You Define Your Availability
After checking in to one of my favorite daily reads, I learned about how a friend and networking guru Fred Wilson handles a deluge of email. Controlling our information input streams is highly relevant to the evolving social web. Effective tools that empower users to better control their personal information streams will be sought after.
Email is the biggest and oldest open social media. While you can converse with many folks at once by lists, it is highly effective as a one to one asyncronous messaging system. The sender and reciever can both communicate when it is best for them. This flexibility allows a single person to interact with hundreds or thousands of people and to have automatic documentation of those conversations.
Popular social media services and sites are dominated by asyncronous formats. Some also recognize the need for instant message or voice channels, and include that functionality as an option. Facebook, Google Chat, And Skype all have syncronous options, while Twitter can approach syncronous communication through a RESTful interface.
Syncronous Communication is best for Emergencies
In the situation that you must communicate immediately asyncronous messaging is relegated to a backup role.
When you're primary server is down, an email message is a good practice, but an instant message to a portable device may be preferred.
When your wife gives birth and you want to let all your close family and friends know you typically call them to ensure they are "in the loop".
When you have just struck value gold and want to share your elation with your colleagues a direct message goes great with a wider band asyncronous message.
Project & Startup Communication Channels
I generally go through about 4-5 Twitter messages, a dozen or two emails, and many project tracking updates with my colleague Tyler each day. Some days are more active than others but we have only lightly overlapping schedules. He lives in Maui (4-5 hours behind eastern time where I live), and I am an early riser/sleeper. We can really only sync up (share a computer screen) about once per week.
Earlier on in the project Vladimir Vukicevic and myself experimented with a p2 wordpress blog to track project updates. I selected this based on Matt Mullenweg's success and praise. In addition we added a friendfeed shared room to track status. These tools not only help to keep the current project team up to date, but help new members rapidly catch up to where a project is at.
Learning about what channels a person prefers is important to optimizing your communication efficacy. I cycle through many independent com channels every few days. Some I visit much less often, depending on my schedule. As I use each channel I see common functionality and various extra features. One of my favorite asyncronous formats is blogging. I can communicate one to many, and many to many (comments) with a very small time demand (my writing/editing time cost).