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.
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.
“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.
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.
#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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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].
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.
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 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?”
For several years now, the good folks at the Pew Internet Project and at Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Project have asked people they consider experts to respond to questions about the Future of the Internet as it relates to different topics. A bit of what I’ve said has been sprinkled through those reports. The most recent series began coming out to public in March of this year. Here’s what I said–or more properly, some of what I wrote–about the next 25 years (with links to the larger reports):
As regards Digital Life in 2025
A: “Television let us see the Global Village, but the Internet let us be actual Villagers.”
Full report here.
As regards The Internet of Things.
A: I predicted that body movements may evolve into commands. “The population curve … will cause much of the monitoring and assistance by intelligent devices to be welcomed and extended. This is what we had in mind all along—augmented life extension. Young people, you can thank us later. We look like kung fu fighters with no visible opponents now, but soon, the personalized interface issues will settle on a combination of gestures and voice. Thought-driven? Not by 2025, but not yet out of the question for a further future. Glass and watch interfaces are a start at this combination of strokes, acceleration, voice, and even shaking and touching device-to-device. The key will be separating random human actions from intentional ones, then translating those into machine commands—search, call, direct, etc.”
Full report here.
As regards Threats to Net access and innovation
A: “Historic trends are that as a communications medium matures, the control trumps the innovation. This time it will be different. Not without a struggle. Over the next 10 years we will be even more increasingly global and involved. Tech will assist this move in a way that is irreversible. It won’t be a bloodless revolution, sadly, but it will be a revolution nonetheless.”
Full report here.
Last week on June 12, I delivered the keynote talk at the 9th Annual Metrolina Librarians Association meeting in Charlotte. (slides below)
As you can see if you look at the slides, I provided a survey of activities underway at the UNC School of Information and Library Science to illustrate new trends and directions for engagement and research in Information and Library Science.
I was in Prague and around the Czech Republic from mid-May til early June leading the UNC-Charles University Seminar on Libraries of Central Europe. Google Awesome collected my pictures and location and automagically created this story book about my travels.
This past two days, I’ve been a bit split–talking about keeping yourself and your sources secret on one day then on how you should share knowledge (without email) the next night.
And on Saturday, I gave the Robert Ballard Lecture for the Carolinas Chapter of the American Association for Information Science and Technology on #noemail. The #noemail talk is a completely updated version focusing on why email will be replaced (largely) by social and sharing, how this is already happening and what factors are driving that change.
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.
Near the end of his talk, he told us a little — very little — about his new adventure which was to start only a few days later. Luis is a charter member of Change Agents Worldwide.
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 Año 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 jalapeño
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.
From Germany, Harald Schirmer explains how email causes pain which blogging can abate. Click on the image for his full contribution and full explanation. Very well done.
I somehow missed Charlotte Magazine‘s September feature about the Charlotte of 1968. A turbulent year for the city, the nation and the world. And for me. I was graduating from East Mecklenburg High and headed to NC State. In a nice sidebar, the principals and perhaps a bit of the principles of The Inquistion are featured. A nice picture of Lynwood Shiva Sawyer and Tom Wilkinson — Tom has his own feature this month in the same magazine (see previous post).
I missed a lot of what was going on in Charlotte at that moment, but thanks to working on and with The Inquisition a lot of it is still familiar and enduring — some in a good way, like having a context when talking with Adam Stein who was one of the founders Charlotte’s first integrated law firm.
In 1983, a bunch of us began to meet with poet Ann Deagon who was looking to turn her project Poetry Center Southeast into a statewide service group for all writers. By 1985, we were an official 501(c)-3 organization called the North Carolina Writers’ Network. The apostrophe and its placement seemed very important at the time as I remember. Judy Hogan was the first president with Georgann Eubanks and myself serving as vice presidents. I eventually left the vice presidency and the Board of Trustees for a couple of decades and recently (2008 I think) rejoined the Trustees.
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.