The Real Paul Jones

Accept no substitutes

Mobile Social Gaming and Messaging – KakaoTalk #noemail

A lunch chat with Sam Oh who is visiting UNC from Korea had me thinking about the variety of ways that chat apps are used in different cultures. Sam briefly explained the history and use of KaKaoTalk in Korea. His story of a Yahoo!-like company’s rebirth as a messaging app that has dominated Korean phones intrigued me so I starting looking for more about KakaoTalk.

The app began as a simple chat app and expanded into KakaoTalk, KakaoStory, KakaoMusic, KakaoGroup, KakaoHome, KakaoPlace, KakaoAlbum, KakaoPage, KakaoStyle, and KakaoAgit. Most of the names explain something about the focus of each service — all mobile oriented and working as a quick sharing service. Kakoa even breaks services off into their own apps — KakaoTaxi, KakaoBus, KakaoMetro etc.

KakaoTalk (according to Sam with details added from Wikipedia) derives its income from three main streams:
Gaming – 67.5% ($31.1M) in 2012. Mobile and social gaming with in game purchases including the Korean “national games,” Ani Pang and Dragon Flight. These games are not only the largest source of income but also serve to keep user engagement very very high — unlike other cleaner purer chat applications. If there is anything that other messaging app or any mobile app could learn from KakaoTalk, it’s how to increase engagement via gaming. Then to use that increased engagement to produce a very effective income stream.
Coupons (instead of banner ads) – 26.2% ($12.1M)
Emoji sales – 6.3% ($2.8M)

In the wake of Pokemon Go, this seem obvious. But if — say a month again — I told you that #noemail systems could be profitable by offering mobile social gaming, I would have gotten and perhaps deserved an eye roll response.

It turns out that this week we are all believers in mobile social gaming with augmented reality. And investors believe that there are profits to be had in that space.

At the moment, investors are seeing mobile social gaming as separate from messaging but KakaoTalk points toward integration as a solution for increasing engagement and income at the same time.

Looking at the top global apps on Android for the first quarter of 2015, Qualtra showed messaging apps dominate with the top four being owned by Facebook (Facebook itself, WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram). [note: pre-installed Google apps are not included in the chart]. When it comes to number of sessions and for length of engagement, however, it’s KakaoTalk as number 1 by far.

Qualtra looks at top apps

Outside of Korea although installs of KakoaTalk are a much smaller percentage (in the US 1% of Androids for example), but the length of engagement is still the largest of any messaging app, reports SimilarWeb.

The problem facing KakaoTalk is how to get out of Korea and into other markets in a significant way. Is mobile social gaming integrated into a messaging app an anomaly or a pathway to success? Is KakaoTalk culturally and locally bound to Korea? Is the future to be found more in loosely connected apps for special purposes — a Clash of Clans + GroupMe for now and Pokemon Go + WhatsApp later –?

KakaoTalk logo

Under New Management with #noemail

David Burkus begins his new book, “Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), with an 11 page chapter commanding companies to “Outlaw Email.” Choosing #noemail as an opening chapter says a lot about the need for communication reform with in companies. But the content is even more compelling.

Burkus isn’t just railing about the evils of email, the delays, the time sinks, the spam, the miscommunication, the stylistic misuse, the passive-aggressive tendencies that email cultivates, or how email creeps into every minute of your life shackling your company’s productivity. Burkus presents proof that you can outlaw email and improve your company’s performance.

Beginning with a reference to the no email policies of Atos SE and ending with the no email on weekends or after hours at Daimler, Burkus fills in the middle with recent research that shows the cost of email and the benefits of using other more effective forms of communications from UC-Irvine and US Army as well as a survey on emotional effects by Marcus Butts and his colleagues.

In short, very good review of the most recent practice and research told well.

Burkus, himself, tells the story more briefly in the most recent Harvard Business Review as “Some Companies Are Banning Email and Getting More Done” (June 8, 2016).

“Clearing out your email inbox can make you feel like you’re ultra-productive, but unless your job description is solely to delete emails, you’re likely just fooling yourself.”

Under New Management

Year Five of #noemail Part 5 – Collaboration, a Short Rant

via Orange County

The very first reason that I posited that email needed to die and that its death would be welcome sooner than later is that every day we have a greater reliance of open collaboration than ever before. This is. at the moment at least, now doctrine. In the past 24 hours, I’ve hear that from both candidate’s for the Governorship of the state of North Carolina. That’s about the only thing they agreed on.

What passes for collaboration and what facilitates group work is open for debate. Of course, a number of kludges immediately rose to the challenge. Everyone with a product or a consulting investment had an answer.
Email was at first pitched as an effective collaboration tool. What a great idea! You don’t need new technology to help you; you only need to be instructed in how to properly use email. The problem is that the learning or relearning in context is extremely difficult for humans. You can get some slight improvements. But it was immediately clear that smart calendars, simple meeting schedulers (like Doodle), collaborative writing spaces (like Google Docs), chat spaces (like Slack and HipChat) were much more effective and that the work done with those tools was almost immediately better and more satisfaction — as seen by their very quick adoption.

As I like to say it may take a short while but soon makers of tools rush in where those with older angles have already trod.

Attempts to retrofit email to make it more friendly to or at least tolerant of collaboration are numerous. I mentioned two attempts at making the in-box smarter by applying AI and machine learning in Part 1. Verse from IBM and InBox from Google. Other mail interfaces continue to kludge along as if they are a 20 century disco act at Bonnaroo. I’m looking at you Outlook.

Collaboration needs support in a variety of contexts – as I will describe later – as we see each new tool arrive, some failing and some immediately useful, we recognize how email fails us. Collaboration requires stronger context, better threading, better time shifting tools, a stronger knowledge base, and a degree of simplicity that email has never achieved

Year Five of #noemail Part 4 – Spam, Spam, Spam

Spam by Brownpau

Back when Spam was merely canned spiced shoulder of ham, we had junk mail. It came and still comes to our physical mail boxes just as surely and regularly as robo-calls come to our voice mail in-boxes. Passing some opt-out laws and restrictions helped stem the tide of junk mail somewhat. It as easy to toss in the recycle in any case. In the case of robo-calls, mandated do not call lists helped a lot. It seemed that junk robo-intrusions into our communications streams could be handled by some sort of legal relief — at least in the US.

In one recent instance legal recourse has proven to be helpful as the advertising spam industry has unified with fewer players. In 2015, FTC action against a California-based diet pill spammer resulted in not only a settlement that included a $43 million fine but also resulted in an overall reduction in spam in the phrama sector of almost 80%.

But overall, spam in email turned out to be different than junk mail and robo-calls. Global in design and reach, less costly to the sender, rarely stifled at the source, more easily disguised and overall more insidious, spam and anti-spam efforts have obsessed some of the best minds of our generation.

As a result of this hard brain work, we now have cleaner in-boxes but we also see plaintive sentences when we order from some sites asking us, warning us to please white list their email addresses (thereby opening ourselves up to their spam) or even more annoying “If you do not see our response, please inspect your spam folder.” One word of advice: Don’t unless you are desperate or want to be shocked by what has been rightly hidden from you.

I haven’t missed spam over the past five years, but I think spam has missed me. Recent reports at that spam is in decline. According to Symantec, spam is down as a percentage of total email sent for the first time in 12 years of measurement (as of June 2015). Spam has proven to be less effective for sales, but still very effective in delivering phishing schemes, malware and ransomware.

That is to say that spam, which was once mostly an annoying waste of time, is now more likely to be lethal — well, at least to have very bad consequences. We get less spam but instead of marketing green coffee or acai berries, we are deceived into entering our banking passwords or to send our contact lists to the fraudsters in the background for further exploitation.

Social media or even encrypted messaging systems are not completely free of spam. But the nature of whitelisting by default reduces automated spam greatly. I never get spammed on Slack. Facebook is fairly good at sorting out spam messages, but yes there are invitations that you just should not accept. My messaging systems are spam free as in LinkedIn — save the odd invite. Invite in and of themselves are annoyances; they do not — at the moment — include a payload of malware.

But there may be something to be said for spam even if somewhat tongue in cheek. Finn Brunton, in his lovely if somewhat twisted “Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet,” (MIT, 2013) writes “Indeed, from a certain perverse perspective–one with consequences for my argument–spam can be presented as the Internet’s infrastructure used maximally and most efficiently, for a certain value of ‘use.’” Soon after Brunton acknowledges that “[t]his description is obviously ludicrous, a panegyric of pure function, while still being true.”

Year Five of #noemail – Part 3 – Mobile workspaces

The Trial - Don't embarass the Bureau

“We are rarely static people,” writes Kevin Benedict at the Center for the Future of Work blog in an article titled “Time, Space, and Speed – Mobile vs Static Apps.” Although Benedict wrote this in January 2016, he could have been channeling my own thinking as I compiled my original 7 ways that email must die list five years ago. I said one of the forces that would kill email was our use of “mobile rather than stationary work spaces.”

Benedict goes on ask us to:

consider two people in a vehicle. The driver, assuming they use their smartphone only when safely parked, searches for places, locations and directions based on a static starting point. However, if the person searching for places, locations and directions is a passenger in a moving car, a different set of information is appropriate. One based on movement, speed, direction, intersections, changing distances, etc. How should those variables change the way mobile apps are designed?

Mobility even within an office setting — and work within office settings is also changing for knowledge workers as I’ll write about later — is a design challenge one that the very design of email fails. Email has a context; it’s context is someone sitting at a desk typing a memo, penning a post-it note, sending in slow motion from her work station. While we still work, we are not usually at a station or as Benedict says “We are not static people.”

Even apps are having difficulty moving from web (static) to phone (mobile) just barely beginning to use voice effectively for requests, directions, and answers. When I began #noemail in 2011, Siri was not yet released for the iPhone 4S — that would happen in October of the year. Five years later, we are much further along than even I had hoped. Search and Google Now try — in my case more successfully than not — to anticipate the information that we need to know when and where we are when we want it. Sometimes before we know we want it.

“A transformation in thinking and design needs to take place, one based on the real world, rather than on static models” writes Benedict. While he is often in his brief piece taking about apps, he could easily be taking about the design of our workplaces as well.

Changes in organization, in spaces themselves, the rise of co-working, of open offices, of design for collision (for almost accidental encounters while in transit, at lunch, at coffee or just sitting in the sun) are the subject of Ben Waber, Jennifer Magnolfi, and Greg Lindsay’s Harvard Business Review article “Workspaces That Move People”

“Office buildings are no longer the sole locations for knowledge work. In fact, research from the consulting group Emergent Research suggests that two-thirds of it now happens outside the office.”

Waber et al remind us of three key elements of successful communication: exploration (interacting with people in many other social groups), engagement (interacting with people within your social group, in reasonably equal doses), and energy (interacting with more people overall) as described in Alex “Sandy” Pentland’s April 2012 HBR article, “The New Science of Building Great Teams.” These are measurable elements, as Magnolfi demonstrates in her study of Zappos.

These casual collisions designed into working spaces as shared coffee shops, central letter boxes, larger lunch/break rooms increase trust, reduce isolation, enlarge social networks, increase the effectiveness of business networks and increase productivity. Not by magic but by increasing bonding, deepening later interactions, and easing knowledge transfer.

Digital interactions are about continuing relationships, making weak bonds stronger, initiating f2f encounters and keeping links alive more often than beginning and remaining purely digital. Coffee can be as important as more than a dozen email messages as Waber shows.

For initiating and maintaining relationships, business and personal, the social, the casual and even the intimate exchanges in the moment whether digital or in physical spaces suit knowledge workers better.

Five Years of #noemail – Part 2 – Encrypted/Secure Messaging

Big Brother

When I began my on-going #noemail project, I knew or at least suspected that email would be replaced by smarter messaging systems. My hunch was that something more social, more interactive, more mobile friendly, more whitelist than completely open. What I didn’t count on what the proliferation of encrypted and even self-destructing-messaging apps.

Email can be encrypted and to some extent GMail does some transactional cryptography with https and ssl, but most email is sent and stored in the most insecure ways. Yet not only individuals, but financial services and medical sites also, often rely on email or email that directs you to a moderately secure site.

On the other hand, secure messaging is offered in various flavors by SnapChat, Wickr, WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, Signal, Allo, Duo, BlackBerry Messenger, Gliph, Threema, ChatSecure, Line, Cyber Dust, and more. [Please send me your favorites if they aren’t listed here.]

Even old school messaging apps like AIM, Facebook Chat, Skype, Yahoo! Messenger and Gchat encrypt in transit — as some email does under some conditions.

Things are moving so fast that even the Electronic Frontier Foundation can’t keep up with them. EFF did a great job of evaluating secure messaging in late 2014 and produced a very useful scorecard, but that was out of date almost as soon as it was published. They’ve since produced a Surveillance Self-Defense Guide and promise that a new Scorecard will be on the way soon.

At the end of Year Five of #noemail, I ask myself why didn’t I make a point, amongst my Seven Points seen in Part 1, of talking more about security and encryption? It’s not like I don’t care about it. It’s not like I don’t have many of the secure messaging apps on my own phone. I mean ibiblio does run a TOR Exit Node (in support of journalists and our students and faculty as they travel).

I am aware of the need and desire for secure messaging — but I grew up with email where encryption was a task, a pain, such a specialty that even using encryption showed you were hiding something more than just embarrassing –; I hadn’t thought encryption would be so simple, so baked in to the apps, and so widely desired for even the simplest messages and exchanges.

I came around to this in Year Five of #noemail. It had been creeping up on me for the past few years. But now I should add to the list:

8. We want — no we demand — control over our messages via encryption and timed self destruction. Email does not and will not provide that.

This is Part 2 on a reflection and analysis and personal experience at Year Five of #noemail

Five Years of #noemail – Part 1

Last year about this time, I began:

On June 1, 2011, I stopped sending or reading email replacing that elderly and inefficient means of communication with a collection of emerging technologies.


Email, as we have known it, is changing because of identifiable forces:

  1. greater reliance of open collaboration
  2. mobile rather than stationary work spaces
  3. the untamable nuisance of spam replaced by whitelists and other controls
  4. quick and terse interchanges often while in motion
  5. many brief highly interactive exchanges constituting a conversation stream
  6. context appropriate messaging
  7. highly customizable communications alerts and streams across all devices as desired

As I close Year Five of #noemail, Google has yet another go at creating a social solution. Having crashed with Orkut, Buzz, Wave and now it seems Plus, we are being offered Spaces. Call me an wide-eyed optimist, but I believe that Google will eventually get this thing right. I also begin each cartoon believing that Wiley E. Coyote will catch the Roadrunner. As Spaces has only been available for a couple of weeks, I’m withholding speculation on its success for a while.

In the meantime, the astounding success of Slack almost validates #noemail alone. In less than three years, Slack — which I often call IRC in a suit — has had a giant impact on the way groups work. Indeed, Slack meets all of my 7 requirements listed a year ago exactly. The smart integration of other streams via APIs is just one thing that puts Slack above other solutions in the same space. The technology and the funding and the progress in fast adaptation are all helping Slack do very very well. In fact, many have speculated that Google’s Spaces is their answer to Slack.

Google did have huge success with GMail which has continued over the past five years of my #nomail. IBM has tried to reinvent the inbox with Verse but while there are new releases of the Verse client for both iOS and Android this month, I’ve not heard of a single non-IBMer having used that application. That’s not true about Google’s Inbox, their answer to the crappy way that email works on mobile. People use it but no one has told me that they love it. After all Inbox is still an inbox. It’s just that some intelligence is helping you sort and file the demon email.

My friend, Luis Suarez aka @elsua, pointed me to this graph (below) from the consulting company Excelacom of that happens in on minute on the internet in 2016. This graph and the one I dug up representing 2015 show a significant decline in email — but also a decline in Twitter and Instagram. Briefly:

Up: Facebook, Uber, Spotify, Amazon, App Downloads (although using a different measure)
Down: Email, Instagram, Twitter
Same: Vine, LinkedIn, Google, YouTube
2015 only: Skype, ID Theft
New for 2016: Tinder, Snapchat, Netflix, WhatsApp

2016 Internet Minute
2015 Internet Minute

This is Part 1 on a reflection and analysis and personal experience at Year Five of #noemail

Graphs from Excelacom’s blogs: 2015 by Yossi Abraham, 2016 by Kelly LeBoeuf

Open source app takes on Ebola and mental health in Liberia

Starting in September, I’ve been doing consulting with IntraHealth International‘s Informatics group. I’ve been impressed by the ways that this small group of dedicated people have developed Open Source software infrastructure for increasing the capacity of frontline health workers to do their jobs under tough circumstances. No circumstances — Palestine and Afghanistan perhaps excepted but for different reasons — are tougher than in Liberia during and in the continuing aftermath of the Ebola epidemic.

IntraHealth folks collaborated broadly and quickly to develop a new open source project mHero to create a bidirectional linkage between frontline health workers and ministries of health to help get out information about Ebola and to get information back to the ministry.

Largely because of IntraHealth’s strategy of developing increased capacity in both ministries and workers, and because the software and culture takes advantage of open source principles for remix and resuse, the ministry workers in Liberia found ways that mHero could be used in the diverse areas of mental health and in Information, Communications and Technology evaluation.

I just wrote about this work in detail for Open Source dot Com in an article Open source app takes on Ebola and mental health in Liberia. Check it out.

Open Source Global Healthwinksplay

The Web Going Dark – Preserving and Serving Aging Websites

Adrienne LaFrance writes in the Atlantic in an article called “Raiders of the Lost Web” about vanishing websites and the recovery of one particularly important investigative reporting piece, “The Crossing.” Along the way, LaFrance discusses the state of web archiving through brief interviews with Jason Scott and Brewster Kahle of Internet Archive as well as Alexander Rose of the Long Now Foundation. The problems of preserving everything are still insurmountable. The problems of just preserving and serving valuable websites, those curated say or deemed to be of ongoing importance, is possible but not yet done well.

I’m glad to see the continued attention to this problem. With the help of support from IBM research grant entitled “Keeping the Historic Web Alive and Accessible: preserving and serving,” I’m involved in using virtualization to keep older versions of older software open and accessible.

In fact, I’ve kept open and accessible a version of Tim Berners-Lee’s earliest public webpage from 1991. You can read about the context of the page in an Atlantic article from 2013.

Despite the great efforts of Internet Archive and others, archivists attempts at preserving websites have largely been a collection of web page collected periodically by such successful software as’s Heritrix. While page collectors provide a good service especially for sites that do not allow access to the database that drive them, they fail on several fronts.

First, a complex site can never be completely captured by a screen capture program or even a video. The number of potential pages and interactions cannot be duplicated in such a manner.

Second, user interactions with a complex site cannot be duplicated by a captured set of static pages. Understanding interactions is important to the use of archival material.

Third, the context of use and interactions is lost when the user experience is changed from one of interactivity and customization to one of simply retrieving selected static pages.

Even worse are archival activities that attempt to preserve by atomizing the objects from the pages removing images, audio, texts, etc and placing them in new decontextualized object databases completely unrelated to their original context.

We propose, using ibiblio as an example, to attack this preservation problem by using machine virtualization and virtual machine management tools. One suite of tools that particularly interest us are NCSU’s Virtual Computing Lab known as VCL. VCL is in use at over 200 institutions and has a strong support structure. Open source and licensed under the Apache project licenses, VCL is mostly used to provide temporary virtual machine for training computer scientists. We and our partners at NC State see a new use for VCL as a way to manage and present older servers Running older software in a secure yet living and interactive way.

I hope that we and those others of us working on digital preservation and in virtualization can provide a framework that benefits the creators, the archivist, and publics present and future.

Look for some initial results to be posted here soon.

WeGoNow’s personal guide to #noemail

Rich Denyer-Bewick has started a very helpful blog at WEGONOW a blog about work and play and me and you a good bit of which is about his new experience with #noemail.

Although only a couple of months old and a few post posted, the blog is already chocked full of useful approaches to personal #noemail issues.

Beginning with “The sickening realisation that email was bad for me” (note spellings and Rich are British) which includes a very nice panel from The Oatmeal’s Email Monster sequence, Rich describes how he has come to look beyond email and how he has found a strong support community including the videos of Luis @elsua Suarez and Claire Burge and one of their guests in particular (me).

Rich’s most recent post, “Getting Started with #NoEmail – 10 Top Tips To Slay The Email Beast,” offers excellent leads, succinctly presented for getting into the world beyond email. Admittedly these leads are so succinct that they beg for expansion and detail, but that exactly what Rich promises to do in future posts. His unpacking of his first lead, “Accept You Have A Problem,” at the end of the 10 Top Tips is a strong downpayment on that promise.

Looking forward to more posts and more expansion on his good leads in the near future.


#noemail? There are many apps for that

Quartz has created a great infographic for Hewlett Packard (aka HP) showing how the multitude of new messaging apps fit into existing business categories. SnapCash and Venmo for banking, Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel and Hinge for dating (carefully daring not to speak the name of the ground breaking Grindr and its sexual subculture off-shoots), etc. Each app is also represented by icons for Secure Messaging and Voice, Dating and Networking, Enterprise Chat, etc. A lot of information artfully presented although far from fully inclusive of the messaging space.

What these apps have in common is that they address most if not all of the driving forces (technical and social) toward #noemail (greater reliance of open collaboration, mobile rather than stationary work spaces, the untamable nuisance of spam replaced by whitelists and other controls, quick and terse interchanges often while in motion, many brief highly interactive exchanges constituting a conversation stream, context appropriate messaging, and highly customizable communications alerts and streams across all devices as desired. in case you’ve forgotten)

Or as Quartz writers creatively describe the situation:

About 25 percent of all life forms on Earth are some kind of beetle. In the App Store, messenger apps are becoming just as prodigious, with new species appearing en masse despite the popularity of Facebook Messenger, iMessage, Skype, and WhatsApp. Nearly 20 successful venture-backed messaging apps hit the market in the last 12 months to acclaim. Some of these­—like “text concierge” Magic—have been properly recognized for their ability to challenge legacy communication giants and blockbuster upstarts alike. The industries and messaging apps at the heart of the disruption battleground are visualized here.

HP/QZ infographic on messaging apps

Year Four of #noemail

On June 1, 2011, I stopped sending or reading email replacing that elderly and inefficient means of communication with a collection of emerging technologies.


Email, as we have known it, is changing because of identifiable forces:

  1. greater reliance of open collaboration
  2. mobile rather than stationary work spaces
  3. the untamable nuisance of spam replaced by whitelists and other controls
  4. quick and terse interchanges often while in motion
  5. many brief highly interactive exchanges constituting a conversation stream
  6. context appropriate messaging
  7. highly customizable communications alerts and streams across all devices as desired

While there is strong indication that these changes are driven by age-related demographics, there is no reason that better communication should be the sole property of young people texting or older folks Skypeing with their grandchildren or middle schoolers collaborating with Google Docs or software developers with IRC open in several windows and posting commits to Github.

Several attempts to replace email have come onto the scene and several have gone or faded in promise. Google Plus seemed like a great solution for a while and now seems less so. Diaspora looked like a challenger to Facebook’s walled garden. ello came on quickly and almost as quickly became a footnote.

Others aimed at work groups were more sticky: Slack is by far the leader, but it shares that space with Asana, Glip, Hipchat, Yammer and Chatter or just old-fashioned IRC.

New email interfaces and enhancements from Google seen in Gmail and in Inbox as well as IBM’s Verse attempt to conquer the problem by using analytics, integration of other streams and more complex interfaces.

Of course, new apps are appearing on mobile devices (see point 2 above) almost daily and the ability to manage their alerts and to integrate their communications streams is stronger as mobile platforms evolve to support more integration of cross app interactions.

It is much easier now to say “I just don’t do email anymore” than it was four years ago. And I expect that #noemail will continue to make more sense to more people in the coming year.

Credit: NYTimes

Quitters Unite (on video and on blogs) – #noemail

Emanuele Terenzani aka @dedenzani (aka lele on several #noemail discussions), an IBMer working in a finance centre in Bratislava, tells of his #noemail journey at 2 years on and of insights that he’s gained by using newer more effective and more social means of communication at his blog, Iteration 3.0.


Claire Burge @claireburge and Luis Suarez @elsua have build up a nice series of interview and discussions on their YouTube channel now up to Episode VIII. The shows cover a range of topics and feature interviews with some very experienced #noemail folks to add color and additional insights.

An even more dynamic, and talkative, group is active at a Slack instance called #noemail managed by @elsua. Meeting a lot of good folks from all over the world and learning quite a bit from then them and their @epicstories and #hintstips (more on how to be involved in this later on)

In the meantime, I’ve embarked on a little writing project. More news on that as November approaches.

Blame the people – #noemail

Repeating what I just responded to Neil Tamplin on his blog (and tweet) article ““Email isn’t evil. How we inflict it on each other might be!”

Email doesn’t spam people. People spam people (but as with guns, absence of the weapon causes a decrease in the crime) #noemail

Neil is not the first to ask us to behave civilly, sanely and considerately when we use email. And he is not the first to believe that posting some guidelines will lead us to a better world.

I was not the first, when in the 1980s, is wrote an article for our university as Ms. Mail Manners called “An excruciatingly correct guide to email behavior.” I see echoes of my 30 year old document almost every day. In conversation. In business press articles. In blog posts. Even in a special Slack group on #noemail.

Nerdly twists along the same line are occurring, even as I write this, at Y-Combinator’s Hacker News discussion that begins:

Email is probably one of the the oldest (and most used) services of all time. Email killed the Fax and Letter Writing in general. Today, it is the de facto communication tool for businesses.
In recent years were born hundreds of services that have tried to make email less painful.
In your opinion what will be the future for email?

As you might imagine, hackers are promoting their favorite hacks to deal with email and their favorite emerging substitutes, but even technologically focused people still post things like:

Gustomaximus 11 hours ago
I think the problem is not so much email, but teaching people how to use email correctly. My company recently sent the entire office on a full day Outlook course. Going in everyone was thinking how this was such a waste of a day. Going out everyone was so greatful.

Besides Gustomaximus’ overtrust in Outlook as a solution to anything and his misspelling of “grateful,” he shows a naive trust in the stickiness of corporate training. Perhaps age and experience will correct these problems, but as the evidence shows neither aging nor experience much changes the commission of email sins.

Look at your inbox, or don’t. The ages and experience of the worse email offenders make no difference. What does make a difference is that those — often “born mobile” as opposed to merely “born digital” — who don’t even bother to send email are the more efficient, productive and frankly happier.

Email. It’s not a people problem; it’s a technology problem that expresses itself in bad human behavior.

Tweets of #noemailday Tuesday May 5, 2015 Storifyed

Collected Tweets about #noemail & #noemailday from the 5th International #noemailday Tuesday May 5, 2015 as described by @lordlancaster of @noemaildayhq in his Manifesto Selections from @dilbert_daily @phdcomics @newyorker @claireburge @elsua etc.

You d better not be emailing me

Today’s State of Work: The Productivity Drain – #noemail

Service Now (UK) pointed me to their new infographic that accompanies their longer report on “Today’s State of Work: The Productivity Drain.”

Of course my eyes scanned through the document stopping at “THE CAUSES OF WASTED TIME: Three reasons why admin work takes so much time.” Reason 2 (of the three, the center piece) stopped me.

First I saw:

Outdated and Inefficient

Then I saw exactly what Outdated and Inefficient technologies that they had identified:

email is top

After registering (no cost but a bit of contact info which could result in sales contact hopefully not by email), I browsed the report in full It’s here (PDF) and yes there is much more on the ways that email and spreadsheets waste your time and patience and how the choice of unstructured communications and clutter combine to cost your enterprise greatly. Good survey here from a survey of 915 managers in the US and UK.

#noemail : Replying behavior and overload edition

What happens to email replying behavior when people are experiencing email overload? A new study, with a very large N of greater than 2M, from a team from Yahoo! and USC Information Sciences presented at the 24th International World Wide Web Conference digs in and tells us in detail.

“Evolution of Conversations in the Age of Email Overload” [pdf] from Farshad Kooti, Luca Maria Aiello, Mihajlo Grbovic, Kristina Lerman, and Amin Mantrach found at (via Jeff Pomerantz aka @jpom):

…found that users increased their activity as they received more emails, but not enough to compensate for the higher load. This means that as users became more overloaded, they replied to a smaller fraction of incoming emails and with shorter replies. However, their responsiveness remained intact and may even be faster. Demographic factors affected information overload, too. Older users generally replied to a smaller fraction of incoming emails, but their reply time and length were not impacted by overload as much as younger users. In contrast, younger users replied faster, but with shorter replies and to a higher fraction of emails.

Among other findings in general is that younger, especially male, emailers tend to be more mobile, faster and more terse in their replies (pointing toward messaging behaviors rather than email behavoirs as noted here as among the reasons why email must and will die).

In the meantime, you can learn more about #noemail from Luis @elsua Suarez and Claire Burge @claireburge on their bi-weekly video Vodcasts Life Without Email on YouTube. Now up to Episode 6.

And you can take a planned email break on May 5, 2015 for #noemail Day.

#switchpoint ideas: Digital Development Principles

On Thursday April 22, I’ll be leading a MicroLab session on Digital Development Principles with Merrick Schaefer, the Lead of the Mobile Data team at USAID, and INTRAHealth’s own Dykki Settle as part of the SwitchPoint conference in my favorite NC community, Saxapahaw.

Do concepts like designing with the user, understanding ecosystems, and using all things open (source, standards, data, innovation) around the world excite you? They excite the international development community too! Join us for a discussion about the Digital Development Principles ( – the product of a global groundswell to capture lessons learned and guide future donor investments in information and communication technology for development (ICT4D). Together we will explore how the Principles help create new opportunities and synergies, driving us beyond simple technology solutions to true transformative change.

A photo posted by switchpoint (@switchpoint) on

The Return of #NoEMail Day – May 5, 2015

No Email Day
It’s back! And just in time for a nice mid-Spring cleansing of bad habits. The 5th #noemailday will be celebrated on 5/5/15 aka May 15, 2015. The date was selected so that both those who write dates as Month/Day/Year and Day/Month/Year can be represented. Not really. The first #noemailday was 11/11/2011, then 12/12/2012, then 3/3/2013. Last year’s #noemailday was 4/4/2014. If you miss 5/5/2015, then your next chance will be 6/6/2016.

Founded by Paul Lancaster now of SageOne in UK after his issuing of the No Email Day Manifesto (a great slideshare read which I recommend), No Email Day offers a chance for companies and individuals to take a break and discover better ways of communicating — better than email which is pretty much any other way at all.

For some deeper viewing and good insightful conversation about #noemail and alternative communications strategies, catch up with Luis @elsua Suarez and Claire Burge @claireburge on their bi-weekly video Vodcasts Life Without Email on YouTube. Now up to Episode 5.

Follow #noemail, #noemailday and @noemaildayhq for breaking No Email Day news and join the No Email Day Facebook Page

#noemail efforts at Netapp and Facebook

In How Service Automation Got Us Out of Email Jail
in Wired’s InnovationInsights blog, Thomas Clarke, Director, Quote-to-Invoice PMO & Performance Measurement at NetApp reaches out to ServiceNow and their services partner, Cloud Sherpas, to try to get a handle on what emails actually are about. Turns out email in and of itself isn’t very good for expressing complains or placing orders or much else. But is “a service automation solution based on a system of conditional logic to automatically analyze incoming emails, extracting key information based on the sender, subject and email text then using this information to populate standard request templates, which were then automatically sent to the right team member using the solution’s built-in workflow engine” really getting at the client services problem or is it just making the best of a horrible situation with a flurry of buzzwords? Like King Canute, the waves of email cannot ultimately be tamed even by “service automation.”

How Facebook Controls the Future of Messaging: “The tech giant is building a huge moat around social interactions with Messenger and WhatsApp” writes Dan Frommer in The Atlantic. It’s in the maths. Facebook-owned WhatsApp has 700 million monthly active users and Facebook’s Messenger has 600 million monthly active users. And it’s in the design. Messenger plans to be a platform play not just an app. Messenger will bring together a number of communications streams for the individual (as Slack does for the workgroup). In it’s platform capacity, Messenger will not only let you send branded GIFs (from say ESPN) but also claim a place (just announced) in the world of electronic wallets and payments. What’s up with WhatsApp then? For the moment, the company and product remain at “arm-length” from Facebook management focusing on being a simple and free/cheap alternative to SMS says Frommer. Possibly a client for Messenger’s platform.

At Medium, Steven Levy’s article, Facebook Messenger Wants to Rule Your Conversations: “Last year Facebook made us install its messaging app. Now it’s recruiting developers to make sure we use it for just about everything,” tells us how Facebook is adding complexities and services to Messenger. In my mind, Facebook has never really gotten mobile. The main Facebook app is nearly unusable on a phone largely because it tries to duplicate the workstation/laptop experience inappropriately on mobile. But Facebook does have a clue about what doesn’t work on mobile:

Facebook has always believed that the asynchronous nature of email was unsuited to the instant, always-on rhythms of the “social graph” that binds us to our connections, and has long tried to offer an escape hatch from the tyranny of the inbox. While Messenger isn’t explicitly trying to kill email, it is trying to wean you off email for many kinds of communication.

Strong words there and accurate as far as WhatsApp goes. Whether that will workout for a bloated Messenger platform or not is yet to be seen.

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