The Real Paul Jones

Accept no substitutes

Poetry in May (so far)

This week saw three of my poems published:

  • Slugs in Vox Poetica

    They are so unlovely and unloved

  • Beach at Corolla, NC and Bee Fall in South Writ Large

    Inside the beached whale was a library

    Can goodbyes last past parting
    or are they, like bees’ visits
    to clover, intense moments
    of working passion, nectar
    searching, the sweet flight begun
    soon after? Home to the hive.

Also I’ll be going to the Sewanee Writers Conference. Not this year but in 2021 as this year the conference has been COVIDed into Master Classes.
I haven’t been to such a conference since being at Warren Wilson in the very early 1990 and before that at Breadloaf in the very early 1980s.

Looking forward.

The Great Pestilence of 1855 in Virginia

In June 1855, a ship, the Benjamin Franklin, coming from the West Indes was placed under quarantine in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The captain broke quarantine. 3000 people–1/3 of the population of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Va.–died of yellow fever.

The first doctor treating patients to die was Dr Richard Silvester (he thought he might have immunity from previous exposure) in August. In September, his wife Lydia, his son Richard also a Doctor, and a younger son, William, were struck by the fever and died. Before winter, a daughter, Margaret, also died of the fever.

The elder Dr Silvester was my great-great-great-grandfather. The story of how the family was nearly wiped out by the captain breaking quarantine has been in my family since.

Yellow Fever was localized, carried by mosquitoes (that was not understood at the time. Vapors and the like were blamed), but ravaging. Today’s pandemic is at global scale, but the swiftness of the spread, the quarantine, and costs of particular lives echoes the so-called Great Pestilence in Virginia.

(note to myself: add links to this later)

Open tabs, new words

Yesterday, my friend Eric (the Silent K) asked folks on Facebook:

Hey, word-smiths. Is there a word that describes the sensation of doing something normal in abnormal times?

In response, I coined not one but two related words – Abnotopia the sensation of doing something normal in abnormal times and Abnophoria Feeling elation in an abnormally weird or scary time. They’re now in Urban Dictionary. Vote ’em up!

Incidentally some open tabs in my browser:

  1. The Myth of Voice by Sean Igoe in The Lark
  2. “All You Have To Do Is Say The Words” Some notes regarding Robert Hass’s “Summer Snow” by Jonathan Farmer in Believer Magazine’s Logger
  3. Windows, Emily Leithouser’s translation of Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fenêtres in LIterady Matters
  4. Narasimbha – the 4th avatar of Vishnu. The half-man/half-lion avatar is a one time use god. He incarnated, he killed a very bad deamon, and that’s it.

Prosing in Poetry

After being heavily tied to verse, I’ve taken a vacation into prose poems. This despite Robert Pinsky’s warning in his appreciation of Robert Hass’ A Story About the Body:

“A standard form for young poets these days, as the sonnet might have been for another generation, is the prose poem. It seems that most first books must contain one or two prose poems, if only to demonstrate the poet’s ability to manage the form, or awareness of fashion.”

In part this is also driven by my reading through “A Cast Iron Airplane That Can Actually Fly,” an anthology with commentary that includes Robert Hill Long and Charles Fort, which includes a wide variety of prose poems.

I did one prose poem a while back for Triggerfish Critical Review, but now have 3 or 4 more.

Anyone else working in this genre? Have favorite ones? Say Hass’ Paschal Lamb or Carolyn Forche’s The Colonel?

Update: Since posting this I’ve had three new prose poems accepted by Triggerfish Critical Review for their 24th issue due out online in July 2020.

Poems literally on the Moon

A manuscript of my poems was sent to the moon’s surface April 11, 2019 as part of Arch Mission Foundation’s Lunar Library delivered by SpaceIL’s Beresheet lander.

Just my manuscript?

First, let me be a bit more modest. We, Arch Mission, created a library designed to be landed on the moon via SpaceIL. The library contains over 30 million pages of text and images etched into 40 micron thick nickel foils. My manuscript is only about 60 pages of all of that.

All of Project Gutenberg, all of the English language Wikipedia, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (in all of the recognized languages), the PanLex datasets (from the Long Now Foundation, a linguistic key to 5000 languages, with 1.5 billion translations between them), and some “private collections” (the entire works of Peter Drucker, the poetry of Kathleen Spivak, and more) make up a few of the other pages in the library. Some contents are yet to be revealed for various reasons but see The Lunar Library Overview for details on content and on the physical construction of the disks and etching process.

How am I involved with Arch Mission?

I’m on the Advisory Board for the Arch Mission Foundation helping the founder Nova Spivak identify free and open content to represent our human endeavors in the library. I also give advice as to categories of material to include. I was delighted that Nova asked me for a manuscript that might become lunar.

Where is the Lunar Library?

That’s a good question. The Beresheet lander landed really hard. That is to say it crashed on the lunar surface somewhere near or in the Sea of Serenity. The Library could have been ejected or sailed off at impact or… well, we’re not sure. Nova and other team member have created a document that speculates on the fate of the library.

So it’s on the moon. Even likely in one piece. But it’s small and waiting to be discovered.

And there are tardigrades!

At least we think so. Nova (I wasn’t part of this bit) had the library coated with protected resin in which there are, as far as I know, water bears aka tardigrades, embedded. Tardigardes are the roughest creatures on earth and can survive in a state of limbo for a long time under adverse conditions. While their inclusion concerned some people, the very idea that some form of earth life might be part of the library effort is novel.

“It’s not a business with me . . . . I’m not a professional of poetry, I’m a farmer of poetry.”

Jack Gilbert at age 82 April 2006

2017 – 2020 Poetry Publications

Turtle Island Quarterly
Early Fall Full Moon. Issue 18. March 2020.

Broadkill Review
Seventythree. March/April 2020.
Moving From House to House. March/April 2020

Red Fez
At Seventy. Issue 131. January 2020.

Blake-Jones Review
Messengers. December 2019.

Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing
Scavangers. December 2019. Redemption and Grace Issue 5.4.
(digital subscription required)

Speckled Trout Review
Skinnydip in the Mill Pond. Fall 2019.

Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing
Against Desirelessness. November 2019. Broken/Whole Issue 5.3.
(digital subscription required)

Kakalak.
The Red Vinegar Sauce. December 2019.
(print only)

Hermit Feathers Review.
Lost Harbor. 2019.
Blue Ridge. 2019.
(print only)

Light: A Journal of Light Verse Since 1992.
My Roommate Joeffry. Winter/Spring 2019.

Red Fez
On an Okra Flower. Issue 117. October 2018. Best of the Net Prize nomination

Trigger Fish Critical Review.
State Mayakovsky Museum. Issue 19. 2018.

PinesongNorth Carolina Poetry Society.
2018 Award Winners:
Start the Game. Joanna Catherine Scott Award – First Place. Pushcart Prize nomination.
Hymn to Cash. Katherine Kennedy McIntyre Light Verse Award – Second Place.
Where I Come From. Mary Ruffin Poole American Heritage Award – First Place.
(print only)

International Lawrence Durrell Society.
She Sails. White Mice Poetry Contest 2017.

North Carolina Literary Review
Basketball is a Kind of Poetry. 2017 (online only) Best of the Net Prize nomination. Honorable Mention in James Applewhite Poetry Contest.
Clear Channel. 2017. (print only). Pushcart Prize nomination. 2nd Place in James Applewhite Poetry Contest.

Enough of #noemail and on to verse

I pretty much quit blogging about not doing email and about the various alternatives in 2016. No, I didn’t decide to pick email back up. I was not only tired of email, but tired of arguing about it. The crushing failure of email to adopt to 21st Century mobile first communications is either 1) obvious or 2) you are too entrenched to ever be convinced by the facts and trends.

Consider the case, like my Inbox, closed. That is closed except for a few dire or important circumstances.

I started this blog in 2004 as Facebook was beginning, 2 years before Twitter started, and 6 years before Instagram was founded. In the beginning, blogs did a lot of what those services do now, but–as you know–link sharing, photo sharing, event sharing, and many other functions have moved to services that do a better job. Blogs are back to being a place personal essays and personal websites. Not a bad place to be, really.

I’ll do a bit more blogging here about poetry publications and the like instead starting now.

Mobile Social Gaming and Messaging – KakaoTalk #noemail

A lunch chat with Sam Oh who is visiting UNC from Korea had me thinking about the variety of ways that chat apps are used in different cultures. Sam briefly explained the history and use of KaKaoTalk in Korea. His story of a Yahoo!-like companys rebirth as a messaging app that has dominated Korean phones intrigued me so I starting looking for more about KakaoTalk.

The app began as a simple chat app and expanded into KakaoTalk, KakaoStory, KakaoMusic, KakaoGroup, KakaoHome, KakaoPlace, KakaoAlbum, KakaoPage, KakaoStyle, and KakaoAgit. Most of the names explain something about the focus of each service — all mobile oriented and working as a quick sharing service. Kakoa even breaks services off into their own apps — KakaoTaxi, KakaoBus, KakaoMetro etc.

KakaoTalk (according to Sam with details added from Wikipedia) derives its income from three main streams:
Gaming – 67.5% ($31.1M) in 2012. Mobile and social gaming with in game purchases including the Korean national games, Ani Pang and Dragon Flight. These games are not only the largest source of income but also serve to keep user engagement very very high — unlike other cleaner purer chat applications. If there is anything that other messaging app or any mobile app could learn from KakaoTalk, its how to increase engagement via gaming. Then to use that increased engagement to produce a very effective income stream.
Coupons (instead of banner ads) – 26.2% ($12.1M)
Emoji sales – 6.3% ($2.8M)

In the wake of Pokemon Go, this seem obvious. But if — say a month again — I told you that #noemail systems could be profitable by offering mobile social gaming, I would have gotten and perhaps deserved an eye roll response.

It turns out that this week we are all believers in mobile social gaming with augmented reality. And investors believe that there are profits to be had in that space.

At the moment, investors are seeing mobile social gaming as separate from messaging but KakaoTalk points toward integration as a solution for increasing engagement and income at the same time.

Looking at the top global apps on Android for the first quarter of 2015, Qualtra showed messaging apps dominate with the top four being owned by Facebook (Facebook itself, WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram). [note: pre-installed Google apps are not included in the chart]. When it comes to number of sessions and for length of engagement, however, its KakaoTalk as number 1 by far.

Qualtra looks at top apps

Outside of Korea although installs of KakoaTalk are a much smaller percentage (in the US 1% of Androids for example), but the length of engagement is still the largest of any messaging app, reports SimilarWeb.

The problem facing KakaoTalk is how to get out of Korea and into other markets in a significant way. Is mobile social gaming integrated into a messaging app an anomaly or a pathway to success? Is KakaoTalk culturally and locally bound to Korea? Is the future to be found more in loosely connected apps for special purposes — a Clash of Clans + GroupMe for now and Pokemon Go + WhatsApp later –?

KakaoTalk logo

Under New Management with #noemail

David Burkus begins his new book, “Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), with an 11 page chapter commanding companies to “Outlaw Email.” Choosing #noemail as an opening chapter says a lot about the need for communication reform with in companies. But the content is even more compelling.

Burkus isn’t just railing about the evils of email, the delays, the time sinks, the spam, the miscommunication, the stylistic misuse, the passive-aggressive tendencies that email cultivates, or how email creeps into every minute of your life shackling your company’s productivity. Burkus presents proof that you can outlaw email and improve your company’s performance.

Beginning with a reference to the no email policies of Atos SE and ending with the no email on weekends or after hours at Daimler, Burkus fills in the middle with recent research that shows the cost of email and the benefits of using other more effective forms of communications from UC-Irvine and US Army as well as a survey on emotional effects by Marcus Butts and his colleagues.

In short, very good review of the most recent practice and research told well.

Burkus, himself, tells the story more briefly in the most recent Harvard Business Review as “Some Companies Are Banning Email and Getting More Done” (June 8, 2016).

“Clearing out your email inbox can make you feel like youre ultra-productive, but unless your job description is solely to delete emails, youre likely just fooling yourself.”

Under New Management

Year Five of #noemail Part 5 – Collaboration, a Short Rant

via Orange County http://www.211oc.org/get-involved/newsletter.html

The very first reason that I posited that email needed to die and that its death would be welcome sooner than later is that every day we have a greater reliance of open collaboration than ever before. This is. at the moment at least, now doctrine. In the past 24 hours, Ive hear that from both candidates for the Governorship of the state of North Carolina. Thats about the only thing they agreed on.

What passes for collaboration and what facilitates group work is open for debate. Of course, a number of kludges immediately rose to the challenge. Everyone with a product or a consulting investment had an answer.
Email was at first pitched as an effective collaboration tool. What a great idea! You dont need new technology to help you; you only need to be instructed in how to properly use email. The problem is that the learning or relearning in context is extremely difficult for humans. You can get some slight improvements. But it was immediately clear that smart calendars, simple meeting schedulers (like Doodle), collaborative writing spaces (like Google Docs), chat spaces (like Slack and HipChat) were much more effective and that the work done with those tools was almost immediately better and more satisfaction — as seen by their very quick adoption.

As I like to say it may take a short while but soon makers of tools rush in where those with older angles have already trod.

Attempts to retrofit email to make it more friendly to or at least tolerant of collaboration are numerous. I mentioned two attempts at making the in-box smarter by applying AI and machine learning in Part 1. Verse from IBM and InBox from Google. Other mail interfaces continue to kludge along as if they are a 20 century disco act at Bonnaroo. Im looking at you Outlook.

Collaboration needs support in a variety of contexts – as I will describe later – as we see each new tool arrive, some failing and some immediately useful, we recognize how email fails us. Collaboration requires stronger context, better threading, better time shifting tools, a stronger knowledge base, and a degree of simplicity that email has never achieved

Year Five of #noemail Part 4 – Spam, Spam, Spam

Spam by Brownpau https://www.flickr.com/photos/brownpau/22249530108

Back when Spam was merely canned spiced shoulder of ham, we had junk mail. It came and still comes to our physical mail boxes just as surely and regularly as robo-calls come to our voice mail in-boxes. Passing some opt-out laws and restrictions helped stem the tide of junk mail somewhat. It as easy to toss in the recycle in any case. In the case of robo-calls, mandated do not call lists helped a lot. It seemed that junk robo-intrusions into our communications streams could be handled by some sort of legal relief — at least in the US.

In one recent instance legal recourse has proven to be helpful as the advertising spam industry has unified with fewer players. In 2015, FTC action against a California-based diet pill spammer resulted in not only a settlement that included a $43 million fine but also resulted in an overall reduction in spam in the phrama sector of almost 80%.

But overall, spam in email turned out to be different than junk mail and robo-calls. Global in design and reach, less costly to the sender, rarely stifled at the source, more easily disguised and overall more insidious, spam and anti-spam efforts have obsessed some of the best minds of our generation.

As a result of this hard brain work, we now have cleaner in-boxes but we also see plaintive sentences when we order from some sites asking us, warning us to please white list their email addresses (thereby opening ourselves up to their spam) or even more annoying If you do not see our response, please inspect your spam folder. One word of advice: Dont unless you are desperate or want to be shocked by what has been rightly hidden from you.

I havent missed spam over the past five years, but I think spam has missed me. Recent reports at that spam is in decline. According to Symantec, spam is down as a percentage of total email sent for the first time in 12 years of measurement (as of June 2015). Spam has proven to be less effective for sales, but still very effective in delivering phishing schemes, malware and ransomware.

That is to say that spam, which was once mostly an annoying waste of time, is now more likely to be lethal — well, at least to have very bad consequences. We get less spam but instead of marketing green coffee or acai berries, we are deceived into entering our banking passwords or to send our contact lists to the fraudsters in the background for further exploitation.

Social media or even encrypted messaging systems are not completely free of spam. But the nature of whitelisting by default reduces automated spam greatly. I never get spammed on Slack. Facebook is fairly good at sorting out spam messages, but yes there are invitations that you just should not accept. My messaging systems are spam free as in LinkedIn — save the odd invite. Invite in and of themselves are annoyances; they do not — at the moment — include a payload of malware.

But there may be something to be said for spam even if somewhat tongue in cheek. Finn Brunton, in his lovely if somewhat twisted Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet, (MIT, 2013) writes Indeed, from a certain perverse perspective–one with consequences for my argument–spam can be presented as the Internets infrastructure used maximally and most efficiently, for a certain value of use. Soon after Brunton acknowledges that [t]his description is obviously ludicrous, a panegyric of pure function, while still being true.

Year Five of #noemail – Part 3 – Mobile workspaces

“We are rarely static people,” writes Kevin Benedict at the Center for the Future of Work blog in an article titled “Time, Space, and Speed – Mobile vs Static Apps.” Although Benedict wrote this in January 2016, he could have been channeling my own thinking as I compiled my original 7 ways that email must die list five years ago. I said one of the forces that would kill email was our use of “mobile rather than stationary work spaces.”

Benedict goes on ask us to:

consider two people in a vehicle. The driver, assuming they use their smartphone only when safely parked, searches for places, locations and directions based on a static starting point. However, if the person searching for places, locations and directions is a passenger in a moving car, a different set of information is appropriate. One based on movement, speed, direction, intersections, changing distances, etc. How should those variables change the way mobile apps are designed?

Mobility even within an office setting — and work within office settings is also changing for knowledge workers as I’ll write about later — is a design challenge one that the very design of email fails. Email has a context; it’s context is someone sitting at a desk typing a memo, penning a post-it note, sending in slow motion from her work station. While we still work, we are not usually at a station or as Benedict says “We are not static people.”

Even apps are having difficulty moving from web (static) to phone (mobile) just barely beginning to use voice effectively for requests, directions, and answers. When I began #noemail in 2011, Siri was not yet released for the iPhone 4S — that would happen in October of the year. Five years later, we are much further along than even I had hoped. Search and Google Now try — in my case more successfully than not — to anticipate the information that we need to know when and where we are when we want it. Sometimes before we know we want it.

“A transformation in thinking and design needs to take place, one based on the real world, rather than on static models” writes Benedict. While he is often in his brief piece taking about apps, he could easily be taking about the design of our workplaces as well.

Changes in organization, in spaces themselves, the rise of co-working, of open offices, of design for collision (for almost accidental encounters while in transit, at lunch, at coffee or just sitting in the sun) are the subject of Ben Waber, Jennifer Magnolfi, and Greg Lindsay’s Harvard Business Review article “Workspaces That Move People”

“Office buildings are no longer the sole locations for knowledge work. In fact, research from the consulting group Emergent Research suggests that two-thirds of it now happens outside the office.”

Waber et al remind us of three key elements of successful communication: exploration (interacting with people in many other social groups), engagement (interacting with people within your social group, in reasonably equal doses), and energy (interacting with more people overall) as described in Alex Sandy Pentlands April 2012 HBR article, The New Science of Building Great Teams. These are measurable elements, as Magnolfi demonstrates in her study of Zappos.

These casual collisions designed into working spaces as shared coffee shops, central letter boxes, larger lunch/break rooms increase trust, reduce isolation, enlarge social networks, increase the effectiveness of business networks and increase productivity. Not by magic but by increasing bonding, deepening later interactions, and easing knowledge transfer.

Digital interactions are about continuing relationships, making weak bonds stronger, initiating f2f encounters and keeping links alive more often than beginning and remaining purely digital. Coffee can be as important as more than a dozen email messages as Waber shows.

For initiating and maintaining relationships, business and personal, the social, the casual and even the intimate exchanges in the moment whether digital or in physical spaces suit knowledge workers better.

Five Years of #noemail – Part 2 – Encrypted/Secure Messaging

Big Brother

When I began my on-going #noemail project, I knew or at least suspected that email would be replaced by smarter messaging systems. My hunch was that something more social, more interactive, more mobile friendly, more whitelist than completely open. What I didn’t count on what the proliferation of encrypted and even self-destructing-messaging apps.

Email can be encrypted and to some extent GMail does some transactional cryptography with https and ssl, but most email is sent and stored in the most insecure ways. Yet not only individuals, but financial services and medical sites also, often rely on email or email that directs you to a moderately secure site.

On the other hand, secure messaging is offered in various flavors by SnapChat, Wickr, WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, Signal, Allo, Duo, BlackBerry Messenger, Gliph, Threema, ChatSecure, Line, Cyber Dust, and more. [Please send me your favorites if they aren’t listed here.]

Even old school messaging apps like AIM, Facebook Chat, Skype, Yahoo! Messenger and Gchat encrypt in transit — as some email does under some conditions.

Things are moving so fast that even the Electronic Frontier Foundation can’t keep up with them. EFF did a great job of evaluating secure messaging in late 2014 and produced a very useful scorecard, but that was out of date almost as soon as it was published. They’ve since produced a Surveillance Self-Defense Guide and promise that a new Scorecard will be on the way soon.

At the end of Year Five of #noemail, I ask myself why didn’t I make a point, amongst my Seven Points seen in Part 1, of talking more about security and encryption? It’s not like I don’t care about it. It’s not like I don’t have many of the secure messaging apps on my own phone. I mean ibiblio does run a TOR Exit Node (in support of journalists and our students and faculty as they travel).

I am aware of the need and desire for secure messaging — but I grew up with email where encryption was a task, a pain, such a specialty that even using encryption showed you were hiding something more than just embarrassing –; I hadn’t thought encryption would be so simple, so baked in to the apps, and so widely desired for even the simplest messages and exchanges.

I came around to this in Year Five of #noemail. It had been creeping up on me for the past few years. But now I should add to the list:

8. We want — no we demand — control over our messages via encryption and timed self destruction. Email does not and will not provide that.

This is Part 2 on a reflection and analysis and personal experience at Year Five of #noemail

Five Years of #noemail – Part 1

Last year about this time, I began:

On June 1, 2011, I stopped sending or reading email replacing that elderly and inefficient means of communication with a collection of emerging technologies.

Why?

Email, as we have known it, is changing because of identifiable forces:

  1. greater reliance of open collaboration
  2. mobile rather than stationary work spaces
  3. the untamable nuisance of spam replaced by whitelists and other controls
  4. quick and terse interchanges often while in motion
  5. many brief highly interactive exchanges constituting a conversation stream
  6. context appropriate messaging
  7. highly customizable communications alerts and streams across all devices as desired

As I close Year Five of #noemail, Google has yet another go at creating a social solution. Having crashed with Orkut, Buzz, Wave and now it seems Plus, we are being offered Spaces. Call me an wide-eyed optimist, but I believe that Google will eventually get this thing right. I also begin each cartoon believing that Wiley E. Coyote will catch the Roadrunner. As Spaces has only been available for a couple of weeks, I’m withholding speculation on its success for a while.

In the meantime, the astounding success of Slack almost validates #noemail alone. In less than three years, Slack — which I often call IRC in a suit — has had a giant impact on the way groups work. Indeed, Slack meets all of my 7 requirements listed a year ago exactly. The smart integration of other streams via APIs is just one thing that puts Slack above other solutions in the same space. The technology and the funding and the progress in fast adaptation are all helping Slack do very very well. In fact, many have speculated that Google’s Spaces is their answer to Slack.

Google did have huge success with GMail which has continued over the past five years of my #nomail. IBM has tried to reinvent the inbox with Verse but while there are new releases of the Verse client for both iOS and Android this month, I’ve not heard of a single non-IBMer having used that application. That’s not true about Google’s Inbox, their answer to the crappy way that email works on mobile. People use it but no one has told me that they love it. After all Inbox is still an inbox. It’s just that some intelligence is helping you sort and file the demon email.

My friend, Luis Suarez aka @elsua, pointed me to this graph (below) from the consulting company Excelacom of that happens in on minute on the internet in 2016. This graph and the one I dug up representing 2015 show a significant decline in email — but also a decline in Twitter and Instagram. Briefly:

Up: Facebook, Uber, Spotify, Amazon, App Downloads (although using a different measure)
Down: Email, Instagram, Twitter
Same: Vine, LinkedIn, Google, YouTube
2015 only: Skype, ID Theft
New for 2016: Tinder, Snapchat, Netflix, WhatsApp

2016 Internet Minute
2015 Internet Minute

This is Part 1 on a reflection and analysis and personal experience at Year Five of #noemail

Graphs from Excelacom’s blogs: 2015 by Yossi Abraham, 2016 by Kelly LeBoeuf

Open source app takes on Ebola and mental health in Liberia

Starting in September, I’ve been doing consulting with IntraHealth International‘s Informatics group. I’ve been impressed by the ways that this small group of dedicated people have developed Open Source software infrastructure for increasing the capacity of frontline health workers to do their jobs under tough circumstances. No circumstances — Palestine and Afghanistan perhaps excepted but for different reasons — are tougher than in Liberia during and in the continuing aftermath of the Ebola epidemic.

IntraHealth folks collaborated broadly and quickly to develop a new open source project mHero to create a bidirectional linkage between frontline health workers and ministries of health to help get out information about Ebola and to get information back to the ministry.

Largely because of IntraHealth’s strategy of developing increased capacity in both ministries and workers, and because the software and culture takes advantage of open source principles for remix and resuse, the ministry workers in Liberia found ways that mHero could be used in the diverse areas of mental health and in Information, Communications and Technology evaluation.

I just wrote about this work in detail for Open Source dot Com in an article Open source app takes on Ebola and mental health in Liberia. Check it out.

Open Source Global Healthwinksplay

The Web Going Dark – Preserving and Serving Aging Websites

Adrienne LaFrance writes in the Atlantic in an article called “Raiders of the Lost Web” about vanishing websites and the recovery of one particularly important investigative reporting piece, “The Crossing.” Along the way, LaFrance discusses the state of web archiving through brief interviews with Jason Scott and Brewster Kahle of Internet Archive as well as Alexander Rose of the Long Now Foundation. The problems of preserving everything are still insurmountable. The problems of just preserving and serving valuable websites, those curated say or deemed to be of ongoing importance, is possible but not yet done well.

I’m glad to see the continued attention to this problem. With the help of support from IBM research grant entitled “Keeping the Historic Web Alive and Accessible: preserving and serving,” I’m involved in using virtualization to keep older versions of older software open and accessible.

In fact, I’ve kept open and accessible a version of Tim Berners-Lee’s earliest public webpage from 1991. You can read about the context of the page in an Atlantic article from 2013.

Despite the great efforts of Internet Archive and others, archivists attempts at preserving websites have largely been a collection of web page collected periodically by such successful software as Archive.orgs Heritrix. While page collectors provide a good service especially for sites that do not allow access to the database that drive them, they fail on several fronts.

First, a complex site can never be completely captured by a screen capture program or even a video. The number of potential pages and interactions cannot be duplicated in such a manner.

Second, user interactions with a complex site cannot be duplicated by a captured set of static pages. Understanding interactions is important to the use of archival material.

Third, the context of use and interactions is lost when the user experience is changed from one of interactivity and customization to one of simply retrieving selected static pages.

Even worse are archival activities that attempt to preserve by atomizing the objects from the pages removing images, audio, texts, etc and placing them in new decontextualized object databases completely unrelated to their original context.

We propose, using ibiblio as an example, to attack this preservation problem by using machine virtualization and virtual machine management tools. One suite of tools that particularly interest us are NCSU’s Virtual Computing Lab known as VCL. VCL is in use at over 200 institutions and has a strong support structure. Open source and licensed under the Apache project licenses, VCL is mostly used to provide temporary virtual machine for training computer scientists. We and our partners at NC State see a new use for VCL as a way to manage and present older servers Running older software in a secure yet living and interactive way.

I hope that we and those others of us working on digital preservation and in virtualization can provide a framework that benefits the creators, the archivist, and publics present and future.

Look for some initial results to be posted here soon.

WeGoNow’s personal guide to #noemail

Rich Denyer-Bewick has started a very helpful blog at WEGONOW a blog about work and play and me and you a good bit of which is about his new experience with #noemail.

Although only a couple of months old and a few post posted, the blog is already chocked full of useful approaches to personal #noemail issues.

Beginning with “The sickening realisation that email was bad for me” (note spellings and Rich are British) which includes a very nice panel from The Oatmeal’s Email Monster sequence, Rich describes how he has come to look beyond email and how he has found a strong support community including the videos of Luis @elsua Suarez and Claire Burge and one of their guests in particular (me).

Rich’s most recent post, “Getting Started with #NoEmail 10 Top Tips To Slay The Email Beast,” offers excellent leads, succinctly presented for getting into the world beyond email. Admittedly these leads are so succinct that they beg for expansion and detail, but that exactly what Rich promises to do in future posts. His unpacking of his first lead, “Accept You Have A Problem,” at the end of the 10 Top Tips is a strong downpayment on that promise.

Looking forward to more posts and more expansion on his good leads in the near future.

via WeGoNow.wordpress.com

#noemail? There are many apps for that

Quartz has created a great infographic for Hewlett Packard (aka HP) showing how the multitude of new messaging apps fit into existing business categories. SnapCash and Venmo for banking, Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel and Hinge for dating (carefully daring not to speak the name of the ground breaking Grindr and its sexual subculture off-shoots), etc. Each app is also represented by icons for Secure Messaging and Voice, Dating and Networking, Enterprise Chat, etc. A lot of information artfully presented although far from fully inclusive of the messaging space.

What these apps have in common is that they address most if not all of the driving forces (technical and social) toward #noemail (greater reliance of open collaboration, mobile rather than stationary work spaces, the untamable nuisance of spam replaced by whitelists and other controls, quick and terse interchanges often while in motion, many brief highly interactive exchanges constituting a conversation stream, context appropriate messaging, and highly customizable communications alerts and streams across all devices as desired. in case you’ve forgotten)

Or as Quartz writers creatively describe the situation:

About 25 percent of all life forms on Earth are some kind of beetle. In the App Store, messenger apps are becoming just as prodigious, with new species appearing en masse despite the popularity of Facebook Messenger, iMessage, Skype, and WhatsApp. Nearly 20 successful venture-backed messaging apps hit the market in the last 12 months to acclaim. Some of theselike text concierge Magichave been properly recognized for their ability to challenge legacy communication giants and blockbuster upstarts alike. The industries and messaging apps at the heart of the disruption battleground are visualized here.

HP/QZ infographic on messaging apps

Year Four of #noemail

On June 1, 2011, I stopped sending or reading email replacing that elderly and inefficient means of communication with a collection of emerging technologies.

Why?

Email, as we have known it, is changing because of identifiable forces:

  1. greater reliance of open collaboration
  2. mobile rather than stationary work spaces
  3. the untamable nuisance of spam replaced by whitelists and other controls
  4. quick and terse interchanges often while in motion
  5. many brief highly interactive exchanges constituting a conversation stream
  6. context appropriate messaging
  7. highly customizable communications alerts and streams across all devices as desired

While there is strong indication that these changes are driven by age-related demographics, there is no reason that better communication should be the sole property of young people texting or older folks Skypeing with their grandchildren or middle schoolers collaborating with Google Docs or software developers with IRC open in several windows and posting commits to Github.

Several attempts to replace email have come onto the scene and several have gone or faded in promise. Google Plus seemed like a great solution for a while and now seems less so. Diaspora looked like a challenger to Facebook’s walled garden. ello came on quickly and almost as quickly became a footnote.

Others aimed at work groups were more sticky: Slack is by far the leader, but it shares that space with Asana, Glip, Hipchat, Yammer and Chatter or just old-fashioned IRC.

New email interfaces and enhancements from Google seen in Gmail and in Inbox as well as IBM’s Verse attempt to conquer the problem by using analytics, integration of other streams and more complex interfaces.

Of course, new apps are appearing on mobile devices (see point 2 above) almost daily and the ability to manage their alerts and to integrate their communications streams is stronger as mobile platforms evolve to support more integration of cross app interactions.

It is much easier now to say “I just don’t do email anymore” than it was four years ago. And I expect that #noemail will continue to make more sense to more people in the coming year.

Credit: NYTimes

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