Alternate Realities

If you think you've conquered the ills of e-mail, you ain't seen nothin' yet, says futurist Paul Saffo.

"Look at all the indignation in the corporate world about salespeople using instant messaging to talk to customers," he says. "Some companies have gone to fire these people and found that all their data is out on a commercial-grade IM system and they can't get to it. Then they have hideous Sarbanes-Oxley problems, plus security problems and everything else."

It will get worse, Saffo predicts, when employees install MMORPGs -- massively multiplayer online role-playing games -- on their desktop computers and when they use their company laptops to travel through online societies like Second Life.

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"CIOs worry about improper use of corporate systems by employees. But the bigger problem will be employee use of noncompany systems for company purposes," he says. "If the CIO has a problem getting his head around IM, just wait until he discovers that his employees are creating private lives in Second Life and inviting their clients to come hang out with them."

But at least one IT manager seems to have gotten his head around the problem. "We do not see it as a problem," says Matthew Marks, head of integrated user services at Aetna. "Our Web filtering software blocks specific and whole genres of Web sites from our employees, such as sex, violence, hatred and so on. We already block www.secondlife.com. As more of these types of sites become prevalent, the software will filter these out. We also do not allow IM outside of the company, and we do not allow people to download software from the Internet."

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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