On January 30, Luis “elsua” Suarez visited our UNC School of Information and Library Science senior capstone course on Emerging Issues and Technologies to talk with us about his 6+ years without email while at IBM.
Luis brought a lot of good insight to the class as he did a Google Hangout with us from his home on Gran Canaria. Luis lives in Africa, reports in Europe and works most closely with a team in North America — without using email.
Luis, who was extremely generous to spend time with us during his transition, will be moving from being a Change Agent within a very large global and hierarchical organization to advising and assisting organizations of all sizes to work better by learning about Social Business practices.
Luis has been a global presence already as has been noted in Wired, New York Times, and at Outside The Inbox dot EU (among others). His experience and personal engagement will definitely be a leader and advisor to call on.
Working with Luis has taught me not to look for the smartest person in the room but to look for the smartest network that has someone in the room with you.
Looking forward to his and CAWW’s future adventures.
Each year at New Year’s, I’ve tried to work out something that would meet all the Southern folklore requirements for luck, prosperity, and a long sweet life as Mama Dip says “COLLARD GREENS for LOTS OF MONEY, BLACK-EYE PEAS for GOOD LUCK, PORK for GOOD HEALTH, YAMS to SWEETEN THINGS UP.” There are a dozen variations of what food yields what attribute, but the foods involved plus cornbread are required for whatever reasons might be given.
Starting a few years back, I’ve been adding the New Year’s plate pieces to the Portuguese dish, Caldo Verde aka the Green Soup. This year with full respect to the taste changes and easily availability of foods we might call Mexican, I moved away from the Portuguese kale and hard sausage soup entirely and went with the recipe below.
Served with a masa harina based cornbread and a red wine, it made a great New Years meal.
Caldo Verde por Ańo Nuevo
1 pound chorizo (Mexican style crumbly or hard Spanish style)
1 pound collards (stemmed, washed three times, rolled and chopped)
1 – 2 large sweet potatoes (peeled and diced)
1 large onion (peeled and diced)
4 garlic cloves (peeled and minced)
3 celery stalks (stemmed and diced)
2 – 3 medium carrots (peeled and diced)
1 poblano pepper (seeded and diced)
1 can or equiv of prepared black eyed peas (1 – 2 cups)
4 – 6 cups of stock
1 – 2 bay leaves
Garnish (enough for the table):
chopped pepper (orange, red or green)
chopped red onion
chopped and seeded jalapeńo
Most of the work here is in the preparation. If you start with dried black eyed peas, there’s a lot more work ahead of time. I skip that part and start with canned peas or those prepared ahead of time. Dicing for me means about 1/4 inch or less cubes or close to depending on the vegetable. Mincing, as in the garlic, means chop it as fine as you can or use a garlic press. For the garnishes, chop as course or as fine as your table desires.
You’ll need a large cooking pot for the caldo and small bowls for the garnishes.
Oil and heat the pot. Then saute the onion, garlic, pepper and celery until the onion is transparent.
Add the Mexican chorizo and stir until lightly browned and broken into bits.
Add sweet potatoes, bay leaf, and carrots. Stir for about 5 minutes.
Add the collards — they should be well shredded — and stir until dark green.
Now add the stock and black eyed peas then bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and let it cook until the sweet potatoes are very mushy.
The slow simmer lets the flavors mingle. You can prepare the garnishes while you’re waiting and/or sip on a favorite beverage or chat with friends or read a good book.
Serve with cornbread (I make pan based on masa the tortilla flour, but every family has their favorite versions).
Tis the season for email scams and hacks and trojans. As the holidays go into full swing, you suddenly find that “You Are A Winner!” or “Reset your password here” or the most evil of all “Someone changed your password — login to confirm or reset.”
This last works not just with email but with Facebook and other services as well. It may arrive via txt, FB message but usually via email. Bill Hayes writes somewhat forgivingly of his experience with the human engineered phishing of his friends by his compromised Gmail account in today’s New York Times, “Thank You for Hacking Me”
Not to take the fun out of the story, but one upside is that Hayes lost 9,187 items from his Gmail inbox. Clearly he needs better email management — and #noemail.
Last month a friend of mine had her Facebook account cloned. The new account immediately began friending all of the real person’s friends. As soon as you were friended, the phishing began.
I returned the friend request to see what was up. Soon I got a “Hello Message” then I decided to have fun:
[fake friend] Hello
[me] hello [friend's name]. Maybe you can help me
I think I left a wallet at your house [I have never been to her house]
[ff] I will check it out and get back to you
[me] maybe under the coffee table
[me] near the red chair
It has some very important papers in it
on the subject we were talking about
[me] I can’t say much about that here obviously
But there is a lot at stake
[me] be very casual while you are looking
[me] this is very important. you know the chair i’m talking about?
[Chat Conversation End]
Of course I reported the false account just after. And it was soon gone.
Now the Network has 1200 (dues paying) members. 200 of those members were in Wrightsville Beach for the Fall Conference, a gathering that moves around the state to a different site each year. We began with an annual conference in our first year with our first director Robert Hill Long and I setting up folding chairs someplace in Durham for many fewer people.
It was great to see what current director Ed Southern and his staff have done with the Conference and the Network.
Gypsy Queen by Van Morrison
My Gypsy Auto-Pilot by Gogol Bordello
Carolina by Taraf de Haidouks mixed by Bucovina Club
Me la Kamav by Vera Bila
Losing My Religion by Dolapdere Big Gang
Gypsy Rover by Roger McGuinn
Hierachie by Carmen Maria Vega
Runnin’ Wild (Course Movemente) by Django Rheinhardt
Hora Staccato by Taraful Ciuleandra and Maria Buza
Gypsy by Charlie Parker
Romani by Turkish Gypsies from Gypsies of the World
Why be negative?
it’s not quitting email, it’s communicating in better ways. #noemail is saying “I’m here but I don’t live at my desk” “I’m social when more appropriate” “Say it quickly and be direct” “Less covering your rear at work by CCing your boss at every move; work it out your self” “More sharing” and in the end a richer life.
As for email, it was adequate for the needs of the late 20th Century.
We don’t live there any more.
Second, my ole pal and running buddy, Tom Wilkinson, who does no email and no social media is featured in Charlotte Magazine telling his tall — but also true — tales in “The Entertainer: the Backstage Live of Tom Wilkinson.” No page can contain Tom’s talking and animated presentation, but this is a good tribute and a good primer. Email could not do him justice, but maybe YouTube or Vimeo could.
During Festifall a couple of Sundays back, Chapel Hellians visiting the Chapel Hill Public Library table and bus took time to read Dr Seus’s Green Eggs and Ham (in front of a green screen). Familiar faces and voices are there including the Mayor and at least one member of Council.
Paul Jones, a professor at the University of North Carolina, does not think they should have to.
“E-mail is a sinkhole where knowledge goes to die,” said Mr. Jones, who said that he gave up e-mail in 2011. It was a radical move, not least because Mr. Jones helped write the code for the university’s first e-mail program 30 years ago. “I’m trying to undo that sinful work,” he said, joking.
E-mails to him receive an automated reply: “Goodbye E-mail, I’m divesting,” plus some 20 ways to reach him. About the only person frustrated by this, he said, was a department head who wanted to know “how will you possibly read our important departmental announcements?” Mr. Jones said with a laugh.
But in his quest to eliminate e-mail, Mr. Jones may have a surprising obstacle: students. Canvas, a two-year-old learning management system used by Brown University, among others, allows students to choose how to receive messages like “The reading assignment has been changed to Chapter 2.”ť The options: e-mail, text, Facebook and Twitter. According to company figures, 98 percent chose e-mail.
I had a great time this Monday at the RTP Foundation taking part in 5 minute talks on open source projects called “RTP 180: Open Source All Things.” While I talked — slightly over my 5 minutes, I’ll admit — just over 60 slides representing about 1% of the projects currently hosted at ibiblio.org passed by on the screen at about 3 seconds each. That could have been a little fast for some people, so I’ve reposted those slides here:
It’s “Talk Like a Pirate Day” and don’t fear, we’ve got pirates in the National Archives! Here’s a caricature of “Paul Jones the Pirate.” This is a copy of a circa 1779 engraving found within the Records of the Office of War Information.
To send off our graduates into their new lives, he quoted from a ballad he had heard whilst growing up in Derry in which a young woman was going off into the world leaving on the 12th of May. There was much wise reflection in his interpretation of that ballad in the context of commencement, but I recalled and recall now the final verse which is a hopeful send off for graduates and for Heaney himself:
So I bade them all good evening
and there I hoisted sail,
Let the best betide my countryside,
my fortune never fail.
Then night coming on, all hopes being gone,
I think I will try elsewhere,
at a dance or a wake my chance I'll take
and leave Magherafelt May Fair.
MIT’s Daniel Smilkov, Deepak Jagdish, and César Hidalgo have created a great Gmail metadata visualization tool called Immersion. The first thing that Immersion does is map your email interaction networks in a nice interactive way. You can see networks emerge, strength of ties (via number of interactions), isolated mail bombers (usually listservs or alerts), and relationships easily and beautifully.
For me this is particularly nice as you can control the time periods that are mapped. So I mapped my email interactions for the three years before I quit email, then the two years after having stopped doing email, finally the past month of #noemail (this past month).
Mail networks pre-#noemail (3 years)
Mail networks since practicing #noemail (2 years)
Mail Networks in the past month #noemail (June 2013)
But how did those pages get created and how did they end up in Chapel Hill on my NeXT in first place?
Wide Area Information Servers and the WWW gateway
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Judd Knott and I led a network services research group at UNC in the Office for Information Technologies. Among the projects we developed was an internet bulletin board service that allowed access to all kinds of software for information sharing, Free software (as in Freedom), USENET News, Gopher, etc — even email. LaUNChpad quickly had hundreds of users and allowed us experiment in a living world and in the process contribute to information access in a small way.
Not long after, Jim got email from Tim saying that he was submitting a paper on what was now called more briefly WWW at the upcoming Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) conference Hypertext 91 in San Antonio in December. Tim made plans to stop by UNC and visit with us before going on to Texas. He was confident given the immediate acceptance of WWW on newsgroups and as seen in his logs that he would get a good speaking slot at the conference.
A few weeks later, we learned differently. Tim’s paper had been rejected. But he had been offered a spot to demonstrate the WWW. Only a couple of catches. There was to be no Internet connectivity at the conference. And as Tim’s demonstration required a NeXT computer, he would have to bring his from Europe. Tim was intrepid and soldiered on.
A Call to an Expert
Anticipating Tim’s arrival, I called a nearby Computer Science department. The voice at the other end had heard of Tim’s project but was not impressed. He immediately recited what he saw as deadly problems with the WWW:
Links in hypertext must be bidirectional. WWW’s are one way only.
WWW servers aren’t aware of each other and there is no inter-server communication.
All WWW servers are equal. There should be a concept of hubs.
WWW servers don’t keep state. They are completely unaware of their previous interactions.
It’s obvious that whoever wrote the hypertext engine doesn’t understand SGML. This HTML is done all wrong.
Finally, he’s giving this away for free. That means it has no value at all. We have our own version and a strong licensing partner.
I didn’t take Tim to meet with the person who owned that voice.
There was, as you see now, a link to the WWW< >WAIS gateway for searching a database in the next room. When I clicked on the link, my information request first went to CERN in Switzerland then back to UNC to search the database. The results then left UNC for Switzerland where html was added and then the results sent back to my NeXT.
Tim showed me how simple and easy editing and creating a WWW page could be. First he showed how straightforward editing was by changing “demonstration” to “demonfdgfgstration.” I created my own page and added a link to an FTP site in Denmark that hosted a sound collection among other things. I wanted to see if the NeXT and Tim’s WWW browser would be able to pass the sound to a player. I think it did, but I really can’t remember if it did.
Beers near English Scholars
That night, I invited Tim, Jim, Judd and others working on our project to my home. My wife, Sally Greene, was having a bunch of her friends, all PhD students in English over as well.
The geeks and literature folks didn’t really mix. The geeks were out on the deck in the warm North Carolina fall night. The scholars were in the kitchen. I think some of the talk inside was of “Afternoon, a Story” a hypertext composition by Michael Joyce. Someone was interested in how current theory impacted (yes that word) and was impacted by hypertext. No one had actually experienced hypertext other than Apple’s Hypercard though. Yet just a few feet and a few drinks away…
Luis recounts some of his motivations for beginning to Live A Life Without Email over five years ago. The speculates about our futures at work, at home and in the world. Looking at our kids is a good way to learn the ways of an evolving world — even if one lesson is to start forgetting what you’ve always found useful and helpful.
Luis includes this video of kids evaluating their current social media (SnapChat, Tumblr, and Whisper.sh are not mentioned)