We love email — and we make it more powerful.
Email groups are a free (if you choose Google Groups) or relatively cheap (other providers) option for getting an email alias that distributes email to multiple people. If your needs are extremely basic, you have a few people, and an enthusiastic group admin that loves to spend time managing and servicing email groups, they might be a good option for you.
However, they do have a few disadvantages. With the caveat that we are biased (we make Aether Pro because we believe it is genuinely better, after all), here are a few issues with email groups.
What we like about email groups
Email is the most popular workplace collaboration tool bar none. It works with literally everything. We love email. With Google Groups, email groups are also free (with some caveats). If you don’t know how to get a group of people thinking about something, sending an email to them with a CC always works.
In fact, that’s why we’ve made Aether Pro 100% backwards compatible with email, so that you can keep using email with it if you like, and give your email new superpowers.
But it turns out email is also very old. Very, very old. Older than the Internet itself actually — and it’s starting to show its age.
But who would be foolish enough to attempt to compete with email? Well, one way to do just that is not to compete with it, but to extend it. So Aether is like an extension to your good old, well-loved email — we’re not trying to sell you on a new religion. If half your team likes Aether, and the other half doesn’t, that’s all just fine, Aether will seamlessly make sure that they’re all working in the same workspace. Your teammates who want to get ahead can use Aether’s app and get all of the benefits of Aether, while old-school email people who don’t want any of that can keep using email they know, and to them, Aether looks like a very, very nice-looking email group that maintains and manages conversations.
Email was never designed for working with a group of people
Have you ever wondered why an email cc is called a ‘cc’? It’s ‘carbon copy’. As in, email does not have a concept of sending the same message to multiple people. It is literally sending copies of the same message to each of the participants individually.
What happens if someone accidentally removes the cc from someone in the discussion? If other people don’t notice that person was dropped from the cc, the discussion will continue with that person silently kicked out. What?
Email groups require active moderation
Not only that, the moderation can only be provided by only one person, the admin. Other users don’t have a control on all content. That means if someone posts something accidentally, they cannot even delete it themselves. The admin has to delete it. This makes it so that the admin is full-time job keeping a watchful eye at all times.
In Aether, content is voted on by participants. This makes it so that the content that is not so useful is pushed down, and not seen by most users. Everyone participates in this, so it acts as a group admin on its own without needing an admin. We also take care of the maintenance of email groups and our service. We run an individual virtual machine for each of your customers so that you are fully isolated from other customers.
Discussions are hard to follow
The discussion becomes hard to follow if too many people join, or if you have people commenting in-line to messages. The conversations split when someone responds to a message that is not the latest. They contain all the drawbacks of email, but also add their own.
Aether has smart threading that can keep discussions readable even when there are a lot of participants. This, combined with sorting based on user signals like votes allow Aether to enable high-throughput mailing lists
It’s hard to create new email groups
Creating one email group using it for your main team email is fine, but once you start to get too much traffic there, or you want to create groups based on topic (for example, one for your engineers and one for your contractors), this is hard. Most email group providers assume that you’re going to be using one email group, and that’s it.
Every Aether channel is an email group and a shared inbox. You can create as many email groups with unique emails as you need, and they’ll be ready to use instantly.
Email groups require ongoing maintenance from a technical person to continue working
If you’re hosting them on your own or using one of the free providers, there is a lot of configuration that you need to do to make sure that your email domain works correctly, does not get flagged as spam, and this is an ongoing process to keep it right as your domain provider changes nameservers, and deal with DKIF and SPF to not end up having your whole company email blacklisted. A significant portion of the work of a sysadmin is to keep your email infrastructure working correctly. If you self host, all of this is on you. If you use a third-party host, ongoing integration of that third party host into your email domain is on you.
It’s hard to control access like who sees the content and who can post
Email groups don’t have access control. You cannot have some email groups that are open to the public, such as the email your customers email into to solve their issues, and some private, like your internal production group. In public groups, everything is public, so if your team member accidentally posts into a support group, that goes to the customer, big mistake. It’s like sitting on a live grenade. Email groups don’t have the notion of limited or controlled access, they are either all public or all private.
Aether allows you to add non-privileged members (channel members) to your channels, and those ‘guests’ only have access to that channel, not the rest. You can make your groups accept emails from the public as a public receiving box, but the discussions within the group can still remain private to your team. You can also create email groups where only certain members can post but everyone can read. (Upcoming feature).
Working with email costs you a lot of money if you consider your time to have value
Email group services (or self-hosting) tend to be free, assuming your time is also free. We all want to go home and crack open one’s favourite drink - every minute you stay at work due to email time lost from that.
But that’s easy to say. Let’s quantify how much money and time you’re losing exactly to email, shall we?
Case study: Alice the CTO
Alice is the CTO of a 17-person company. This is the inbox as for Wednesday morning. Acme has a lot of software engineers and some of them are remote.
Here are two alternative universes in which Alice’s team chooses to use classic email, versus one in which she chooses to use Aether Pro.
- 36 emails in 5 threads
- Sorted in time order by your mail client
- Each of 36 posts has their reply chain underneath them, hidden by the mail client.
|Assuming an average of 30 seconds reading a message. 36 x 30 seconds.||18m|
|A big thread has branched into two different conversations, Alice has to look a little closer to a few stragglers.||4 minutes|
|Responses to 3 threads. Average of 2 minutes writing a response.||6 minutes|
|Of 3 responses, 1 needs to be to a post that is not the latest post in an email thread, so the thread has branched into multiple conversations. The hunt for the specific reply in the collapsed threads of the Gmail inbox.||3 minutes|
- 5 emails, each of them is a thread, which contains 36 posts
- Sorted in order of importance based on votes and other signals
- In each post, there are all messages that would otherwise be individual emails, and side conversations are kept in the same thread
Alice can now choose to only read the most important emails.
|At an average of 30 seconds, that’s 5 threads, and the top post in them. 10 x 30 seconds.||5 minutes|
|Responses to 3 threads. Average of 2 minutes per response.||6 minutes|
As a result, this is what we get:
|Tool||Time per day per person|
|Classic email||32 minutes|
|Aether Pro||11 minutes|
Alice saves 21 minutes per day, with no change in her behaviour, no training needed, just by sending emails to a different email address — instead of CC’ing people one by one, she now sends emails to
email@example.com, and that is all she needs to save time.
This also assumes Alice checks her email just once per day, while in reality, most people check their email at least two times a day. In that case, the time savings are even more, but let’s go with the most conservative estimate.
How much time would my team save?
Alice is the CTO, plus there are 17 engineers. That’s 18 people — every one of which will have to do the same thing as Alice every morning.
21 minutes saved x 18 = 378 minutes = 6.3 hours per day for a team of 18 people
A team of 18 people using Aether saves 6.3 hours every day, and 31.5 hours every week.
That’s nearly one full-time additional person for your team, for free.
Not only this is a lot of time, it’s also a very conservative estimate. The savings compound across every member of the team, which we do not account for here.
How much money would my team save?
Assuming your average teammate costs about 60$ USD per hour*, saving 31.5 hours per week means a team of 18 people would save:
31.5 x 60 = $1890 per week for a team of 18 people
Converted to monthly:
$1890 x 4 = $7560 per month for a team of 18 people.
A team of 18 people loses $7,560 per month if they choose to use email instead of Aether Pro.
* Assuming the average man-hour in your team costs $60 per hour. This is the average in Silicon Valley, feel free to insert your own value as necessary.
Aether makes everyone in your team 10% more efficient, so your team is 10% more efficient. 10% more efficiency from one person is good, but 10% more efficiency out of a team is an astonishing increase in output, almost akin to increasing your profits by 10%.
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