Can You Work Email-Free?

Yes, it is possible. Really! You can actually get your job done with little to no reliance on email. Heresy, you say? Nothing of the sort, I say. I know this because I’m living that dream. 🙂

Aside from some automated alerts, in the 7 months-ish that I’ve been on board at Automattic, I think I’ve received a couple dozen emails or so. Almost all of those were related to new hire paperwork and a few exchanges from folks outside the company.

So, what’s wrong with email?

inbox-email-hotmail-microsoft-graymail-ecards-someecardsI have nothing against email – it can be a great communication tool – but in my professional experience, it’s really easy for it to become your taskmaster instead.

You know …like those times that you take a few days off and come back to 500 emails in your inbox. Not pretty. Or when you get caught up in an email exchange you really don’t need to be involved in. Or when your boss drops a 1,000-word email bomb in your mailbox. Uh oh. Or when someone forwards you the last of a 2-mile long email thread and you have to slog through it just to figure out why the heck you got it and what you’re supposed to do with it. Blerg.

Yeah, those times.

In a nutshell, email gives other people not only the ability to interrupt you (in a manner of speaking), but also permission to add things to your task list, even if it’s simply requiring you to read and respond.

Email also often locks away useful information in siloed inboxes rather than putting it in an open forum that’s searchable and available to all.

Automattic: An (almost) email-free establishment

So, how does Automattic do it? We communicate a lot through Skype, IRC channels, and of course internal blogs (we’re after all) and we gots lots of ’em. Until recently, our internal blogs used the p2 theme, but we’ve switched over to the new o2 (and soon so can you!). With the exception of Skype chats, it’s all indexed and searchable, making the content available to all.

Anyone at Automattic can contribute to the conversation on any O2 by posting or commenting on someone else’s post. Or they can just read if they choose. Or they can ignore posts or entire blogs completely.

It’s really up to each individual to choose how they create, consume, and share information internally.

But…but….but, you splutter, caught up perhaps in jealousy or skepticism (jealepticism?). What if someone needs you to read or respond to something? We’ve got that covered too.

notif bubbleAny time someone is tagged in a post, that person gets a notification with a link to the post – just like the notifications that other users are accustomed to seeing. This makes it very easy to “alert” someone that they’ve been mentioned and for them to click right through to see the post. It also makes it easy to see when someone likes or comments on your own posts.

Could this work for you?

This way of communicating might not work for every company, but I bet it would work for many – maybe even most. Even if you’re not able to completely replace email with something like this, imagine if you could replace 25% or even 50% of your internal communication with something that’s open and searchable. Something that allows the newest of your new employees to get up to speed on almost any discussion and review the history on just about any project your company has done – ever. Hmm, pretty powerful stuff there.

If this intrigues you, pop on over and read Scott Berkun’s article, “Is There Life After Email?”. He probably explains it better. 🙂

6 thoughts on “Can You Work Email-Free?

  1. Why is the development of O2 so closed and secret? Why are there no news, no updates, not the slightest hint of what is happening and when it will be available? Will it be open source at all?


    1. Hi DavidM!

      Thanks for your interest in O2! I’ll be happy to address each of your points:

      O2 development hasn’t been closed or secret – developers have been inviting folks to check out the alpha version for a while now. If you’re interested in that, you can request an invitation here. It will help if you create a fresh site to use with O2 first.

      Regarding availability, there’s no set release date at this time. The developers are working diligently while staying focused on releasing a polished product.

      On the open source issue, the O2 team is currently focused on at this time since some of the features require a bit of infrastructure, but a general open source release is part of the plan.

      Hope this helps!


      1. Thanks a lot. This covers a lot of the doubts I had. It’s only a bit worrying that these points are not stated anywhere else; open development (as in ‘This is what we want to do and here is the code we’ve already done’) is one of the main strengths of WordPress. With this info now I can guess that O2 probably isn’t the solution I’m looking for.


      2. Thanks for the feedback, DavidM! I’ve passed along your questions to the O2 dev team, but you can always use that same link to send suggestions or additional questions to the team directly.


  2. Hi Wendy! Great post! I love the vision! Like David and probably many others I’ve been eagerly awaiting O2 since Beau presented in in July 2013 and said it’d be released “in about a month”. Like David my excitement for the platform has made me sad at the lack of information. I’ve been running a number of Woo Themes Houston sites. As you no doubt know, Houston is a P2 child theme. Houston is fantastic and we’re all very grateful for it. Any idea if O2 in 2014 is in the cards at all at this point? Thanks Wendy! Love Wendomatic! 🙂


    1. Hi Vanessa! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. 🙂 Although I’m not on the team working on O2, I can tell you that it is being actively worked on. Unfortunately, but I don’t have any updates in terms of a release date, but I expect that any new announcements along those lines will make quite the splash. Once I hear something official, I’ll post it, but you may already hear about it before I get a post up here.


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