Erica goes about her #noemail experiment methodically and with some interesting assistance from some commercial software including her virtual, but part-time human, assistant, Susan. Susan is a nice touch, a custom autoresponder and junk mail deleter and summarizer of messages.
Overall, Erica — who is afterall running a consulting and speaking service — was able to save money by not doing email. She figures the profits this way:
First the cost of Susan: Susan spends about an hour a week on my email, so that’s a bit over $60/month in direct costs to me.
I went from spending 1-2 hours a day on email to 3-5 hours a week. That’s a savings of approximately 5 hours a week. At my consulting rate of $500/hour, that’s a $10,000/month savings.
Of course, not every hour I saved could be billed out at $500. But even if every hour I save is worth $50 (and I think that’s a fair assumption), I saved $1,000/month
Okay, so somewhere between $1K and $10K per month in savings as measure only during the one month of June/July. That’s a very broad somewhere across a very specific time frame. I would definitely question those results if submitted to me as a research paper by a student. Nonetheless, this isn’t a research paper as much as a personal testimony by someone who is putting her business on the line. That’s the power of Erica’s experiment. And the results when seen in that context are very promising.
As Erica says:
In other words, unchaining myself from email massively benefited me in terms of both having more time and having a better emotional state (which is, frankly, priceless.) I don’t hate waking up and getting on the computer any more. That’s huge.
The latest Pew Internet study on smartphone highlights the strong generational differences in how we access and use the internet in America. Only 19% of the respondents over 50 had smartphone compared to 52% of those between 18 and 29. Of those smartphone owners, 99% of those between 18 and 29 had sent or received txt messages, but only 78% of those over 50 had participated in txt communication (I’m presuming that those who did were communicating with people 18 – 29 ;->). The difference in accessing social networking sites was even greater with 76% of the younger group being social on their phones compared to 32% of those over 50 years of age. The groups were closer when it came to email access on their smart phones 82% to 62%.
What to make of these numbers? First that owning smartphones, using them for txting and mobile social networking are normative for the millennial generation. For the Boomers and beyond, owning a smartphone is far from normative and mobile social networking is quite rare.
My claim in the #noemail project is that communications were becoming more mobile, more social, valuing the fast more integrated and brief — and will include location awareness. The Millennials are not only leading the way but have made those behaviors a normal part of their everyday lives.
The report discusses the results of two studies, one experimental and one a survey.
The experimental study found that “cyberloafing” in the place of conventional (non-internet) rest time between tasks increased productivity by 16% — and by over 39% over workers who merely changed tasks and took no breaks at all.
In the second study, a survey of randomly selected alumni of a business school, the participants were asked to differentiate between surfing and email while discussing their “psychological engagement with their work, and their positive and negative affect, or mental state”.
The findings of this study include:
– Amount of Internet browsing is significantly and positively related to such upbeat mental states as excited, interested, alert, and active, and inversely related to such negative mental states as distressed, fearful, hostile, and jittery.
– Amount of e-mailing activity, in distinct contrast, is significantly related to negative mental states but not to upbeat ones.
Martin Marks writing in the humorous Shouts & Murmurs section of the New Yorker last October anticipates ShortMail, various email manifestos and even the #noemail project. Marks dives headlong into funny excess of rules and restrictions and denials. Recommended.
Dear Friend, Family Member, Loved One, and/or Business Associate:
Thank you for your e-mail, which, if it is under three (3) sentences long, I have read. Owing to the large volume of e-mails I’m receiving at this time, please note that it will sometimes take up to fourteen (14) calendar days, though sometimes longer (and sometimes much longer), to respond to your e-mail; in the interim, please rest assured that I am attempting to address, resolve, or think about the matter you have described, unless, of course, I’m avoiding the matter entirely…
First this and other postings over the past year in the NYTimes Style section about the digital interface with life or somesuch show that social media has grown from technology and business into social phenomena worthy of sharing the page with essays on skirt length, fall colors, weddings and the like. I don’t mean this to be snide, but to underscore what Barry Wellman asserted — most strongly in the title of “The Internet and Everyday Life” — that the digital is life as we know it and not separate from the other parts of our lives but deeply intertwined.
But rushing ahead from that, “For the Plugged-In, Too Many Choices” describes the chaotic world of choices for digitally enable social interaction or as the URL says: Digitally Fatigues Networkers Try New Sites But Strategize To Avoid Burnout (.html).
Varieties of managing multiple networks and setting priorities are mentioned through anecdotes and vignettes including considering talking to your dinner partner rather than posting that you are at dinner on FourSquare. The particularly heinous habit of queuing up postings for timed release throughout the day is suggested!
One bright spot is yet another testimony for Fred Stutzman‘s wonderful Freedom which takes you off the net (only for laptops and desktops but not for phone or tablet) for up to 8 hours.
What does this have to do with #noemail? Just look at how email is mentioned in this article:
According to Nielsen, social networking is now the most popular online activity, ahead of sending e-mails, searching the Internet and playing games.
“I already feel like I’m experiencing slow death by e-mail.”
“Everyone is still talking about filing e-mail bankruptcy”
The only thing worse than social overload is… email.
According to the New York Times, coaches may contact players by Twitter direct messages, but not by TXT; by Facebook Messages, but not by Facebook Chat — and public Wall posts are out of the question. Email and phone calls are allowed, but the prospective players won’t take those — afterall they are under 25 (see studies earlier in this blog).
A trusted resident expert in this house claims that the unifying theme is banning public communications while allowing private ones. The exception for SMS aka TXT, he says and the article supports, is because the person receiving the TXT also receives a charge if unlike most TXTing teens the prospect doesn’t have an unlimited TXT plan.
One hole in his, or more likely in the NCAA’s, logic is the difference between Chat and Messaging. Both are private and with the new Facebook Mobile Messenger app both are unified and merged in the same inbox. The trend as seen at Facebook and in Google Plus is to unify the inbox and the activity streams into a personally manageable environment.
That’s what the players are telling the coaches. We don’t take calls. We don’t do email. We want communications mobile. We want them short and interactive. Twitter is TXT without the NCAA restrictions. Facebook Messages aren’t email.
If trends mean anything, the analysis by the pollsters at Pew miss the point of their own data. Whilst the title for the report is “Search and email still top the list of most popular online activities”, the use of email has remained flat — dropping 1% really, but statistically insignificant — since 2002. Searching rose from 85% to join email at 92% (since 2002). But social network use, which was not even measured until 2005, begins at 11% and is up to 65% by 2011′s survey.
Email fans shouldn’t get all that excited by the report as the data underlying the report show communications trends that will move us all from email even in the immediate term. Note also that email alternatives were not measured giving some confusion to the frequencies of communications.
The release is interestingly coincides with reports that use of RIM Blackberry BBM has outstripped the use of Facebook and Twitter — in the London riots (only).
I’ve had Beluga on my phone but not done too much with it (running txt thru Google Voice to save charges ;->). Looking to download Messenger now. Let me know if you’ve found and are trying it. At the moment, https://www.facebook.com/mobile/messenger says “Messenger will be available soon. Please check back later.”
In most of this interview with John Battelle and Tim O’Reilly at the Web 2.0 Summit 2010 conference last fall, Mark Zuckerberg talks about replacing email with Facebook Messages — why FB Msgs isn’t email and why email is broken hopelessly — and how the Facebook Social Graph changes everything.
This talk and Sheryl Sandberg’s earlier talk convinced me that Facebook, not Google or Microsoft or Yahoo or others, would be the ones to succeed in creating better data portability, better messaging and activity streams. Interestingly, much of what Zuckerberg talks about concerning user control of data are addressed in Google + Circles, Google Checkout and Google+ itself.
Let’s go back in time. Not so far back, but back to 2008. IBM was making big changes in how their company worked and continues to work. These five predictions are credited to Mike Rhodin who was then head of the Lotus division and pushing Sametime and Sametime Advanced as IBM’s unified communications and collaboration platform and services to be used internally and to be offered to other companies. Even or especially keeping that in mind, the recognition of these 5 trends all point in the same directions as the #noemail project as described in the process of writing this blog.
We’re talking about #noemail in the marketplace (as one G+ commentor called his business), in serving customers (one reason that another G+er claimed he could not possibly even think of trying #noemail), and building internal communications (as Luis Suarez at IBM has been practicing and promoting since 2009 or earlier).
The Virtual Workplace will become the rule. By that IBM means that you’ll be carrying your work everywhere you are. Imagine working in a coffee shop! Or taking calls and IMing during off hours!
Instant Messaging and other real-time collaboration tools will become the norm, bypassing e-mail. IBM wasn’t quite ready with something like Google Plus or even Facebook messages, but they are right about collaboration tools changing the way we communicate and work together.
Beyond Phone Calls to Collaborative Business Processes We’ve seen this too. Most smart phone users I know are using more Smart than Phone. That is to say that the phone part has become more about connectivity than about voice messages. In business this has been true for a while. I confess: before I completely turned off my desk phone, I changed the voice mail to ask people to send me email instead — or finally to find me online
Interoperability and Open Standards will tear down proprietary walls across business and public domains. I like this and hope that it’s true. There is continuing evidence that things are becoming more open. But closed and non-interoperable systems persist. Android is gaining on the iPhone. Google Plus includes a Data Checkout option. But Apple remains mostly closed even as Microsoft is diminished in our communications sphere.
New meeting models will emerge. Here IBM is pushing Virtual Worlds as meeting spaces. For whatever reasons, Second Life and others still seem too soon and too flaky. But Skype, and now Google Plus, have become a regular part of our lives in business and in private or social life.
Today, I paid the cost for #noemail. The cost was $7.00.
I was cleaning my office and picking up books that I’d checked out of the UNC Library. Among those books was one that was just out and so had some sort of truncated checkout time. Most books are available to faculty for several months. This book was only allowed to be taken out for a few weeks. Oops!
I trucked my books over to the Library. First as a negotiator trained at the Grand Bazaar, I tried to get credit for the books I was returning early to offset the few days that my one special book was overdue. No dice.
Then I was told that my fine was extra. Not because of my negotiation attempts, but because the book had been recalled even before the due date.
The Library robot had sent me email. Err, didn’t the Library robot or her minder get my message that I don’t do email? If they had, then there are many ways to contact me.
– Oh, we’ve set up the messages so that we don’t receive replies. But we do include a link in the message so that you can just click on that link and then we add your message to our database.
Doesn’t adding several links to an automated message pretty much assure that the message gets marked as spam?
– We never thought of that. $7 is the charge.
But is there any way at all that you contact people who choose not to use email? I mean, everyone fills out a lot of contact information and the UNC One Card is tied to the Campus directory. It’s not hard to find ways to contact people other than email. Hey, the robot could call or text just as easily.
The tide turned and junk moved online. Talk of email addiction has changed to internet and social network and game and particularly Facebook addiction tracking the trends closely. Addiction? No. Over-fascination? Yes. The mechanics and contents are unchanged but the social and psychological relations between postal mail and email have switched places.
And with that switch, love forever changes.
Arthur Lee and Love – Forever Changes (London 2001)
As you may know, John Cage is famous in part for his pieces that used silence especially in his 4’33″ — not playing or performing but listening to what you would have missed had you been listening only to a performance. He seems then the right person to join Marshall McLuhan as a guiding light for the #noemail project.
What email means is as important as what it does and doesn’t do. That is one of the points of the #noemail project. There are better ways of communication. Those better ways should assist in relieving stress rather than becoming a cultural and individual symbol of overwork and stress.
This paper just out from researchers at Stanford and Boston University does a fine job of quantifying and explaining what email means. May require library access or subscription for access.
I note with some irony that the email addresses of the authors are included in the abstract and in the paper.
E-mail as a Source and Symbol of Stress
Stephen R. Barley, Debra E. Meyerson, Stine Grodal
Department of Management Science and Engineering, School of Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305
School of Education, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305
Department of Strategy and Innovation, School of Management, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215
The increasing volume of e-mail and other technologically enabled communications are widely regarded as a growing source of stress in people’s lives. Yet research also suggests that new media afford people additional flexibility and control by enabling them to communicate from anywhere at any time. Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative data, this paper builds theory that unravels this apparent contradiction. As the literature would predict, we found that the more time people spent handling e-mail, the greater was their sense of being overloaded, and the more e-mail they processed, the greater their perceived ability to cope. Contrary to assumptions of prior studies, we found no evidence that time spent working mediates e-mail-related overload. Instead, e-mail’s material properties entwined with social norms and interpretations in a way that led informants to single out e-mail as a cultural symbol of the overload they experience in their lives. Moreover, by serving as a symbol, e-mail distracted people from recognizing other sources of overload in their work lives. Our study deepens our understanding of the impact of communication technologies on people’s lives and helps untangle those technologies’ seemingly contradictory influences.
Bascha Harris of OpenSource.com and I did an interview using Google Docs checking in after 8 weeks without email. Part of the pleasure of the interview is how nicely interactive Google Docs is and how well that environment works for interviews. The integration with Gtalk, the change tracking, the real time updates, the easy for adding comments and notes make for a painless way of collaborative writing — and a good, I think, interview.
“The next medium, whatever it is – it may be the extension of consciousness – will include television as its content, not as its environment. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organisation, retrieve the individual’s encyclopedic function and flip it into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind.” McLuhan 1962