom plug-in for meta data tagging is flat only, harder to find later
Followup action needed Flag for followup, copy into task n/a (the sharebox might remedy that in future)
Add to personal/team knowledge collection Copy into journal or discussion db (there's a plug-in for that) n/a, but you can use the Evernote browser plug-in
Scheduled action needed Copy into new calendar entry n/a
Let other people know Forward Reshare with @Name in the message
Look at specific information like a project, product, customer Open that folder, look at the categorized view, fulltext search Browse for the tag, fulltext search
Suggest filing/tagging destination Use the SwiftFile plug-in Look at other people's tags for the item
Suggest what else is interesting n/a Social analytics
It seems the interaction patterns for actions in the social space need to mature a bit. Interestingly e.g. Google reader has sorted the problem of read/unread for a stream of news (your RSS feeds) by tracking what entry you focus. Might that make sense for an activity stream (show unread only)?

Posted by on 13 December 2012 | Comments (6) | categories: SocialBusiness Software


  1. posted by Andrew Pollack on Friday 14 December 2012 AD:
    One of the major problems with streams in the workplace, is that while in theory you have the option to filter or not subscribe to some content, in practice there are many cases where you don't dare. In non-work environments (e.g. Facebook) I'm under no obligation to "keep up" with a stream. At work, a coworker or boss could easily have the expectation that I would have seen something if it were "in his stream". That just created another thing to track during the day that is not really my "job".
  2. posted by Stephan H. Wissel on Friday 14 December 2012 AD:
    As the saying goes: you can't bath twice in the same stream Emoticon smile.gif

    And you are right: the "I could keep up" very easily can turn into "You have to keep up" which is the "social" version of CC hell.

    I like the concept of Google's circles where you can deliberate specify the groupings of what you listen to while still keeping the "big river" flowing to occasionally check.

    Makes more sense than CC hell
  3. posted by Chris Miller on Friday 14 December 2012 AD:
    You could also add filtering and in email say folder or mail rules. In Connections 4 not as well as you would like.
  4. posted by Erik van der Arend on Wednesday 02 January 2013 AD:
    Extra interaction patterns:
    - chat
    - show online awareness

    I think "Associate with something" is better described as "Group by" and differs from "Relates to", that gives semantics to the type of relation.

  5. posted by Stephan H. Wissel on Wednesday 02 January 2013 AD:
    @Erik: the chat / online awareness is available both in eMail and the SocialStream (if installed properly). And I agree one should distinguish between grouping and relating. Sadly neither the tools nor the common understanding make that easy.
    That's one of the dark holes Knowlege Management projects fall into: they either ignore the differences and become a document graveyard or they have the mechanism in place, but it is to cumbersome to use
  6. posted by Patrick Kwinten on Monday 11 March 2013 AD:
    thank you for that plugin plug Emoticon biggrin.gif