Stowe (Who is hilarious to watch tear apart panels at conferences, btw...) is trying to tackle an issue that I've been discussing with Keshava. The current modes of computer communication, particularly with people that you know, suck. They don't tie identities together. He's totally on point that having a meeting with someone, an IM convo and an e-mail exchange with the same person should all sit in the same place or at least be viewable from the same place.
But there's one application/communication form he missed... its collaboration around a subject and wiki's or wiki-like things. My world isn't just divided up by people, its divided by people+subject. For example, Fred, Brad, and I have continual reply alls about firm management. Are we closed today? Aren't we? Should we try a cheaper conferenceline service, etc? In a people focused app, these conversations would be tied together with conversations about one of our portfolio companies. That makes no sense, and what's more, what you want to do with those conversations differs greatly depending on the subject matter. A conversation about the a/c that hardly works in our office doesn't need to be tagged, indexed, collaborated on, etc... It just needs to be a priority for all of like 10 minutes and then hopefully we come to a quick conclusion on it and then its done.
But what about a conversation around Indeed? What if Brad writes something really insightful over e-mail? Perhaps we want to revisit that again, or even build on it. Fred can't build on top of Brad's e-mail... he can copy and paste and resend it, but that's just kind of a silly, cludgey way to do it. Plus, what if we want other people in on it? Perhaps Brad's interesting comment is best built upon by Paul and Rony--the guys at Indeed, or John Battelle.. all of whom were never part of the original e-mail.
Well, we could go and build a wiki and then ask everyone to collaborate on it, but that's not very lightweight. Plus, maybe we don't want the whole world in on it. Maybe its just for our little small group. Its so much easier to reply to an e-mail thread, and some e-mail threads can be very interesting and insightful reads. The problem is permissions. Paul and Rony can't read our e-mails... and even if we cc'd them, an e-mail to you kind of implies that we want you to write something and you're rude if you don't. No, what we want is to give people permission to get into our small group discussions.
Ok, so we could probably cc the Indeed guys, b/c we know them well enough that it wouldn't be too random, but what about loose connections.
For me, its more about random new people who are loosely connected by subject interest, like Greg.
Whereas Stowe seems to have met Greg and even had dinner with him, according to his mockups, Greg and I have only exchanged IMs and read each other's blogs. So, for me to start randomly cc'ing him on my identity related e-mail would be sort of weird. But what if there was a place that Greg could connect to that he could post all of his identity related thoughts to, and see the identity related thoughts of others who wish to include him in a small group. I'd give him permission to contribute to my little small group thoughts on that.
Its kind of like wikis remixed the way del.icio.us remixes content. On del.icio.us, you can find the most popular stuff related to blindness, and you don't really care that much about where it comes from, whether its the AFB or a gaming magazine. Tags take all the content from everywhere, organize them by subject, and make it easy for people to consume subjects, often in a socially connected way.
But what about the two-way web for collaboration? How do you colaborate and communicate in a remixed way? Blogs allow you to contribute to a group of interested parties, but they don't really allow you to collaborate--to build a knowledge base together. Complaints about comments not being on the same level as posts are the tip of that iceberg. What's bringing all the related blog posts together and letting people build on top of that in a social way?