Inbound vs. Outbound

While I've been working on next steps, I've also been plugging away at redesigning the underlying infrastructure and processes around how I communicate with people: family and friends, followers and friends on Twitter, various networks that I'm a part of, communities that I'm responsible for managing, as well as newsletter subscribers.

My primary challenge over the past few years has been that I often don't have the time or headspace to think about outbound communication because I've been overloaded with the inbound.  Now, I have nowhere near the scale of problem that Fred has, but I find myself ignoring things I don't want to simply because I just run out of energy.

Inbound is reactive.  It's responding to Slack messages and replying to emails, but it always feels like treading water rather than moving forward.  It's never-ending, and it eats into your ability to set your own priorities.

Particularly in the context of managing communities, outbound has the potential to create a ton of value for people.  It's the difference between being proactive vs. reactive.

Some of this is a productivity problem.  Simply having different rituals can be helpful, and the same goes with setting limits.  However, it's ridiculous that the best we can come up with is to become an olympic athlete-level productivity hacker rather than to change the system entirely.  Inbox zero is not a strategy.

So, how do  you turn this around?

I've been thinking about this as an infrastructure problem, and creating this blog is one aspect of fixing this.  As part of my daily writing ritual, I now have a regular place where I'm creating outbound.

For me, the majority of unclaimed opportunity / value is in the realm of having more powerful tooling to assist with managing and maintaining the communities I'm responsible for.  In fact, I think there's a whole class of software to be built there.

Just look at how much the sales and marketing stack has grown in sophistication over the past decade.  Those tools aren't the ones you'd want to use for a community because they're mostly one-way, but the functionality is very similar: automations, easy integrations, self-serve capabilities, and more.

Generally, people think of community software as variants on containers: forums, chat, mini-facebooks, etc... But, I have yet to see anything that is truly about enabling systems to exist: constrained interactions that help align incentives within a set of people, and which respect the attention models of the individuals.

And ultimately, how they facilitate (and constrain) inbound and outbound interactions across the network would be a key factor.