A recent BBC article, Clash of the titans: Email v social media by Fiona Graham (Nov 25, 2011) falls solidly and flatly in the “He said, she said” camp of reporting.

Ping ponging back and forth between experts on social media — Zuckerberg is pictured with his vision of better messaging’s somewhat redundant six points — informal, immediate, personal, simple, minimal and short — Graham recounts very briefly the history of email name-checking @ sign promulgator Ray Tomlinson in the process.

Overdue attention is given to MIME creator Nathaniel Borenstein. Borenstein notes that email use continues to grow and rues the slow uptake that IBM’s LotusLive has seen. Graham notes that until recently Borenstein was an IBM employees working on LotusLive. Borenstein became chief scientist at email management company, Mimecast, in June 2010

Who speaks for social? Lee Bryant, co-founder of Headshift, the world’s biggest social business consultancy (according to Graham). I wonder what he will say. “He believes email’s dominance over business communications is coming to an end.” Since he’s based his business on this, I guess so.

But setting the snark aside for a paragraph or two, I agree with Bryant as he opines:
I think we’ve reached the stage where email as means of communicating is overloaded. I think we will see what happens on email today transitioning towards various kinds of both internal and consumer facing social tools.”

For a finale, Graham turns to Dave Coplin, head of Microsoft’s Envisioneers team. The guy who works for a company heavily invested in email solutions — Outlook, Exchange and HotMail — and famously unsuccessful at anything social can’t find anything wrong with email. Social media is just a “shiny new penny.” The Envisoneer is no Imagineer. He cannot speak publicly in a way that would disrupt his company. He does in the course of the discussion utter a keen observation: “I think that email is dead when it comes to social media in the same way that snail mail was dead when it came to email.”

Perhaps he’s still writing letters in the way we wrote them in 1960 or sending postcards as frequently. Maybe he hasn’t noticed that the USPS is seeing a precipitous drop in first class mail usage. Heck, we don’t even get billed on paper any more. Yes, I agree with the Softie: snail mail is diminished and fading like AM radio. Email will soon follow.

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A tribute to Luis Suarez (aka @elsua) in the form of a Dutch/English language site — Moving/Collaborating/Sharing/Connecting/Thinking/Helping/Innovating/Working/Living Outside the Inbox — from IBM Netherlands. Includes the Prezi from my talk at Duke last month “#noemail – Why you could/should/must use better ways of communicating than email” and this interview with Luis:

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Aditya Johri. (Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA)
Look ma, #noemail !: blogs and IRC as primary and preferred communication tools in a distributed firm. CSCW ’11 – Proceedings of the ACM 2011 conference on Computer supported cooperative work. Pages 305-308.

Abstract

Email has been the primary communication medium in organizations for decades and despite studies that demonstrate its obvious disadvantages, the prevailing thinking is that email is irreplaceable. In this paper I challenge that view through a field study of a distributed firm that is highly successful in developing and delivering products without regular use of email in the workplace. Group blogging and IRC were the primary tools used and they allowed improved coordination and knowledge sharing compared to email. This paper contributes to scant literature in CSCW on firm-level technology use.

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Original post at Mashable Comics by Matt Silverman. Discovered at Fail Blog’s Work Fail section by @tuckcomatus

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Louis Richardson’s slides, as seen below, with his narration as a YouTube video. Recommended.

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US News Best Colleges

Menachen Wecker’s article “5 Tips for Managing Your Campus E-mail: Students can use a variety of techniques, including filtering, creating folders, and flagging spam” begins:

If you E-mail Paul Jones, you will receive an auto-response explaining why the journalism professor at University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill (UNC) quit using E-mail on June 1, 2011—and why there must be a better way to communicate.

In a phone interview, Jones says he stopped E-mailing because his inbox was clogged by computer-generated spam.

“When I started using E-mail 25 years ago, I sent mail to people, and people sent mail to me,” he says. “Now Amazon sends me mail telling me I just ordered a book. I know I just ordered a book, you idiot, I still have the browser open!”

Some recent research suggests that college students may increasingly share Jones’s view of E-mail as “a complete time sink.” A 2010 Pew Internet report finds that 11 percent of 12-to-17-year-olds exchange daily E-mails with friends, and 54 percent text message daily. A white paper released in early 2011 by the Internet marketing research company, comScore, charts a 59 percent decline in E-mail use by 12-to-17-year-olds in 2010.

But according to the recently released National Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, which surveyed 3,000 students at 1,179 colleges and universities, 39 percent of respondents wish their professors used E-mail more often, and 75 percent send or receive an average of 25 E-mails a day.

In the course of the article, I offer more advice about managing email in college including: Don’t use it, Let others read it instead, and Unsubscribe from every listserv that you can possibly unsubscribe to. Read. Enjoy. Learn. Do.

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Private social networks playing Facebook role in more workplaces (Carolyn Duffy Marsan. Network World, October 20, 2011)

In the last 18 months, hundreds of thousands of companies have signed up for private cloud-based social networking services such as Yammer, Chatter, Huddle and Jive — all of which are modeled after Facebook.

Today, millions of U.S. workers are using these social networking services on the job instead of e-mail, Intranet sites, wikis, blogs or other collaboration software. CIOs are reporting significant returns on their investments in these services, which cost $5 or less per user, per month.

“Social networking is really powerful because it allows people to have real conversations with each other, and it’s unfiltered,” says Chris Laping, CIO of the Denver-based Red Robin Gourmet Burger chain and a Yammer user. “It’s a great way for me to get a pulse check on the topics that people are talking about in the regions, whether it’s labor costs or food costs. …There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t see some conversation on Yammer that I don’t think: ‘Wow, that’s interesting.’”

Email Driving Your Business Crazy? Dump It and Embrace Social Software! (Socialize Me. Luis Benitez. October 20, 2011)

A lot of my colleagues express amusement when I tell them that I’ve been able to reduce my inbox from 100+ emails/day to ~20 emails/day. The first question they always ask is: “How did you do it?”

It wasn’t easy and it has taken time, but I was motivated by Luis Suarez. Luis was was interviewed by Leo Laporte and Amber MacArthur in their Net@Night show last year and is living the dream: a world without email. It was one of Luis’ webinars that introduced me to the concept of moving away from email and embracing social software.

Luis Benitez includes a SlideShare from IBM’s Louis Richardson:

Benitez also includes this terse but useful summary of Richardson’s presentation:

Richardson summarizes why a business should embrace social software over email:

Open the conversation, leverage the wisdom of the crowds
Use networks and communities to target the conversation
Easily capture intellectual capital and avoid re-inventing the wheel
And most of all: It’s Easy. Low Impact. High Value!

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Great, if a bit noisy, hall interview with Luis Suarez at Jamcamp yesterday. He is down to three social networks: Twitter, Google Plus and IBM Connections (for work) –no Facebook (because he dislikes the Terms of Service).

Good insights. Including how to stay in contact with your clients without email.

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Thomas Ciszek of the Search Agency looks great in a bow tie as he talks about alternatives to email in this video.

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Carolina Technology Consultants

What: The Logic and Destiny of #noemail
When: Thursday, October 20 11:30 AM – 12:15 PM
Where: Student Union Room 3205, UNC
Who: Carolina Technology Consultants

Prezi: Here Now with The Who doing the Kids Are Alright or as http://tinyurl.com/noemail-uncctc

Description:

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.

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Just back from giving a talk and having a talk with the folks at Duke University who do Web and Communications work there. The subject? Productivity in the form of #noemail

Here’s the Prezi:

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No Email Day - 11/11/11 - #noemail

Martin Bryant, writing at The Next Web (insider), covers the 40 years of email from the first email sent by MIT graduate Ray Tomlinson who was working at research and development firm Bolt, Beranek and Newman to the pending end of email and the coming of #noemail. Yes, Tomlinson confesses that his very first mail was likely gibberish or what we now call spam, likely “‘QWERTY’ or another string of characters”.

Spam continues to be part of the email life, if you can call that life. “Pingdom claims that 262 billion spam messages were sent daily in 2010, that’s 89.1% of all emails sent.” (emphasis added).

But the nail in the email coffin isn’t spam, but a changing culture that requires something better, faster, more personal, more mobile, more like IM, Messenger, GTalk, Facebook, and/or Google+. ” A ComScore study on 2010 digital trends in the US found that Web email usage saw an 8% year-on-year decline in 2010 overall, with a 59% decline in use among people aged between 12-17.” (again I add emphasis).

Perhaps with that change in mind, Paul Lancaster of Plan Digital UK has declared 11/11/11 as No Email Day. Join me in joining his Facebook group/page and by letting email alone on that special day. You’ll be glad you did.

Paul Lancaster respects email and sees it as vital. I don’t endorse that view, but I do endorse 11/11/11 as #NoEMail Day.

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I won’t rehearse the myth of Sisyphus here. But suffice it to say that I don’t agree with Camus when he concludes his essay “The Myth of Sisyphus”:

The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

I am happy when I play Tetris although I know that that game is only about struggle that will never end. The difference is that I decide to engage in the game myself. Sisyphus had no such choice. And I can abandon Tetris at any moment, sans the grip that the game holds on my through my own competitive nature. Again Sisyphus could not end his torment on his own.

What does this have to do with email and #noemail? A wise observation by Andrew Hyde in a tweet that returns to me via Mark Suster‘s post at CloudAve.com titled Why Email May Be Draining Your Company’s Productivity is right on target.

@AndrewHyde tweets: inbox = tetris getting zero lines doesn’t win it just makes the next move easy.

Mark goes on in his article to talk about his own experiences with the illusive inbox zero and the impact of email and normalized email behaviors on his life as a VC and startup exec. Some of Mark’s insights as specific to his work (as he himself notes) but many are very useful in getting us all to do a bit more out of the (in)box thinking.

email is Tetris; not Sisyphus’ stone. There are alternatives. You can escape.

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A calendar page dated Wednesday August 3 showed up in my atom-based faculty mailbox today from my ever alert colleague, Cal Lee.

Angela: Um. Do you not answer e-mails anymore? Because I have e-mailed you four times asking you to come to my desk.

Phyllis: Honey, if I don’t have time to answer an e-mail, I definitely don’t have time to walk over to your desk.

Angela (R) and Phillis (L)

Angela (L) and Phillis (R)

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The Globe and Mail reports that social software within the enterprise will soon replace email, just as Luis Suarez has been saying for the past four years.

David Stewart, Yammer’s vice-president of product management, is quoted saying (with some obvious self-interest) that: “People have seen the value that social networking has provided in the consumer space. They’ve come to recognize that as that space matures … they can do this in [the] employee space as well.” “Unlike e-mail, enterprise social networks can store and keep detailed records of public exchanges between employees and track how ideas evolve. For instance, instead of e-mailing everyone in the company with a question, employees can seek answers on the network. Not only is that less intrusive than e-mail, but it also keeps a record of the response that others can reference in the future,” Stewart adds later in the article.

Despite Stewart’s position, or perhaps because the experience it gives him, the gist of his statement which I would translate as “people know how this work in their lives in general and we know that they are using social media at work even as back channels so’s let’s make it work in a way that works for all of us and can even be legally accountable as needed” is certainly true in many good ways.

Here’s hoping active and productive use of enterprise social media will be rewarded.

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Two announcements from Facebook yesterday are worth highlighting.

First, Facebook announced some improvements to the ways you can organize your friends. One of the nicer features is the some friends can be grouped automagically. Say, you want to post only to friends in a certain town or other common connection. Now, Facebook promises to make that Smart. They don’t promise that Smart Friends will make your friends smart or sort out those friends that are less smart though. Either would be something grand!

Further, Smart Friends borrows from News Feed by deciding who you *really* want to interact with based on the same or very similar Top Sekrit Facebook Friend Ranking Voodoo. Facebook puts it this way:

Close Friends and Acquaintances lists – You can see your best friends’ photos and posts in one place, and see less from people you’re not as close to.

There will be more interaction between Close Friends and the News Feed. That is if you add someone as a Close Friend — yes, it’s automagic but you can manually add and remove folks too — they get more News Feed points and are more likely to show up in your Feed.

And these Circles, err Friends Lists options, can be used along with privacy settings.

A very good explanation is here on the Facebook blog.

Digest Option

Second, Facebook has promised to reduce notifications from single message to periodic updates. This is presented in this way:

We’re testing a feature for people who are very active on Facebook and receive lots of email notifications from us. We’ll provide a new summary email and turn off most individual email notifications. If you want to turn them back on, there’s a control in your account settings.

Really it’s little more than a digest feature as seen on most listservs. Still it goes a long ways for many people toward reducing annoying inbox fillers. About time. Most of us have already set our notifications to “OFF”

The worry at ReadWriteWeb is that those of us who have our settings as we like them may have them reset for us. I doubt that that will be the case.

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State of the art File Transfer

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Michael Hart

Michael Hart (1947 – 2011)
founder of Project Gutenberg

At The Register UK
At New York Times

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School is back in session. My son is off to Serbia for the year. And the #noemail blog posts have slacked off a bit waiting for me to catch my breath.

I’m still panting but I want to quickly add a miscellany of very recent #noemail related articles (perhaps gist for blog posts later).

In NYTimes, Noam Cohen covers Navid Hassanpour’s (a political science graduate student at Yale) paper titled “Media Disruption Exacerbates Revolutionary Unrest.” Hassanpour shows that turning off social media really aggravates rebels rather than disrupting them or quieting them.

At paidcontent.com, Brian Solis writes of the “End of Social Media 1.0″. Solis is looking a new roles for brands as social media moves to the next stage. He ends “The end of Social Media 1.0 is the beginning of a new era of business, consumer engagement, and relevance. #AdaptOrDie”

The Next Web makes a spurious claim that there is a copyright held on the word “email” which was filed 30 years ago. Many subtle points of copyright law are skirted to get to a story that may be somewhat true. Even if a single non-unique, obvious and not completely original coinage could have been copyrighted rather than trademarked, it’s non-defensible. But here’s the article“Today is the 30th anniversary of the word ‘email’ as copyrighted by this man”.

Comediva puts email aside and introduces us to G-Male — every girl’s dream or nightmare.

Read Write Web tells us of quick changes to the Facebook News Feed in response to the growing popularity of Google Plus and predicts that Facebook, using its deeper experience, could or should win the News Stream War.

In Atlantic Monthly, Josh Sternberg writes of “Social Media’s Slow Slog Into the Ivory Towers of Academia” featuring smart quotes from old pals, Howard Rheingold and Sarah (intelligirl) Robins.

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I’ll expand this post later, but I wanted to be sure to get a link and note up about Jay Cuthrell aka @qthrul ‘s #noemail insights from his SXSW2009 panel “Too Much Text or When I Was Your Age, We Sent Email” at which he points out many of the problems with email and explains, correctly but perhaps a little early, why email needs to be replaced with a smarter, more integrated, faster, more mobile communications stream. Also of course, no spam! See also his slides on that page which include kittehz and his notes on LinkedIn “Will desktop email applications and the notion of email itself survive another 10 years?”

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