The Real Paul Jones

Accept no substitutes

Category: #noemail (page 4 of 10)

#noemail – Twitter analysis from Beevolve; Harvard BR on less email; Notify Me Not

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.

#noemail – Exformatics Ditch Internal Emails


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.

#noemail – Atlantic on Dark Net; Fast Company on Pony Express; Me on Ages

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?

#noemail in News & Observer

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.


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”

#noemail at NCSU CSC Thursday October 18, 6 pm

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.
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:

Verging on #noemail – Paul Miller vs Aaron Levie

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 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.

Trolling email – another reason for #noemail

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

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.

Kramer upgrades from (paper mail) – #noemail

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.


October 18 – #noemail at NC State Computer Science/Fidelity Investments Series

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.
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.

“Email Will Never Die” because we just change the definition

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.

Toward #noemail for the less Ruthless

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.”

Traveling with #noemail

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 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.

Catching up with #noemail

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 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
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 Email 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 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. Good ideas and suggestions here from Rachel.

* Luis Suarez and Chris Brogan and others like John Cox’s notes on his “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” Lots of my person story as relates to #noemail there. Recommended.

[more to be added as I catch up]

Wired for Success? Go #noemail says Psychology Today’s Ray Williams

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.

He invented the email attachment – #noemail

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”

#noemail – interesting forthcoming paper – “A Pace Not Dictated by Electrons”: An Empirical Study of Work Without Email

“A Pace Not Dictated by Electrons”: An Empirical Study of Work Without Email

Mark, G.J., Voida, S. & Cardello, A.V. (to appear). “A Pace Not Dictated by Electrons”: An Empirical Study of Work Without Email. To appear in Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2012), Austin, Texas, May 5–10. ACM Press.

We report on an empirical study where we cut off email usage for five workdays for 13 information workers in an organization. We employed both quantitative measures such as computer log data and ethnographic methods to compare a baseline condition (normal email usage) with our experimental manipulation (email cutoff). Our results show that without email, people multitasked less and had a longer task focus, as measured by a lower frequency of shifting between windows and a longer duration of time spent working in each computer window. Further, we directly measured stress using wearable heart rate monitors and found that stress, as measured by heart rate variability, was lower without email. Interview data were consistent with our quantitative measures, as participants reported being able to focus more on their tasks. We discuss the implications for managing email better in organizations.

On the 6th Month of #noemail 12 People Sent to Me

November was my 6th month of #noemail and people have learned well how to reach me by means other than email. I think my “vacation” message offering the many alternatives to email helped a lot on this front. As you will see from my deep analysis of the 12 Gmail Priority Messages that I received, no one wrote me angry messages or felt the need to explain to me why I must use email (save one sender).

I divide email-ers into four categories:

  1. evil robots – These send the most email by volume and the least useful email. We call them “spammers” as does Gmail which generally does a great job of dumping these complete time wasters into the Spam Folder. And my favorite email to hate — email that responds to my vacation message with “WARNING This is a Send Only Account” — and one most often that escapes the Spam Filter. Nonetheless, occasionally email that mattered (to me in the past) would end up in the Spam Folder causing me to look into this garbage pail. Of my — and of most others — mail, this amounted 90% of the mail received.
  2. well-meaning robots – Listservs that you always meant to read or forgotten that you subscribed to, Offers from sites you forgot to opt out of, Political messages that were important in some contexts, Alerts telling you about what you just ordered, Alerts about shipping dates for what you just ordered, Confirmations, Reminders of things you wish you could forget, More special offers that you might possibly want some day. These are usually in the non-Priority Inbox in Gmail — again Gmail is very helpful this way — and amount to about 80% of the non-Spam/non-evil robot email.
  3. well-meaning people – They think about 20 plus of their pals want attachments about their family, about fake church signs, about their political causes, about Groupon, about the last message they sent (as in “I want to make sure everyone got this. Some folks email programs blocked it last time”). They want to set up a meeting (I refer them to Gcalendar in my “vacation” message). They have Replied All to some one else’s message inappropriately. They want to collaboratively edit a document (It’s attached. It’s in an ancient version of Word. Or if from a lawyer friend in WordPerfect. Or worse in one case in the past 6 months — a PDF!); I refer them to Gdocs for this. Do not send attachments. Period. No excuses. No Exceptions. Share your pictures on Flickr, Smugmug, Picasa, or Facebook, please.

    Arranging meetings deserves a paragraph of its own. A committee of a dozen people doesn’t need to “send your available dates to the list and be sure to ReplyAll;” we should learn to use Doodle and we’ll all be happier and more efficient. Sign up. Check off your availability. Set the date for the meeting. Done. #noemail needed.

    Overall, well meaning people’s messages account for about 98% of the email not sent by robots.

  4. Real messages from real people with real requirements – I received 12 emails during the month of November that qualified as “Real messages from real people with real requirements.” Of those half solved their problem or concern themselves within a few hours of sending the message and didn’t follow up with any of the alternative suggestions from my vacation responder. Three almost immediately contacted me by Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn or Google+. One called me on my phone.

    Two were from a friend in a higher level administrative postion who also sent me Facebook messages to tell me that he had sent me email. We are still friends — so far. (I know you are taunting me, but I resist even naming you here).

Most regular correspondents have already migrated to #noemail solutions.

Final tally. About 100 non-Spam emails/day. About 20 of those per day were from well-meaning people. And of the 3,000 non-Spam emails received in November, 0.4% were Priority and from real people with real requirements. Or about 3 per week.

Happy #noemail New Year.

Thanks to Rebecca Radish who sends, via Twitter, a link to this NPR story, “Analyze This: You Wrote How Many Emails This Year?” The sweet little app requires Gmail but promises interesting results and insights to those who dare look at their own email habits.

Felix Salmon writing for Reuters in an article just published as “How social networks beat email” reports:

My work email account, in particular, is a nightmare: it’s 95% unsolicited PR pitches and 4% internal emails going out to enormous distribution lists which I have no interest in at all. Which means I have to go to a lot of effort to find the 1% of emails that I actually want to read. There’s got to be a better way.

Steve Gillmor Remembers email in a time of #noemail

Steve Gillmor of Gillmor Gang writes in TechCrunch about “Remembering Email” which is much like remembering the magic of Top 40 Radio or maybe the first clear FM stations. Steve notes that notifications have taken over his attention and ours, but even more the attention of our kids.
Readers of this blog won’t be surprised by this. Short, fast, highly interactive, mobile. That’s the future of messaging. And that ain’t email. And in case, you haven’t noticed that ain’t even voice anymore. Kids text more than voice and more than email. Many of us older folks do as well. The trend lines are set and the practices of business are changing (again see this blog).
Email puts knowledge in siloed inboxes; social (as Luis Suarez has been saying) makes knowledge more open, additive and makes us all richer. The business case, at least internally, is clear.
Steve notices that email serves most often as the default way to notify us of social updates. But, as he also notices, the new robust iOS notifications do a much better job. Those changes sent many folks running to shut off email notifications and get the notification clutter out of the inbox and on the palm top where they are Short, fast, highly interactive, mobile
Steve has additional observations about authority, command and control, sharing, and even the privacy of direct messages.
All good. Email contains the seeds of its own destruction. “The reason email will disappear is because it is the single most effective tool for moving to social.” Once that bridge is effectively crossed, we’ll burn it behind us.

Thierry Breton’s got some ‘splainin’ to do — so he does #noemail

Atos world headquarters
Atos SA CEO Thierry Breton really opened the #noemail discussion to a wider audience with his announcement that Atos, one of the world’s largest technology companies, would put an end to internal email within 18 months. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Press Release is that it is dated February 7, 2011 and is just this week making news and getting reactions. Less surprising is that the report is fairly clear and terse and to the point — yet, the interpretation of that release has been uniformly misread, misunderstood, and misreported.

Here’s the gist in a quote from the release:

In line with [Atos Origin]’s Wellbeing at Work Programme launched in 2009 to support its goal of being one of the best places to work, [Atos] has implemented a number of initiatives to improve communication and information sharing across its organization For example, it is encouraging the use of tools such as Office Communicator and has set up social community platforms to share and keep track of ideas on subjects from innovation and Lean Management through to sales. Initial feedback is that these type of tools reduce email by between 10 and 20% immediately.

Information overload – the facts:

  • By 2013, more than half of all new digital content will be the result of updates to, and editing of existing information
  • Online social networking is now more popular than email and search
  • Middle managers spend more than 25% of their time searching for information
  • 2010 : Corporate users receive 200 mails per day, 18% of which is spam

So far so good. But after a panic and overreaction this past week, Thierry Breton was on BBC explaining the program largely by quoting or restating the same information that can be found in the February 2011 press release.

One thing not much noticed in the US press is that the driver for #noemail isn’t a capricious decision by Breton, but a suggestion from an employee-run study group. The company is made up of young people and getting younger as it grows. As studies cited earlier in this blog show, the kids don’t get email. Especially clunkers like Outlook.

This is part of a global initiative that we initiated in ATOS almost three years ago called “Wellbeing At Work” – a knowledge network made up of new talents in the company.

Their mission, in addition to their normal job, is to provide new ideas to enhance working conditions.

They put on the table the fact that most of the young people that we were hiring were not using email anymore after graduating from universities.

They were instead mainly using instant messaging tools and social networks like Facebook – and for most of them, when they joined Atos it was first time they had ever worked with internal email tools like [Microsoft] Outlook.

One note of clarity and of amusement: Breton supports external email (clarifying part). His email as posted on his bio page is a generic company email addy.

Room For Debate: Should Workplaces Curtail E-Mail? #noemail

Much of the media is jazzed about Thierry Breton’s decision to end corporate email within Atos SA in the next 18 months. Can he do it? Is he sane? What will come of it if it does work? And hey, we did that already ourselves.

In this last camp are: Klick in INC’s “The Company That Outlawed Email”, BonitaSoft in GigaOM as Email in the enterprise: entering its twilight at 40? and How We Killed Email: To Save Time and Sanity. The second by BonitaSoft CEO Miguel Valdes Faura and third by Josh Smith of GotToBeMobile and Notebooks offer suggestions for alternatives and productivity enhancers that would be quite helpful to anyone embarking on a corporate #noemail campaign.

Joe Mortis - #noemail

The New York Times catches the #noemail wave in their Room for Debate blog with the cleverly rhymed “Should Workplaces Curtail E-Mail?”. Here four experts or at least four people with vested opinions write short provocative essays to give rise to a spirited discussion or just troll for responses. Email or #noemail experts offered are:

Nicholas G. Carr author of “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains” and a lecturer on no email and no social networking who uses underdeveloped brain research to argue that Google/Internet/email makes us stupid(er). In his piece “Put the Cost Back in Communication,” Carr argues predictably that distractions — email and social media make you stupid(er).

William Powers, the author of “Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age,” has a twitter handle @HamletsBB. He’s not worried about his brain changing — he can quote Plato still — but he is concerned that we need both connectedness and disconnectedness. A basic “let’s use technology appropriately” argument. How could that go wrong? In some ways, it’s Nicholas Carr lite. In his essay, “The Phony ‘Zero E-Mail’ Alarm,” Power praises connectedness and warns of overload citing Jonathan Spira’s “Overload! How Too Much Information is Hazardous to Your Organization” for support. Finally, Power suggests that we meet Face to Face. In full disclosure, I can say that I’m closest to Power’s position (so far).

Peggy Duncan, an Atlanta-based personal productivity expert and Outlook consultant, and the author of “Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette and Outlook 2007″ thinks the technology is just fine. People need to change. It’s so simple. Their brains aren’t changing, but they should be changed. People should follow the rules and suggestions in her book. Or hire her as a consultant. Get rid of face to face; let employees “meet with their in inboxes instead.” Peggy, you had me at Outlook. Srzly?

That leaves us with my ole pal and #noemail pioneer Luis Suarez aka @elsua. Luis as readers of this blog know is a social computing evangelist at IBM, helping to accelerate the adoption of social networking tools as business tools. And Luis has been off corporate email and on social media solutions since 2008. You might expect that Luis would make a strong case for #noemail. But you would be wrong. Luis instead cautions against being too rash or too quick to kick out email in his essay “What We Would Miss.” As much as I respect Luis, I feel he is too moderate in his message especially given that this is a debate. True that Carr and Power aren’t taking the side of email at all. But neither are they exactly on the side of the move to social media. Luis and I have long had a disagreement about email as the best way for a private interchange (he says it is and I say you gotta be kidding, DM or SMS or other messaging is better for this) and to schedule meetings (he says it is and I say you gotta be kidding, use a shared calendar or

Unlike the other authors, Luis responds to every comment that is at least half sane. Props to Luis! He is social. He is doing the work. He is not even selling a book. As a result, Luis’ thread is by far the best read of the debate. Social rules! Especially when lead by and experienced social media communicator.

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