Author Archive

Yes I am on a panel on Disruptive Technology at @Internet_Summit on Thursday (Nov 8 ) in #Raleigh talking about alternatives to email and #noemail. Do drop by. [Registration required].
Internet Summit 2012

Also on the panel will be David Morken of Bandwidth, Richard Kouri of NCSU, David Giambruno of Revlon, and John Funge of BrightContext.

3:00pm Thursday Tech Track.

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Mystery Roach
I spent a delightful, if early, morning on Saturday (Nov 3) as a guest of La Barba Rossa and his wife Old Shoes on the Mystery Roach show at NCSU’s WKNC 88.1FM.
La Barba Rossa specializes in relatively obscure musics of the 60s and 70s mostly of the progressive rock genre plus Fusion, Psychedelic, Garage, and noise. That means I could request and get some play for early Mothers of Invention “Who Are The Brain Police?” (1966) even though WKNC no longer has turntables. La Barba Rossa also found and played the obscure Gene Clark song “Elevator Operator” but I’m not sure if we were hearing the version that I recall (at the link in this sentence). [Yes I have both LPs on vinyl].
Old Shoes, who is also Mrs. La Barba Rossa, is a PhD student in NCSU’s Communication, Rhetoric and Digital Media program which enriched the #noemail part of the conversation.
A fun couple of hours of music and talk back at my undergrad institution. And amusingly the music was pretty much of the period of my undergrad years (68 – 72).
La Barba Rossa promises that he’ll post a version of the show soon. I’ll add a link here once I have it.

La Barba Rossa is cleaning the copyrighted material (the songs) from the show. In the meantime, here’s a look at the talk I did at NCSU Computer Science for the Fidelity Investment Leadership in Technology series. Note the “I voted EARLY” sticker.

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I had a great time revisiting the Computer Science Department at North Carolina State last week. A very friendly, but smart crowd of folks and great hosts. There will be a video here eventually, I hear.

Kam Woods points me (and now you) to Beevolve’s “An Exhaustive Study of Twitter Users Across the World” done with Beevolve’s own analytics software. Nice findings here that support some of the recent Pew studies. “A twitter user on average has 208 followers” But most, 81%, have 50 followers or less. Amusing display of theme colors vs gender and much more. Fun and informative.

@mattnowak1 alerts us to “How to Break Free from Email Jail”
by Daniel Markovitz at Harvard Business Review’s blog network from this past August. Among other things in this brief article is a fairly unique use of Dropbox for social sharing. Not just for upload and download, but for group work management. Recommended.

Speaking of brief, Thorin Klosowski at TechCrunch’s Life Hacker turns in two slim paragraphs and a large graphic to make us aware of “Notify Me Not,” a web app that opts you out of notifications from services like Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and the like — or don’t like. Simple and deadly.

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Exformatics

Okay so Denmark-based Exformatics does have a dog in the fight; they make and market the Anywhere app which let’s you manage activity streams more effectively on your mobile devices. But that also means that they will soon have an even deeper understanding of activity stream management throughout their company.

First payoffs? During #nomail January, all email use dropped 55% and yielded streams of more focused and better shared information. Largest drops in email use was among management — less meaningless CC, acknowledgements, “here’s my report,” etc. “CTO Morten Marquard managed to cut the amount of emails to 1/3 compared to November 2011.”

“We spend a disproportionate amount of time reading, contemplating and answering emails, that could have been dealt with far more rapidly and more efficiently face to face, in the activity stream or via the designated task concept in our intranet solution. We want to get rid of internal emails. Externally, we have to use email for communicating with customers and suppliers – at least for now,” Morten Marquard, CTO in Exformatics says.

The substitute for internal emails is activity streams – the business oriented equivalent of statuses in e.g. Facebook, Google+ and other social media. The activity stream is central in the solution for intelligent Enterprise Content and information Management that is used by the employees. Instead of filling up individual inboxes with notes, questions, tasks, these can be shared on a specific activity, case or project. This way, employees with already full schedules get rid of context switching and interruptions from email popups.

Full article at SharePoint Europe.

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During the time I was engaging with the comment stream for yesterday’s News and Observer article, most recently titled “Paul Jones has said good bye and good riddance to email”. I made a little chart explaining the relationship between age and email attitude:

Under 16 = what’s email?
16 – 25 = email is for The Man
25 – 35 = my Boss makes me use email, but I usually text when I can
35 – 50 = I wish I could quit email but I want to be The Man
50 – 70 = I am The Man. How can I possibly … w/o email?
70 – ?? = what’s email?

Interestingly enough, the categories aren’t supported just by my experience and by the various Pew studies that I’ve kept up with for my classes, but also by a nice chart included in Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes’ same day article in Fast Company “Email is the Pony Express–And It’s Time to Put It Down.”
Percent Change in Time Spent Using Web-based Email

Ryan also includes a 5 point indictment of email. Briefly, email is: an unproductivity tool, not collaborative, not social, a black hole, and finally a very bad way to share documents. Yes, you heard it here first (unless you got it from @elsua earlier), but Ryan’s article does a very good job of clear statements of these problems. Recommended.

Not to be left out Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic notices that there is a “Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong” in which he discovers that most sharing in person to person is via IM and email and so is unlikely to be traced except by inference in studying reference logs at websites like The Atlantic. Madrigal offers some good data from some reliable sources — again including The Atlantic web logs — but the definition of Dark Social and the question of influence remains open for further discussion. For example, an article gets hot on Reddit or –according to Mardigal– hits various listservs or whatever. That’s when it really takes off. But that is the exception. “Day after day, though, dark social is nearly always [The Atlantic's] top referral source.”

The real question here is what is the “whatever,” the “Dark Social.” Is it text, IM, email, listservs, forums, a stop at the water cooler? And more interesting even to me, are there trends in movement toward mobile, toward IM, toward text or even toward email?

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David Menconi wrote a nice — and mostly correct — article about my way of doing #nomail that came out today as “Email-free UNC-CH professor set to prove there are better ways to communicate.”

I would write more, but SOMEONE ON TEH INTERNETS IS WRONG! And I must straighten them out.

Thanks to Travis Long for the good photo that goes along with the article.

Errata:

In the box that accompanies the article there are a couple of errors:
“Opened” should be “OpenID”
“RS web feeds for Liters” should be “RSS web feeds for Listservs”

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Repost of this announcement from last month. It’s coming up soon. This Thursday! See you there.

Paul Jones with hand thoughtfully on chin
I’ll be one of the speakers in this fall’s Fidelity Investments “Leadership in Technology”
Executive Speakers Series
at the North Carolina State University Computer Science Department on Thursday October 18 at 6 pm.

Who: Paul Jones
When: Thursday, October 18. 6 pm.
Where: Room 1231, EB2 aka Engineering Building II on NCSU’s Centennial Campus. The East half of EB2 is the Department of Computer Science (the West half being Electrical and Computer Engineering). EB2 is a large building – about two blocks wide – so it is worth paying attention to where you are. Classroom 1231 is close to the right end of EB2, on the main level.
Directions: http://www.csc.ncsu.edu/department/map/
What: #noemail – Why you could/should/must use better ways of communicating than email!

Abstract: Nearly 30 years ago Paul Jones began working on unified messaging systems leading from Call-OS, USENET, WYLBUR, TSO, BITNET, DARPA, ARPA to modern (for its time) SMTP mail. 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. You’ve probably noticed this yourself. Jones has put email behind him. In an attempt to atone for his part for inflicting email on UNC, he is exploring alternatives to email with a shotgun and a wooden stake (and Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) as his tools. This talk with touch on the sad beginnings of email, offer some atonement for Jones’ part in the mess, and discuss trends and alternatives needed to achieve the Logic and Destiny of #noemail.

Official YouTube of the talk is now posted:

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Audio podcast now available http://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/digital-discussions/id554244100.
Prezi available: http://prezi.com/zqxglw0w5glu/when-good-sites-go-bad-and-how-to-save-them-archival-challenges-and-solutions-for-post-1995-websites/

I gave the 2nd monthly Digital Discussions session at the UNC Libraries back on September 13. The Prezi and audio podcast are now available as indicated above. The abstract for the talk follows:

UNC Libraries

When Good Sites Go Bad – And how to save them: Archival challenges and solutions for post-1995 websites

Before about 1995, preserving websites was a simple matter; you just copied the pages and saved them. The site could then be easily reproduced or moved forward even as the software and hardware that supported it evolved. Collections of pages were never obsolete (although some links may have broken).

As scripted, CGI enabled, and database driven websites became dominant, page-scraping showed itself for the Rube Goldberg solution that it is. Not only are these page-scraped collections a pale representation of the original, but they rarely represent the context, the interactivity or the totality of advanced sites.

To make matters worse, advances in software and hardware often completely break these websites. Each server upgrade is a time of endangerment and loss.

What’s an archivist to do? Continue to scrape pages with Archive-IT or Heritrix? Break sites into highly described atoms that we can preserve but in the process lose context and interactivity?

There is a better solution at hand. I will explain.

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The Verge
Nation Hahn points me to two battling posts at The Verge.

There we first find Verge writer Paul Miller fed up with email, and with the whole of the Interwebz, unleashes a blast about what he has missed lately by not reading email — people assume he got the email and when he didn’t. he missed out on some parties or told about a surprise party.

Note to social butterflies: keep your mail if you are over 35. Under 35s don’t expect their pals to have read messages as email. This last not noticed by Miller BTW.

Miller reflects on the first six months of his year off the Net of which his highly justified #noemail rant is one installment.

Next up is a TigerBeat-style interview with Aaron Levie, CEO of Box.com, — Box itself a better alternative to email for many activities. Especially for collaboration. Aaron feels burned by Wave. It didn’t work. It was too early. He claims that email works because it’s built on open standards (NB I have been involved in Open Source for just over a quarter century now). What Aaron misses is that Wave was also an open standard — and somewhere it still is or could be reused in an improved manner. So much for the basis of Levie’s claim that: “Email can’t die — it’s an open standard that works everywhere and for everyone.”

The very good news is that Levie’s own company is leading the way toward the final interment of email. Miller, on the other hand, comes off as little more than a techie forced to dress up unconvincingly as a Luddite, an amusing writer handed an offhand stunt script by his editor doing the best that he can — with a little help from his friends.

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E-mails from an A**hole

It’s not just spam. It’s not just phishing. Although both would be enough reason to go with a more whitelisted, mobile, terse, collaborative communications solution than email.

There’s also trolling as best seen done by the funny and offensive E-mails from an asshole at DontEvenReply.com

Of course, it’s NSFW at most places of work.

Be brave. Be steadfast. Be sane. Don’t even reply. Or better just go #noemail.

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Kramer has had enough of mail. The old technology is too annoying and unreliable. He wants something better. He wants out of mail. And he tells that to the USPS. Via Andy Bechtel.

Unfortunately there is no USPS for email. But my autoresponder allows me to do something similar to what Kramer is after.

Enjoy.

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Paul Jones with hand thoughtfully on chin
I’ll be one of the speakers in this fall’s Fidelity Investments “Leadership in Technology”
Executive Speakers Series
at the North Carolina State University Computer Science Department on Thursday October 18 at 6 pm.

Who: Paul Jones
When: Thursday, October 18. 6 pm.
Where: Room 1231, EB2 aka Engineering Building II on NCSU’s Centennial Campus. The East half of EB2 is the Department of Computer Science (the West half being Electrical and Computer Engineering). EB2 is a large building – about two blocks wide – so it is worth paying attention to where you are. Classroom 1231 is close to the right end of EB2, on the main level.
Directions: http://www.csc.ncsu.edu/department/map/
What: #noemail – Why you could/should/must use better ways of communicating than email!

Abstract: Nearly 30 years ago Paul Jones began working on unified messaging systems leading from Call-OS, USENET, WYLBUR, TSO, BITNET, DARPA, ARPA to modern (for its time) SMTP mail. 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. You’ve probably noticed this yourself. Jones has put email behind him. In an attempt to atone for his part for inflicting email on UNC, he is exploring alternatives to email with a shotgun and a wooden stake (and Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) as his tools. This talk with touch on the sad beginnings of email, offer some atonement for Jones’ part in the mess, and discuss trends and alternatives needed to achieve the Logic and Destiny of #noemail.

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Bell who many have swipped the phone from Elisha Gray

In an interview with Read Write Web, Ray Tomlinson, a principal engineer at BBN Technologies and the so-called “father of email” [if you ignore the earlier work of Tom Van Vleck and Noel Morris] recasts youth’s trending decline in email use by redefining email into something so broad that that word in his mind stands for any messaging system.

Soft rock is not rock and roll despite the presence of rock in the phrase; most of what Tomlinson is willing to call email is simply not that at all.

This is not to diminish Tomlinson’s accomplishment in some of email’s creation including the use of the @, but to say that email is not all electronic messaging. Email has a definition and a strong one that can keep Tomlinson’s good, if dated, work from vanishing into an undefinable mist of meaning.

Once again, Tomlinson confesses that email started on the wrong foot. No “Mr. Watson, come here — I want to see you.” moment. No “One small step for man.” But the first message was”one of a number of “entirely forgettable” test messages.” We now call that spam. A good part of the RWW article is dedicated to the legacy of spam and Tomlinson’s solution–strong identity requirements.

What is ignored is that we have identity in the form of white lists and friends lists that are part and parcel of social communications systems. Something similar exists in email systems but only in the most jerry-rigged sort of way.

New communications must be mobile, terse, highly interactive, allow for collaboration in an integrated fashion. That’s not email.

Email is over. It limps like a zombie looking for brains to devour. Its creator won’t acknowledge that fact even as pieces and parts of email fall on the bloody floor.

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Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions

I recommend just quitting email, but that’s not for everyone. This morning three articles hit the net with observations and recommendations about how to manage your email so that it doesn’t manage you.

First, Matt Gemmell tries to give advice about “Managing Your Email Realistically.” I like most all of Matt’s advice, but he doesn’t go far enough. Email is to be used only sparingly says Matt, which is as we say in the South “a very nice idea” meaning that no one can actually pull that kinda thing off. Example: “If John would just lay off the bourbon, he’d be a top notch lawyer.” Answer: “That’s a very nice idea.”
That said, if you must use email then following Matt’s suggestions is a very nice idea.

Second, Jason B Jones (no known relation to me) aka ProfHacker writes for academics who are swamped by email in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “You’ve Got Mail. And Better Things to Do.” ProfHacker and Matt have been reading the same listserv as near as I can tell. ProfHacker offers similar if not the same suggestions with a twist toward the academic environment. The article is full of very nice ideas which only a superhuman could actualize as a daily practice. I don’t mean to say that turning off notifications and prioritizing are bad ideas, again they are very nice ideas. I do mean that why take the effort when you can drop email all together and be more effective, more collaborative and much much happier.

Third of the day and it’s just noonish, the BIGfish blog — not to be confused with the novel of mythic proportions by Daniel Wallace or the movie directed by Tim Burton based on that novel — quotes the penultimate authority on #noemail, yours truly, in a post on “The Future of Email Marketing”
I equivocate a little which will amuse regular readers of #noemail as I say:

“Will email die? That would be too much for me to hope for. Not so much die as morph into a better messaging platform or platforms that are mobile, faster, concise, and personal.”

Fear not, true believers. I also say, “Email marketing was a great idea in the 20th century.” Perhaps I should have said “A very nice idea.”

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We recently took a tour of London and the Balkans (Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Istanbul). Five countries with five currencies and none on the Euro. Thank g*d for ATMs. And several different airlines (United, EasyJet, Croatian, JAT, Turkish, Luftansa) plus buses.

TripIt logoHow to manage all of that without email? First I admit I used my wife’s email as a backup. But the real win for reducing email and going to achieve #noemail is using TripIt.com and their great mailbox scanning feature.

I’ve used TripIt for years and found that it makes setting up and dealing with your itinerary almost painless.
In the past, you simply forwarded your email to TripIt and the invisible monkeys transformed all that information from the airlines, hotels, etc into your itinerary automagically. You can then edit and add the non-mail driven bits — in our case buses, home stay addresses, sites visits that we needed to schedule, etc.

Now you need not even forward the email. TripIt can and will with your permission scan your Gmail box and the monkeys get to work without you even asking them. Pow you have an itinerary without even reading mail.

And this serves as a good answer to the needling question: Isn’t someone reading your email for you? You can answer: If my email is related to my travels, it’s read and acted on by the invisible monkeys at TripIt.

While I’ve written only about email scanning, TripIt has many other great features including maps, directions, expense tracking, and automatic calendar integration. Explore, it’s worth your travel time.

Disclosure: I have no relationship with TripIt other than as a satisfied client. I have never met someone I know to be a TripIt employee or investor.

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Philip K Dick Android in happier times

In June 2005, we visited Chicago and Wired’s NextFest where we met (and I blogged about) the Philip K Dick Android:
Our visit with Philip K Dick
Words of Philip K. Dick
But in January 2006, Dick went missing. Missing: Philip K. Dick Android
Now David Dufty has written about book about the stories behind the PKD Android: “How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick’s Robotic Resurrection” which draws in very small part on those post and include at bit of the bit about PKDA’s words.
Nice to have been a very very small part of that.
Official PKDA site: http://www.pkdandroid.org/

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We’ve had a busy past few months from end of semester to a summer seminar in London followed by a trip around the Balkans: Croatia > Serbia > Istanbul > Bulgaria > Serbia. It’s time to do a little catch up on the state of #noemail.

* Whilst in London, we met up with pioneer #noemail er Luis Suarez aka @elsua. Besides visiting his favorite dim sum shop, Luis offered some insight into his first steps away from email.

Luis realized that while email was touted as a way to increase cooperation and comradely interactions that it was largely being used as a way to CC higher ups on discussions in ways that actually put a damper on cooperation and decrease trusted interactions — and of course filled up everyone’s mailboxes with unnecessary reports and discussions. Team members spent more time looking over their shoulders than acting like a team as managers were flooded with with chitchat. No one was winning and most people were frustrated by the overload.

* I offered a couple of my own insights — later tweeted into the #noemail stream:

  • When the Buddha said you should avoid attachments, I’m sure he was referring to email and PDFs
  • Email is like a bunch of squirrels. Cute & amusing at first then timewasting, destructive, overmultiplying, & finally *evil*

Friends have been keeping me up on new #noemail articles:

* Joe Bob Hester sends: How useless is email? Two new studies weigh in http://gigaom.com/collaboration/how-useless-is-email-two-new-studies-weigh-in/ which leads us to a GigaOM piece what plays down the kind of gossip and small talk that builds social bonding. Yes there is a lot of that in email, but there it’s annoying and almost not work the cost. Unlike, say, the News Feed on Facebook or a Tweet stream both of which are designed, well-designed, for skimming and sharing in a small talk and social way. What in email is weighed toward being a time sink are positives in more social environments.

* Paul Valach alerts us to a new Pew Internet report: Teens love texting and social networks but ignore e-mail http://pewinternet.org/Commentary/2012/April/Pew-Internet-Teens.aspx
This builds on reports and studies referenced earlier on this blog and by Pew itself. Amongst the interesting numbers are:

35% of all teens socialize with others in person outside of school on a daily basis.
29% of all teens exchange messages daily through social network sites.
22% of teens use instant messaging daily to talk to others.
19% of teens talk on landlines with people in their lives daily.
6% of teens exchange email daily.

Teens would rather use a land line than send email!

But Texting is the dominant daily teen communication channel. “Texting dominates teens’ general communication choices. Overall, 75% of all teens text, and 63% say that they use text to communicate with others every day.”

* Don Sizemore tells us of the need to redesign email using a “new protocol [that] should be a todo list” in a ReTweet from @hackernewsbot on Replacing Emailhttp://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4228402. I think the hackers miss the point. There are a lot of communications protocol and even print drivers that we’ve dropped and reconceived over the years. The whole concept of email should be dropped and reinvented.

* Stacey Devine was the first to alert me to this New York Times article “Disruptions: Life’sToo Short for So Much E-Mail” by Nick Bilton http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/life%E2%80%99s-too-short-for-so-much-e-mail/. Nick notes most of the same points raised in this blog about email — and he even comes to similar conclusions:

Since technology hasn’t solved the problem it has created with e-mail, it looks as if some younger people might come up with their own answer — not to use e-mail at all.

So I’m taking a cue from them.

I’ll look at my e-mail as it comes in. Maybe I’ll respond with a text, Google Chat, Twitter or Facebook message. But chances are, as with many messages sent via Facebook or Twitter, I won’t need to respond at all

UnifiedInBox lets us know of Rachel Woodlock’s post on “Experimenting with managing email overload (or how to ease into #noemail)” which includes disposable customized email addresses for mailing lists aka bizSpam and discouraging .vacation messages and autoresponders. http://www.rachelwoodlock.com/2012/06/experimenting-with-managing-email-overload-or-how-to-ease-into-noemail/ Good ideas and suggestions here from Rachel.

* Luis Suarez and Chris Brogan and others like John Cox’s notes on his “Vacation from Email” http://associationnavigator.com/2012/07/02/take-a-vacation-from-email/ which is really an essay on work life balance. Log off and live. Nice work if you can get it.

* Beth McNichol of the Carolina Alumni Review did a bang up job writing on a tough subject – me — in “Geek Poet Strikes Back” http://www.carolinaalumnireview.com/carolinaalumnireview/20120506/?pg=18#pg18. Lots of my person story as relates to #noemail there. Recommended.

[more to be added as I catch up]

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The new digital divide By Joel Achenbach in Washington Post

Yammer as a Time Inc Game Changer

Here are the benefits to scrap the e-mail in ComputerWorld.DK [Danish - use Google Translate or Chrome]

US government service improves after virus takes out email

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Ray Williams, columnist for Psychology Today and author of “Breaking Bad Habits,” suggest that you break your email habits and go #noemail. In “Is It Time to Ban Emails Because They Reduce Productivity?” Williams answers his title question YES as he rehearses, with citations, much of the most recent thinking including those who say you just can’t about email.

He concludes:

One thing is certain, the volume of emails, and reliance on them as the preferred form of communication in organizations is becoming more acute and dysfunctional, and information overload is now the number one problem in organizations.

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Nathaniel Borenstein. Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the GuardianIt must have seemed like a good idea at the time. In 1993, Nathaniel Borenstein sent the first MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension) encoded attachment. It wasn’t the picture that he had invented MIME to deliver — that would come later much later 19 years later (according to an interview with the Guardian) — it was a photograph and a recording of Borenstein’s barbershop quartet the Telephone Cords singing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”

Today people waste tons of bandwidth sending, as Borenstein did, 100s of such images at a time to their networks for friends. Each message going into a silo where it is quickly forgotten and not communally shared. Comments about the images, sound or other attached media are either lost or over shared. Receivers are at once delighted and annoyed but the clumsiness of attachments and how their email reader handles those attachments.

Attachments remain the worst way to collaborate. Still, it seemed like at least a half good idea at the time. (Borenstein admits what he feels are other failings of attachments including the term “attachment” itself in the Guardian article).

Today things have changed. Attachments should be like horse shoes, repurposed for use in an entirely different game or merely posted on the doorway as an amusement.

As Borenstein himself notes: “The second of [Buddhism's] Four Noble Truths tells us that the cause of all suffering is attachments”

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