The Real Paul Jones

Accept no substitutes

#noemail – Get Happy! Quit checking email & replace it.

“Is email overload bad for you?” ask Kostadin Kushlev and Elizabeth W. Dunn of the University of British Columbia as the marshall their research to show that yes indeed it is bad for you in so many ways. They proceed to detail these ways in their opinion article in the New York Times Sunday Review.

But is their article really about overload or is it about compulsiveness? Their research, published here in Computers & Human Behavior, studies frequency of email checking and its effect on happiness, effectiveness and general well being. In other words, the study is not about overload but about the anxiety caused by constant checking of your inbox.

One way to remove that anxiety — #noemail. Just sayin’

Shel Holtz of seeks a solution for offices and enterprises that may not keep offices in his blog post “Will companies ever embrace a culture of messaging?” reposted at Ragan as “Can internal networks replace email in the workplace?” Holtz’s section titles give a good precis of his argument: “Email is ineffective for most communication,” “Most enterprise social networks fail,” “What about those external social networks?” and finally “Message Mission Control.”

While Holtz doesn’t bring any research or references that are new to readers of this blog, he does use the good work done by researchers to present an intelligent argument for enterprises looking to Yammer, Hipchat, Chatter, etc and to understand the place of social business.

Don't Do It!

#noemail – IBM Social Business presents “Email Confessions”

After publishing a series of brief (15 seconds staged) confessions of email misuse on their YouTube site, the IBM Social Business folks compiled some of the better in the amusing 2 minute video above. The miscommunications, confessed by Gen-Xers of the most part, could have all been corrected by using something like say IBM’s Verse, a new competitor to GMail and Google Inbox.

There are some significant differences between Inbox and Verse worth mentioning. Verse is an analytic based work space aimed at enhancing your productivity across the enterprise. While Inbox too is an enterprise productivity tool, the Google solution is more aware of our messy complex and mobile lives. Note the difference in how each is presented. Verse on the desktop or laptop. Inbox on the phone. Verse about meetings and managing. Inbox about a varied life in motion. Your boss may buy Verse as an enterprise solution. You will sign up for Inbox for your phone.

Both only pick at the larger problem. As Luis Suarez has been saying “Think Outside of Your Inbox.” #noemail

#noemail at the End of 2014

As usual, XKCD nails it with a set of panels on email and #noemail and phone and fax. It makes so much sense — Snapchat or Fax instead of email or voicemail.

What is email?

But a new report from Pew Research on the perceived importance of work communication says people at work value email over even “the internet.” I have nits to pick here. the biggest one being that email is part of the internet. I think the survey meant to ask the Web, but just as the same Pew folks did a quiz about how well you “know the Web” which asked several questions that were about the internet as a whole and about apps that are not Web apps — this drives me bananas.

A lot of people are concerned about productivity and the negative impact of email on the office. Over the past week or so:

Perry Timms of i-Practice was interviewed about #noemail by Claire Burge at her blog. Irony alert: To find out more about i-Practice, just click on the mailto: link and you will send email to Perry.

Andy Swann of The Work Project writes about The Last Days of Email in Medium. Subtitled “Re-humanising the way I communicate” (yes he is British and so we get “s” for “z” occasionally), Andy encourages more human contact (without saying as I’ve said here that we are engaged in a robot war against evil robots (spam), well-meaning robots (sending notifications and the like), humans that act like robots (ReplyAll, acknowledging to an entire list, etc) and the robotic architecture of email itself). Call him or follow him on Twitter. Both are more human. I agree.

Founder and CEO of Pyrus, the workplace collaboration and productivity platform, Max Nalsky writes in The Next Web that “How quitting email helped my company communicate better”. Rather than tell how he did it with examples, Nalsky provides a better service; he suggests several solutions for various size companies and includes a section advice for “brave CEOs.” Among the suggested tools are Slack, HipChat, TigerText and building your own solutions.

Another person collecting #noemail stories for productivity is the aforementioned Claire Burge who interviewed Perry Timms. It all started with a moment of madness. I had simply had enough of email. It ruled my workday and I didn’t want it to dictate my life anymore. And so I decided to quit… Burge writes on her page dedicated to “Living a Life Without Email,” which is the tag line long used by Luis Suarez. Burge includes a link to a video interview with Suarez. She also offers workshops on reducing dependence of email within your workplace.

All of the above, and I, are offering more social solutions for increased productivity and a better life. But venture capitalist, Fred Wilson insists “Social is over” and it is increasingly being replaced by Messaging and Mobile.

“What Just Happened?” Wilson asks. And having seen this trend myself, I too wonder what’s in store for the new year.

How Christmas became New Year’s (in poetry in 2006-07)

Looking back, as one does as a New Year approaches, I found this post from December 2006. I had had a poem accepted to be published in the Sunday Journal of the News & Observer (Raleigh). I had seen it as a simple poem with a complicated view of joy based on some simple rhymes and numbers. Perfect for Christmas. My editor agreed. Until someone sent in a poem with a star. Here’s our exchange:

“Joy is Here” is bumped to New Year’s Eve 12/20/2006

She: [other poet] sent me a christmas poem, so i’d like to run yours on new years eve. okay?
Me: You mean it’s more joyful than mine?
She: Not necessarily. [other poet]‘s is more Christmasy.
Me: More Christmasy than a contingent and contextual look at the compromises we make to achieve joy?
She: [other poet]‘s has a star in it.
Me: if i add a star somewhere in my poem can i be the christmas poem? i already have birds and a tree.
She: yours will be the perfect poem to greet the new year.
Me: What if someone shows up with a poem with party hats and champagne in it, will I get bumped again?
She: hmm. well .. let me think about that.
Me: Wait! Wait! I’m rewriting now. Mine will have a party hat. And it will have a very large acorn.
She: ok! you’re secured!

And here is the poem and 99 word preamble which explains itself.

Email -> Facebook -> Messaging with #noemail

three epochs of personal use of computers

Writing at, Ben Thompson proposes and explains Three Epochs of Consumer Computing as seen at the end of 2014. In this smartly argued piece, he notes the ways that consumer use of tech has moved from core technology (like PC or phone), dominate operating system(s), and killer application(s). The chart above does a nice job of laying out his claims.

Thompson bets heavily on WhatsApp, which I also use heavily for a few people. But my students are much more likely to use SnapChat.

Worth a read. And keep doing #noemail

Imagining the Future of Privacy and Security

Pew Research Internet Project
The latest Imagining the Internet report is out from The PewResearch Internet Project and Elon University. This one focuses on the future of Privacy and Security.

In it, I say:

During the previous century of urbanization, we constantly complained of alienation and isolation. No one knew anyone quite as well as we did when we were in small towns. Now, like it or not, we are having to relearn the social behavior of small towns: how to cooperate, tolerate, or just ignore differences. Frankly, we were not so great at all of that when we were in small towns. Now, we get another chance to try to live like a Family of Mankind.

But read the report for more and varied insights.

Email is a personal monster The Oatmeal reminds us

email is broken

The Oatmeal is on the #noemail page exactly seeing the deep ways that email is broken and seeing the ways that social media and texting are appropriate.

Remaking or Removing the Inbox – #noemail

Google Inbox Logo

Recently Google changed the way we see our email, if we were still using email, with the deployment of Inbox. If you have a Gmail account, you can ask to begin using Inbox now. Inbox smartly does filtering, selects proper folders, creates conversation streams and really looks good — for an email inbox. Among the other enhancements are a native To Do list function, great integration with Calendar, and a lovely Snooze option that lets you push a message down for say a week or whenever you need to deal with it.

Upside = greatly improved intelligent management of your Inbox for all your email communications. Downside = email communications.

IBM Verse

Not to be left out, IBM yesterday announced Verse with a flurry of YouTube videos explaining how living in your enterprise inbox can be changed for better productivity. One of the biggest innovations of Verse is that the email is sorted by who sent it and made available under a Google Plus like circle icon. Other features of this new subscription cloud service are a DropBox like file sharing option and integration with calendars. Overall, I see Verse at first glance and after intensive video watching as a people centered version of Google’s Inbox with some Asana-like project management features.

Unlike Inbox, which works for enterprise and/or personal, Verse is definitely an enterprise play. Verse could be used as personal email, but the win and the direction are clearly business productivity.

Collaborative Objects logo

Today, Collaboration Objects, the dream of two Finnish programmers, became live. CO makes no bones about how they feel about email. “Death to Email” reads their home page.

And then:

Why kill email?

There is a paradigm shift ongoing, the amount of private emails sent daily is decreasing, but the amount of daily business emails is still increasing.

The reason for this is the emergence of the so-called social media, which gave consumers easy and instant access to better (=more efficient) means of communication.

So far this has not been available for businesses or organizations, instead various enterprise collaboration tools have entered the market, which have brought very little efficiency to the daily business, instead they have added an additional layer of communication and complexity – yet another place you need to remember to go.

In order to improve the productivity of knowledge work, email must die.

Collaboration Objects sees communications as a collection of objects to be created, shared, modified, and discovered — not as a metaphorical letter to be filed for exclusively personal use. Of course this is hosted service like Verse and Gmail and Inbox. Like Verse, Collaboration Objects is aimed at the enterprise and is all about increasing productivity. This last is the strength and weakness of Collaboration Objects as more and more people find themselves outside the enterprise dropping in then back out as contractors or intermingling their various personal and business tasks. We’re not supposed to do that intermingling, but we do.

Yet, Collaboration Objects (for which I do not yet have a log in) shows promise for increasing productivity through reconceiving business communications as initially shared objects rather than enveloped messages even in some novel sort or package.

Collaborative Objects promises an app soon.

Wally explains #noemail to PHB in Dilbert


Wally: “Studies show that continuously checking your email lowers your functional IQ”
Next panel.
Wally: “You advised me to ‘work smarter’ so I plan to ignore all your email from now on”

Yes there is more! So funny, so true, so sad.

Only 6.6% of your email delivered at UNC – #noemail

UNC Email stats
Yes, the chart is correct; over 93% of the email directed at you at the University of North Carolina goes directly in the dumper. You never see it. And you should be glad.

Tim McGuire, Director of ITS Campus Infrastructure Services at UNC-Chapel Hill, has the sad job of marshaling resources and intelligence to protect you from “Evil Robots” (see my earlier article) by scanning every incoming email with “proprietary algorithms developed by the vendor to scan entire email content to determine if a particular message is a problem.” And that’s only the first step. Emulating Google, UNC uses Cisco’s to try to separate Well-Meaning Robots from Evil Robots. I mean, you may have asked for that special Constant Contact sent offer for a sale at an outlet store you once stopped in for socks while driving up the interstate. But wait there is more. A total of 5 points for email “protection.”

Overall, Tim does a good job of briefly describing the efforts that an enterprise must go through to offer useable email services. That effort is complex, expensive, intrusive, highly reliant on outside resources, compute-intensive, and requires “continual reexamination of our effectiveness, constantly updated vendor algorithms, use of the latest reputation scores, and vigilance in stopping our own accounts from being compromised and endangering our reputation.” Yes, as needlessly complex as the sentence I just quoted.

There is another solution. Simpler and cheaper. Get out of the email business. And there is more to more social solutions as this new report from Forrester (on Tech Republic sponsored by IBM) on “The Business Value of Social Content” [pdf] contends.

Slides for WWW/Internet 13 Keynote in Porto – #noemail

Summary of in-firm #noemail Productivity Tools

This is a list of in-house/in-firm/in-enterprise alternatives to working with email. Most have at least chat and Trello-like features and offer collaboration features at their center. Some work well on mobile as well as laptop or desktop. I’ll be adding more notes and links, but also see your comments and additions. List is in no particular order.

Killer Apps of 2025 – Pew Internet

Imagining the Internet logo

No I did not say email. Nor did I say #noemail. What I did say in response to Pew Internet’s Imagining the Internet in 2025 survey question:

New killer apps in the gigabit age: Will there be new, distinctive, and uniquely compelling technology applications that capitalize upon significant increases in bandwidth in the US between now and 2025? Please elaborate on your answer. Explain why you think there will be hardly any change or tell what new tools and applications will excite people in the next decade and envision the kinds of personal connectivity and immersive media experiences that will seize the public imagination.

was this:

“More visual information that can be scanned and reconfigured and customized for the needs of the moment will be the hallmark of the next 10 years. Significant increases in bandwidth will remove some of the barriers to that end. Expect this information to be 3D and easily manipulated. Expect a new era of literacies more special than ever available to us.”

Many great insights passing as foresights in this report.

The end of office email? (Guardian & Fast Company)

Enjoyed reading Fast Company‘s “Inside the Company that got rid of email”, a report on Cristian Rennella and his company El Mejor Trado (a South American travel site) by Rebecca Greenfield. Cristian and company created their own internal communications system (ala Asana) which favors pull over push. As Cristian explains via Rebecca:

“We want to change from push methodology to pull methodology,” Rennella explained to [Rebecca]. By “push” he means the way notifications force us into doing tasks. When someone asks for “one quick thing” or “can you take a look at this?” we feel compelled to act right away. Distractions–even short ones–lead to more mistakes, research has found. It also takes a full 23 minutes to get back to the original task after an email interruption.

It seems so simple. Make technology to do the right thing for your company. The only problem is that your company grows, spreads geographically, or in sadder cases contracts. In any case, contractors and customers also need to be brought along. Nonetheless even in this test case, the savings for the company and quality of work-life improvement for the employees are indisputable.

Emma Featherstone of Guardian Smarter Working Hub asks “Have emails had their day in the modern office?” There are a number of great things about this article; not the least of which are the final paragraphs dedicated to #noemail co-conspirator Paul Lancaster and his No Email Day project.

I recommend reading Emma Featherstone’s article which covers the state of email resistance briefly and well, but I also take this opportunity to repost Paul Lancaster’s No Email Day Manifesto below.

Abstract for keynote at IC WWW/Internet – #noemail

What: 13th International Conference WWW/INTERNET
Where: Porto, Portugal
When: October 25 – 27, 2014
Who: Paul Jones – Keynote

#noemail – Why you could/should/must use better ways of communicating than email

Nearly 30 years ago Paul Jones began working on and encouraging people to use the unified messaging systems that led up to what we now know as email. That was then, and this is now. Email has become a zombie that doesn’t realize that it’s dead and falling apart, a vampire that sucks your life’s blood away slowly each night before bed and each morning as you wake. Paul Jones will explain why and how email must change. He will challenge technologists to move into the 21st Century by developing more and more appropriate communications and messaging technologies that are (at this point in time): highly collaborative, mobile preferred, whitelisted, terse, quick, highly interactive, context appropriate, available to all devices, and with highly manageable and customizable communications streams

Cutting off email — but not offering replacements #noemail

Several articles have come out in the past few weeks that each in their own way offer complaints about too many demands put on all of us by that old folk demon, email. While each identifies at least some of the problems with email or uses email to some extent as a stand in for information overload or for American overwork (see chart from The Atlantic below), none really offers any solution other than to explain how you should control your email usage, you should not let it dominate your life, you should take time away from devices that give you access to email.

As per usual, most all offer a list of how one should behave. If you behave in these ways, all will be well they promise. There are two problems with this approach: First, no one can follow a set of seven plus productivity rules with any consistency for any long period of time. Second, even if you were to be able to do so, the habits and expectations of others and the practices baked into the technological infrastructure that is email would eventually overtake you.

I’m not a technological determinist, but the technologies must change and are changing. Yes I want more change more control and more channels. I am not in any way advocating a return to some falsely imagined email eden. Nor do I think as some do that getting rid of email will change our social tendency to look, perhaps too anxiously, for more and more information or to bind ourselves to our celebrated overwork ethic. I hope we do address those problems. And I hope that as technologists, we can continue to develop more and more appropriate communications and messaging technologies that are (at this point in time): highly collaborative, mobile preferred, whitelisted, terse, quick, highly interactive, context appropriate, available to all devices, and with highly manageable and customizable communications streams

With Labor Day approaching, two Thompsons (Derek in The Atlantic and Clive in The New York Times) explain that we are overworked. Email is the culprit as the titles of the articles tell us. First Derek’s “The Joys and Sorrows of Late-Night Email” gives its secret away in the URL “email-is-killing-us”; there are no joys to be had. We are tethered and sorrowful. We spend too much time even during our work hours “monitoring” our work. “We are doing this to ourselves,” Derek tells us. But there is little offered in the way of relief.

image from The Atlantic

The other Thompson, Clive, is author of the wonderful “Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds For The Better.” In his Labor Day weekend send off opinion piece “End the Tyranny of 24/7 Email,” this Thompson re-presents recent studies about how email interferes with our work and private lives citing the Daimler no-vacation-email strategy among others. Further he identifies, in one penultimate paragraph, the context collapse issue of email as well as the problem of expanded work and social expectations:

These changes can’t happen through personal behavior: The policy needs to come from the top. (If your boss regularly emails you a high-priority question at 11 p.m., the real message is, “At our company, we do email at midnight.”) And some changes may seem like matters of housekeeping, but have major repercussions, like keeping a separate email box for your personal messages. You can’t ignore your work inbox if that’s also the place where friends send you weepy accounts of their breakups.

For Clive, WE are not the problem as individuals, but as a socially and professionally dysfunctional society WE are the problem.

In a narrower field of play, Summer-Serenity Duvall (assistant professor of Communications at nearby Salem College) has banned student emails, purged the unfollowable rules and conscripted contexts for emailing her, as your professor, from her syllabus.

As someone who has followed this practice for over 3 years now, I applaud her and welcome her to #noemail. Each new semester, I give my students a #noemail lecture as a way to encourage them to think differently and more effectively about their communication technology usage.

But where, briefly, I differ from Dr. Duvall is that I am very happy to communicate, to interact, to carry my phone, to avoid departmentalization of my time. Pads, pods and lappys are all fine in class in many contexts — not all classes at all times of course.

The ‪#‎noemail‬ goal isn’t to regress or reject technology but to move to more appropriate technologies leaving the losers, like email, behind.

Let a thousand interactions bloom! But let none of them be email.

#noemail – Kids these days vs Banning email

Two completely different takes on email and #noemail came out last week. They are bookends to the ongoing discussion about how to communicate effectively. One looking backwards and arguing for an imagined utopia; one looking forward (or at least in the present) and arguing for better interactions and better productivity.

Starting in the present, Thomas Knoll of Primeloop talks about developing a communications culture at his business rather than an email culture in his post on Medium, “I banned email at my company.”

Haters gotta hate - email edition

Knoll acknowledges that email is hard to avoid for external interactions (but not impossible I quickly add), but that email culture can be replaced by learning to: Ask Questions, Share Information (using Hackpad), Passing Around Files (using Dropbox, Slack and Trello), Asking for Feedback (Hackpad), ToDo Lists (again Trello), Notifications (Slack), and Reporting to Others (WorkingOn).

All and all, a useful medium length post of a self-conducted best practices in communications amongst knowledge workers and coders with real results. Recommended.

That time when you were about 16 – 26 is that only time that music has been really really good. Probably several other things fit in that same category and time. For Alexis Madrigal, writing for The Atlantic, email is one of those things. Just like some one in his 40s explaining the music of his youth to death, Madrigal overexplains email and converts no one in his article “Email is still the best thing on the Internet.” If it’s so great why is email being abandoned and reengineered? Kids! Listen up! According to Madrigal: “Email was a newsfeed, was one’s passport and identity, was the primary means of direct social communication, was a digital package-delivery service, was the primary mode of networked work communication.” I mean WAS. But is no more. Kids-these-days with their Instagram, their WhatsAp, their Snapchat, their WhateverElseIsCool, they just don’t get it. They should rediscover email — and buy vinyl while they are at it.

Most of Madrigal’s article nostalgizes email, but even at that he does get something right. Whatever replaces email in whatever forms — including I agree Instagram, SnapChat etc — would be better for the customers and better for their companies in the long run if there were open standards for such services. Yes, I plan to make that case in October at the 13th annual WWW/Internet Conference in Porto, Portugal.

Challenging email: Pingly, Slack, Twitter DM & Discipline – #noemail

This past two weeks brought to my attention four challengers to email overload and a promise of more #noemail alternatives. The three applications, like many emerging alternatives, attempt to include mobile friendliness, terse messaging (sometimes with stickers or visuals), highly interactive communication and context appropriateness.

Charleston SC’s Post-Courier interviews Twitpics founder, Noah Everett, as he challenges email with Pingly. Okay not so much challenges as offers a delay of sorts. Pingly is said to come “from the phrase ‘Ping me’ (send me an email later.)” And in a display of tortured syntax: “We’re building basically from the ground up a brand new email service.” If someone is on your Pingly whitelist, their messages get marked as important. Despite the hype, Pingly is really an interactive whitelist management system for your inbox. Not #noemail.

Meanwhile, TechCrunch’s MG Siegler aka @parislemon, who himself did a brief #noemail stint, looks at signals from Twitter about extending their DM feature as an email killer. Siegler promises or predicts only a maiming of email in his title, but he opines and predicts and wishes from much more. I do too. DMs are one of my favorite features of Twitter, a back channel to the public Tweet Stream (as Siegler also notes and loves). An additional shared passion we share is for the forced terseness of Twitter communications: “But wait, Twitter DMs are only 140 characters, that will never work! In the context of email, that would very much be a feature not a bug.” But remember this article isn’t about what is now available so much as a wish list for Twitter developers.

I haven’t yet tested, Slack, which The Verge hypes as an email killer in an interview with founder Stewart Butterfield. Butterfield, himself has been #noemail for over 4 years (he says), so we can expect some insight here as well as a working product. Slack was developed, not coincidentally, about 4 years ago as a chat tool for Massive Multiuser Online games (MMO) — where terseness, interactivity, whitelists, and context control are essential. So far so good. Even better, Slack integrates communications across applications. As Butterfield says “It’s all your communication in one place, instantly searchable, and available wherever you go” or in market-speak “It’s a messaging and search platform that creates a single unified archive accessible through powerful search.” Despite the promise of #noemail, Butterfield hedges his bets by offering to integrate email into Slack in the future. In doing so, he repositions Slack from an email killer or an alternative communications integration play. The sort of Swiss Army Knife with too many specialized blades to fit into your pocket.

Vergers talk about Slack mostly loving the search but also talking about teams using Slack. And rightly dissing email.

Washington Post writer, Brigid Schulte, gets to Mailbox Zero and tells you how. Like getting into Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. Well, a little more that that. Schulte proposes a set of practices that will, if followed with discipline, at least reduce your inbox size if not enhance your life. If you are anxious enough to be disciplined. What we know about people, just look at your desk clutter for a second, is that more than a few of us have that kind of self-discipline. And we look askant at those who do, seeing them as OCD or just anal. Not that Schulte’s practices are bad ones. They are very good. But they are also just simple common sense productivity practices whether in regards to email or to any other business task that can overwhelm you.

Why not just go nuclear on the Inbox at the corporate level as the German giant Daimler has done with their employees by promising to have all incoming emails received while on vacation deleted so not return to bulging inbox as reported in Financial Times (registration required)? [precis of the article here at The Atlantic without blockage].

Speaking in Porto, Portugal – October 26 – 27

Still working on topics, as one talk was just added, for WWW/Internet 2014 Conference (where I’m to keynote) and the 11th International Conference on Applied Computing.
Watch this space for more soon.

More predictions for 2025

Continuing releases from Pew Internet/Elon University Imaging the Internet in 2025

Regarding changes brought by AI and Robots: We will experience less drudgery, and more leisure time

I responded:

“I for one welcome my new robot masters. I don’t welcome the loss of jobs or the depersonalization of services. The social impact will continue to force us to refocus on what makes us human, who we are in relation to each other. And the terms of the social contract that binds us. In the [US] South we saw great changes when the plantation system was abandoned. Not for the best—much room for improvement—but certainly for the better. Human augmentation, both onboard via wearable and implants and offboard with devices that think, are unstoppable. We want them. We want our hearts to keep pumping, our eyes to keep seeing, and we want to know more now! A further and unresolved question coming to confront us: Where does personhood reside? In our bodies or in the robots that may become the housing for our new selves?”

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