Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Email? E-mail? Killer app? Has been?

Is email still the killer app? And do you say email or e-mail? And what the heck IS a killer app? Well, first, I say email because it is easier, but I think stylebooks favor e-mail. Picky picky. Second, I don’t know whether email is still considered the killer app or not, and that is the purpose of this entry. Third, according to Wikipedia (yes I DO go there), “A killer application (commonly shortened to killer app) is a computer program that is so useful or desirable that it proves the value of some underlying technology, such as a gaming console, operating system, or piece of computer hardware.” For a long time, I believed email was THE way to get a technophobe interested in using computers. For this reason it came to be called a killer app. People who were hanging back in the 80’s often came on board with technology when they realized that they could keep up with friends and family FOR FREE via the Internet and email. At the school where I was librarian for fifteen years, I saw a number of folks tentatively start out with email and then go on to use many other applications and incorporate technology into their teaching tools.

Then a while back I was hearing that email was soooo yesterday. Blogs were the new thing! And wikis! And vlogs and podcasts, etc.! And then there was the problem of spam. Blech, I hate spam myself, both the canned kind and the techhie kind. Lowly email was doomed to the long goodbye which might not be all that long in today’s speedy technology driven world of communication. But, email seems to me to still be going strong. I got to thinking about this because Dr. Carol Simpson pointed out that, while blogs are hard to search, mail programs make email increasingly easy to search. I know that is true for my new favorite, Google Mail. I can find stuff there with either the mail search or with Google Desktop. Further, Dr. Simpson warns that spam is now invading blogs. So will email have the last laugh, thumbing its nose at blogs as they slowly sink into the technological tarpits? Gee I wonder what everybody else thinks…


  1. Happily, technology is trying to keep up with the spammers.

    A few spam emails get through to me once in a while but not often.

    Since I enabled the comment approval function on my blog, I can nuke the comment spam before it ever gets posted. It has also alerted me to the fact that I continue to get comments from old posts which is a surprise because it means folks are finding the posts through search engines.

    I discovered an entire discussion thread on the posts on my blog about the casting for the movie Inkheart, specifically the character, Basta. Amazingly, I had not noticed it before I enabled the comment approval. I still get at least two comments per week on the subject. Very weird.

  2. Wow, whenever that movie comes out, I am there! This prompted me to Google for Dustfinger and I discovered a whole movie discussion on Wikipedia. Now that is the kind of thing Wikipedia is good for! I love that book! Thanks for posting and I am not having spam problems at the present. If I did, I would just delete.

  3. Email is still probably the one application that will get even the most technophobic to use computers. (Technically, email is not an "application" -- the email client, such as Outlook or Thunderbird, is -- but most folks don't realize that you can use different programs to manage email.) Word processors are probably in second place, and web browsers third.

    I'm not sure where blogging is really headed. I've been blogging for almost three years now -- that's a long time in internet reckoning -- and I haven't seen blogging emerge from its niche status. You see more blogs incorporating audio and video as the technology to do so gets cheaper and easier to use. But blogs still seem to be on the margins of the mainstream culture, and although the number of blogs is increasing exponentially, the proportion of those that are not spam blogs, teenagers blogging about their dating lives on MySpace, etc. is probably actually dropping. The blogosphere hasn't quite found its place in the world, it seems, not yet at least.

  4. Well, my email usage is killer. Always and constant everyday. I am efficient and my time is well spent. Blogs on the other hand take too much time. They aren't efficient, and giving the time Blogs have been around I don't expect the efficiency to get much better. I received Mary Ann's email inviting me to post comments, and she acknowledged it would be faster to comment on her questions using email. I came to her blog, read and am posting, but it has taken so much of my precious time. Another thing I wonder about is the management time it takes to maintain a Blog. There are good things and bad about email and blogging, but I much prefer email. It is the killer app.

  5. I don't know if email is such a killer ap, so much as the concept of "inter-network communications" is. Doesn't matter if its an email, or an IM, or goes between cell phones or multiparties.

    As for blogs in your previous post - I don't think the concept there is so much the blog or wanting to read someone else's thoughts, but one of syndication and sharing information - which blogs have really capitalized on.

    One can email in blog updates. Or IM them in. One doesn't HAVE to visit this blog per se. to read it, or even comment on it if someone else is syndicating it.

    Email listserves can be syndicated too. (I do this with the output of my Yahoo Groups - pubishing the listserve to my web page with three lines of java script) Text, photos, audio and video can all be syndicated - and then aggregated - into a customized experience unique to each user.

    Google's personalized pages,, and others offer free easy methods for doing this - but web users by and large haven't yet caught on. But its getting there.

    Think about your bookmarks. We all probably have a ton of them, and we understand how to bookmark a page. Syndication (RSS, ATOM, whatever) allows us to bookmark a content source we like, and check its updates at a glance as they're updated in a single portal.

    Don't focus so much on "email" or "blogs" (or personal data repositories like Google Desktop, and GIS applications like Google Earth) - the future is about filtering and making sense of information, syndication is the key to that in any format.

    Here's a great example - CBS news syndicates their news stories, and provides KML (Google Earth) locator files for them. So all stories are placed on a zoomable manueverable globe, along with many other similar sources - so you can sort and process information geographically, by subject, by publisher - and all by bringing information together in new ways.

    Google Earth users can try this:

  6. The line got cut off. You may have to manually "repair" the rest of the URL in a browser by adding "newsfiles.kml" to the end...


  7. Hi:
    I am a professor in the School of Education in Guam, one of the Micronesian islands. There was a time, five or six years ago, when I needed to ask at the beginning of the semester, "Who has an email account?" Now, all I need to do is tell the students to use their email account 'user names' to subscribe to various technology tools that we use in class, such as "iKeepbookmarks," "Yahoo Briefcase," "NiceNet," etc.

    Email is still the 'killer app' for me as an educator.