The Real Paul Jones

Accept no substitutes

Month: June 2011 (page 1 of 2)

G+ Would you use it for #noemail ?

I’ve now had G+ for about 24 hours. I can’t say that I have a unified impression quite yet. Like many new G+ers, I’ve been exploring and tweeting about my impressions as I read others tweeting and opining in every major publication and online site.

Some like Fred Stutzman and Farad Manjoo wonder what need G+ fulfills that isn’t already done pretty well but some other site (read Facebook). While I respect Fred and Farad, I know that same question was asked about Friendster (another dating site), Orkut (all the cool kids are running here — then they all ran away), MySpace (which sold for fractions of a penny on the dollars last paid just as G+ was opening up), and even Facebook.

But then I’m not as euphoric as say Tim Wu, who I also respect, who tweets “Using Google+ is like going to heaven and watching your friends slowly appear one by one.” There is fun to reconnecting once again and G+ does make discovery fun and easy. Dan Gillmor wryly observes “I imagine there are some interesting meetings going on at Facebook this week…” Dan expands on his impressions at the Guardian in “A B+ for the beta Google+” where he is a bit more nuanced but still well pleased with G+.

My instinct is to reserve judgement on G+ but to look a little at the features and interface and interactions without worrying too much if G+ will be like one of those never populated Chinese housing projects.

Jacob Kramer-Duffield offers a look at G+ under a microscope that reviews and weighs in on much and the plus and minus of G+ in a very smart way.

First big win is HangOuts. If I had just overpaid for Skype, I’d be worried. I’d start the therapy sessions now. I’d be framing my successes to explain to my investors why I shouldn’t be sent out to pasture. If I had just sold Skype (again), I’d be breaking out the bubbly. I’d be saying “Whew! Just missed that bullet.” Hangout after just a few brief uses is so far superior to Skype that they look and feel decades apart. The multi-site conferencing and YouTube integration are both great wins for G+.

Circles – Wow! This really makes setting up groups simple and fun and easy to understand. Contrast that to Facebook’s attempts at groups. As much as we all said we wanted groups, we hardly used them. Too many friends already to sort, too complicated of interface, general clunkiness. G+ bests Facebook in every way. It helps that you are building groups, Circles, as you add friends so there’s no catchup time involved.

Circles not only makes building and managing groups easy and thanks to HTML5 beautiful and highly interactive, but they/it also make viewing activity streams in different context and controlling over-sharing. Both quite nicely done and strongly aligned with the easy to read and understand G+ privacy policies.

Despite the few clumsily presented privacy and notification, G+ is so far ahead of previous Google offerings — Buzz and Wave — and Facebook that I have to praise G+ for dealing with some tough problems smartly. I do wish that the default for notifications wasn’t email for almost everything! One of my first acts was to chase down the Notifications options and turn them all OFF. (To turn OFF notifications. Got to your name in the upper right. then to Account Settings. Then select Google+ Then turn ’em OFF). Google has already fixed the one privacy issue that was raised today within a few hours. Nice work. Compare to say Microsoft or Facebook.

Mobile is very nice. I can’t for the life of me figure out why the Facebook app on the iPhone sucks so bad. As moblie is the obvious direction for communications in general and for social networking in particular. Even as I was comparing the G+ Web app to the native Facebook app, the Facebook app blew up. A regular annoyance. On the other hand, the G+ Web app looks nice and thanks to HTML5 (I’m guessing) works smoothly and simply. I can only imagine how cool the native Android app will be.

I don’t get Sparks. It looks like Google Alerts with some sharing added. Why? Is it a stand in for Favorites? Is it cool engineering that I don’t yet understand? To side with Farad and Fred, what problem does Sparks solve? If you have ideas, let me know.

Overall, G+ is a giant step in the direction of an integrated activity stream that I’ve been seeking to help me with #noemail.

Two additions –

G+ doesn’t play as well with Facebook or Twitter as I would like, but luckily there’s “Extended Share for Google Plus” a great extension that works wonderfully. +1 for that.

As I was writing this, Google also rolled out a nice new look and some improvements for Google Calendar. They’ve been busy at the Googleplex and with good results.

Extra: Mark Zuckerberg hints that the “awesome announcement” scheduled for Wednesday July 6 at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT) at Facebook’s Palo Alto headquarters will be about in Face video conferencing from Skype and Facebook. Others say it’s an iPad app.

TED’s Chris Anderson presents his Email Charter #noemail

TED organizer and all-round smart guy, Chris Anderson, has refined his proposed Email Charter to 10 important points and put the final product online here. It has a sort of Cluetrain Manifesto feel to it and I mean that in a good way.

Briefly the rules are:

1. Respect Recipients’ Time
2. Short or Slow is not Rude
3. Celebrate Clarity
4. Quash Open-Ended Questions
5. Slash Surplus cc’s
6. Tighten the Thread
7. Attack Attachments
8. Give these Gifts: EOM NNTR (end of message. no need to respond)
9. Cut Contentless Responses
10. Disconnect!

All good and all I agree with especially “We’re drowning in email. And the many hours we spend on it are generating ever more work for our friends and colleagues” and with the Problem Statement, but even better is #noemail at all!

Do visit and read the Email Charter.

Google+ vs Facebook

The Google+ Project

Like many of you today, I was intrigued by the announcement of Google Plus which was touted in the New York Times today (online but tomorrow in print) as “Google Introduces Facebook Competitor, Emphasizing Privacy”. The headline writer wasn’t exactly in tune with the reporter who doesn’t talk about privacy as much as sharing among smaller groups and a design that helps prevent over-sharing. Add to that a strong focus on mobile — one place where Facebook is very weak (Facebook just blew up again on my iPhone a few seconds before I wrote this).

True there is privacy baked into the design. A visit to the mobile Help for shows a long section on privacy including a mostly readable Google+ Privacy policy.

So yes there is a serious concern about privacy at two levels. You can manage privacy more readily — in part because of Circles and the other design features that encourage smaller groups and so prevent over-sharing. And the Google+ Policy, which describes your relationship to Google and to third parties, picks up on many of the aspects of privacy policies that Facebook got wrong over and over getting the policy mostly right.

One of the problems about writing about Google+ is that you can’t use it — yet. Google+ is getting a GMail-style rollout using the now famous Google snowball invite system. You have to know someone who is already using Google+ to get an invite, then you will get invites to issue to others.

Right now, when you go to you’ll most likely get this:

Google+ is in limited Field Trial
Right now, we’re testing with a small number of people, but it won’t be long before the Google+ project is ready for everyone. Leave us your email address and we’ll make sure you’re the first to know when we’re ready to invite more people.
Already invited? We’ve temporarily exceeded our capacity. Please try again soon.

So you might not be able to try out Google+ itself, you can use the snazzy demo that steps you through the five advertised features:

Circles – easily managed small groups done with groovy drag and drop interface

Hang-outs – small group live video interactions (almost FaceTime or better)

Photo Upload/Sharing – Instant upload to a private folder which can be sorted and shared later

Sparks – search + alerts aimed at purchasing stuff

Huddle – simple group texting environment that’s managed by Circles

One thing I noticed right away; there is #noemail integration in Google+ so far.

Fred Stutzman notes on Twitter that “Circles is that Google learned from Goffman”. A nod to Irving Goffman and his studies including Presentation of Self in Everyday Life..

Jacob Kramer-Duffield has a nice quick take on Google+ (with a reference to entries on this blog about #noemail and small talk).

#noemail noted by friends

Michael Czeiszperger, posting on Facebook, directs us all to Weird Al Yankovich’s new “Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me” (iTunes Store link) which he suggests as the theme song to #noemail. It does address the spam and friends who send spam and well meaning people who share crap through email, but #noemail is bigger than that. Here’s one video of the song:

“Weird Al” Yankovic – Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me from Fube on Vimeo.

Mark Turner stirs up some tech.wasps with a post on his blog Mark Turner dot Net about “Paul Jones’s #noemail experience”. The comments are not quite a retread of those on Open although at least one of the commenters is the same.

Josh Lockhart makes changes in the way his business, RapidWeaver, deals with customers by changing from email help to a much more effective trouble ticket tracking system inspired, he says by #noemail. Read about that here on his blog.

Thanks, guys. I’ve taken today off for some dental surgery and I’m delighted that you provided some great #noemail content and links and love for today’s post.

Kids today do #noemail & a little Moral Panic ensues

Generation FBIn case you needed another tale or set of tales to illuminate the data from various Pew studies on youth usage of email verses their use of other alternatives, Katrin Bennhold writes of her experience with a teen at Davos and various teens from her old high school, the Ratsgymnasium in Osnabrück, Germany,in “Generation FB” published both in the New York Times and in the International Herald Tribune on June 23.

Bennhold finds that even cool teachers are out of touch, kids are facile in when they cheat, teen girls can be mean girls, kids work hard on their presentations of self, teachers complain that students don’t listen and can’t sit still, and kids complain that teachers are boring and don’t make their subject relevant. In other words (in Bennhold’s words):

At my old school I was struck by how much teenagers have changed. But I was also struck by how little the school had changed, and I don’t think it’s an exception. Teachers are right to fret about attention deficits and lazy thinking. But no fundamental rethink seems to have occurred about how teaching and learning should take place in the age of social networking.

“The problem is with adults,” says Leo.“If they say we’re becoming more stupid, it’s perhaps because we’re in a school system they invented.

In the meantime, Emily Bazelon writing in the New York Times Magazine warns us not of the Nanny State but the “Ninny State.” The Ninny State, says Bazelon is seized by “juvenoia” a specific kind of Moral Panic caused by an “exaggerated fear about the influence of social change on children.” (quoted texts from David Finkelhor who has changed his position from his 1988 stance). Bazelon likens the various instances of panics about sexting, abduction, and violent video games to the comic book panic of the late 1940s and early 50s.

Okay Bazelon’s article isn’t so much about email or #noemail as it is about our reactions to our technologies and our kids. It’s a good companion piece to Bennhold’s article describing the over-reactions to change that the teachers at the Ratsgymnasium are expressing.

[Is it just me or does the name Ratsgymnasium immediately bring hamster wheels to mind?]

Facebookers more social than vain #noemail

While the first stage of Facebook use may be mostly about managing personal identity and presentation of self, there seems to be a more mature stage during which self matters much less than social. The latest Pew Internet report reveals that Facebookers are slack on updating their own status, but pretty busy Liking and commenting on others’ posts, statuses and photographs.

Answering the question, What do Facebook User Do? Keith Hampton, Lauren Sessions Goulet, Lee Rainie, and Kristen Purcell show that current Facebookers are social groomers more that peacocks. Harkening back to Brett Bumgarner’s 2007 study of emerging adults and their uses of Facebook, You’ve Been Poked (First Monday), we’re reminded that social networking sites are used for social engagement and in specific in maintaining ties rather than hooking up or profiling and preening — not that those other activities don’t go on, just those activities are minor compared to social grooming (see box below)

On an average day:

15% of Facebook users update their own status.
22% comment on another’s post or status.
20% comment on another user’s photos.
26% “Like” another user’s content.
10% send another user a private message

Of course many of us use Facebook’s News Feed as our activity stream routing Twitter, Quora, and other social activities into the Facebook News Feed stream rather than update our statuses. Once Twitter entries did become the status, but no longer.

No surprise, under 22’s update their statuses more often than any other age demographic; over 50s the least.

Frequency of Facebook Status Updates by Age

How developers get social with #noemail

Developers, sysadmins, coders and other members of my Geek tribe, especially open source coding geeks, get their social interactions in the process of writing code and sharing in that environment where they are much less private than in their personal lives. “Here’s my code. Judge me on that. I’ll keep my birthdate to myself.” Nothing wrong with that.

We’re all, or have been in my case, on some IRC channel, in some chatroom, using github or sourceforge or launchpad as our places for social connections and fulfillment. But more often than not, we don’t recognize that those places are our own kind of Facebook, Twitter or other services that many Geeks avoid, disparage, or completely ignore.

It seems so obvious when I say this, but you wouldn’t believe how many conversations start: “I hate email too. I only use it to communicate with [my clients, my boss, my salesforce]. But I don’t need that kind of idle talk that they have on [Facebook, Twitter, Quora, Hunch, LinkedIn, etc]. Who has time to be social?”

Then a conversation will drift to say, where to go for lunch. I get: “Jim says this new place is great! Let’s try it.” “Isn’t Jim in San Jose?” “Yeah, but when he was here last he liked this one. We were just talking about that this morning while we worked on Project X.”

My point here is that small talk, important small talk, is going on in a lot of different environments. It’s as common as breathing. So common that like breathing, we don’t pay serious attention to it until there’s some serious problem. But that common talk enriches our lives and deepens our engagement with our co-workers and the world.

Consequential Strangers

Consequential Strangers

Melinda Blau and Karen Fingerman devote an entire rich book on our casual almost invisible relationships — with our bus driver, barrista, the wait at our favorite restaurant, etc. Her Consequential Strangers could easily be extended to the shifting teams of problem solvers and co-workers that we geeks interact with on a daily and nightly basis.

We, on IRC, are as social as our mothers are as they play Farmville on Facebook. We’re playing a slightly different game — and in general, we’re better paid for it. We’re social but in a more hidden way. So hidden we often don’t see that ourselves.

Just to end on a #noemail note. Have you ever send email to a developer, sysadmin, coder? Did they respond? Usually we don’t. We let it sit there aging like fine wine to be appreciated later. Maybe your problem will fix itself. Maybe you’ll ask someone nearby. Maybe you’ll take some initiative and fix it yourself. You didn’t want to talk to the Sysadmin from Hell (BOFH) anyway. We’ve always practiced #noemail but in a passive aggressive way — accent on aggressive.

[group hug]

My #noemail exception

Three weeks into #noemail and overall I’m on point and still alive and still in touch with most folks and organizations that want to be in touch with me for good reasons. I see that I still get about 120 emails per day that aren’t flagged as spam by Gmail. Of those, about 1/10th are flagged as Priority by Gmail — and for the most part Gmail is correct if overly so. None of the non-Priority really required my attention at all. Most were listservs that I had forgotten about, notifications that I haven’t yet turned off, random group emails, “special” offers and invitations, and notification that one of my neighbor’s email accounts had been hacked claiming that her purse was stolen in London (I got the phishing mail as well).

I have no problem getting my “important” School emails via RSS (see articles below) which I’ve been delighted to rediscover as part of the #noemail exercise. RSS is a much better way to deal with the general interest announcements that make our faculty into a community — and I’m not a sorting machine for email.

So far so good. Much of my Priority mail is bounced versions of my Away message; I need to train Gmail on that I guess.

Serbian Family Across from the Petrovaradin fortress

Serbian Family Across from the Petrovaradin fortress

But the complication is that our son, who was scheduled to enter college at Princeton in the fall, has decided instead to go to southeastern Europe and live with the Serbs and Roma. I would be in shock except that this means that has was accepted into the Princeton Bridge Year Program. He’ll be one of five incoming first years who will put off their initial year of school to do a year of service in Serbia.

I’m delighted of course and proud and all the other emotions that you might expect me to be feeling. But Princeton isn’t all that hep on #noemail or even the milder #pleasedontsendattachments. I could pass all this on to my wife, as Wendell Berry does for his typing etc or as Donald Knuth does to his secretary, but that’s not fair to her and I want to be involved as far as I’m allowed — Princeton emails are full of warnings that your child needs to be responsible and that you shouldn’t be flying over to check him/her out etc. All helicopter parents are grounded.

So far the next several weeks, I’ll be reading email from Princeton. Nowhere else. That’s it.

Before it all went wrong – Did Errol Morris’ brother invent email? #noemail

Film maker Errol Morris discovers that his brother Noel may have been, along with Tom Van Vleck, one of the first implementers of a mail command in 1965.

Among the many nice touches associated with the article is an interactive feature that allows you to send mail as if you were using the MIT CTSS system from a Selectric Typewriter terminal and even do a little programming.

Morris promises that this article will be the first of a five part series. I’m looking forward to see what more he and Tom Van Vleck have to say.

The proposal for the mail command (see below) is particularly interesting in that it states a couple of uses for email. First, the system could automatically “notify a user that some of his files had been backed-up.” And second, that email could be used “for users to send authors any criticisms.” No other uses are mentioned.

One feature that has just reappeared as Google Priority Mail is URGENT MAIL. Mail from the system to “the user will always be placed in a file called URGENT MAIL.” The MAIL ME command which presents the user with the contents of her inbox “will always print the URGENT MAIL before [the more pedestrian mail file] MAIL BOX.”

There at the very beginning, email was already a box clogger, already a place where priorities needed to be established automagically for the user, and already with some guiding suggestions about use that would quickly be ignored.

mail command help

Talking bout my social networking site resisting generation – #noemail

American LinkedIn (786) and Twitter (838) members have significantly larger networks than even Facebook (648) users, according to the latest Pew Internet study from Keith Hampton, Lauren Sessions Goulet, Lee Rainie, Kristen Purcell.

One possible explanation for the very large number of connections held by Twitter users — the demographics tend toward much more female and more educated than other Social Networking Sites. Education is by far the biggest influence on network size; “those with a 4-year university degree average 12% more close ties than those with only a high school diploma.” While female tend to have slightly smaller networks, their connections are closer especially in the number of core confidants, those with whom you would share sensitive information and call on for close support.

Speaking of core confidants, one interesting chart from the study (included below) shows that overall 40% of Americans are connected on some SNS with ALL of their core confidants.

In 2008, it was primarily SNS users under the age of 23 who friended their closest social ties. In 2010, with the exception of those who are 50-65, 40% or more of social networking site users in all other age groups – including those over the age of 65 –have friended all of their core discussion confidants.

Interestingly, the age demographic for lowest SNS core confidant connects is exactly the age, 50 – 65, from which I hear the strongest objection to #noemail.

There is something particular and peculiar about that age group — not only because I’m in there. This seems to me to be a group that has settled on a key technology, email, and is pretty happy with what it does. While I have a personal dissatisfaction with email, I can see my age cohort’s point. Many of us went through some rapid changes in communications technologies and successfully integrated email into our professional and social lives. Social networking software has come toward the end of our careers. It started with our children and younger colleagues and worked it’s way up to our awareness. We generally have our connections pretty well set. We aren’t just out of high school nor are we reconnecting (yet) at the same pace of our mostly retired and reflective elders.

Or are we the old foggies that we always feared we would become? Still some of us resist resisting.

% of Core Confidants who are Friends

Is email more secure than #noemail?

You only think you have privacy - We have ways to see you

You only think you have privacy - We have ways to see you

One thing that I hear over and over in comments and in person is: “Man, you’re handing all your information over to {Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc}! Not me! I have email and it’s secure and mine only.” Obviously, I’m on different medication for the folks who say this. They completely ignore just how insecure and how available the information in email and the information behind that behavior is.

Back in the late 1980s, writing as Emily Postmail, I said: “Imagine leaving a postcard with your phone number and a time stamp on it at the coffee shop. That’s about how secure your email is. Be aware that anyone and everyone can read it.” And now I would add that your behavior in sending email can be traced and analyzed by someone smarter than you.

In case you secure minded emailers missed the reports of AT&T’s cooperation with NSA in domestic surveillance back in 2006, let me point you to a very good Wired article from that period “AT&T Whistle-Blower’s Evidence”.

You’ve already been watched. And The Atlantic reports that you are now being even more closely watched today in “Prepare to Have Your Email Read by the NSA”.

At least, Facebook, Twitter, etc give you some tangible improvement in services as a result of their surveillance of your behaviors. AT&T + NSA not so much.

True, you can encrypt your email messages — but who really does this? In the meantime, projects like Securebook give you a way to communicate privately, if not secretly, on Facebook. Offered in lite and for pay (99 cents) at the Android Store, Securebook promises Social Steganography which I hope is something better than the X-Ray Specs or Amazing Sea Monkeys that were sold in the back of X-men comics of my youth.

Securebook says:

Communicate with your Facebook friends securely through encrypted messages.

Securebook allows you to send hidden messages in Facebook posts, making it the first official “Social Steganography” application. By encrypting your message (cryptography) and hiding it within an seemingly normal Facebook post (steganography) you are able to add extra information to your posts that you may not wish to divulge to the world.

Use Securebook to communicate with your friends on Facebook without your parents and other relatives on Facebook knowing even if they have your password!

Use Securebook as both a viral marketing tool and a way to safely send company proprietary information through social media.

Tiger and Anthony Weiner should have used Securebook! Make sure you do!

Riding the Ripple to #noemail

RIP email

RIP email

Jon Weedon writes in an article titled “RIP email. Is the writing on the Wall?” on his Ridding the Ripple blog:

Today, I’m afraid email has lost its sparkle. It has become nothing more than a tedious, ponderous and bloated utility. My use is pretty much confined to business, where it remains ubiquitous and, for the foreseeable future, will remain so until someone comes up with a better dashboard for managing ones private business communications, tasks and appointments

A lively discussion follows in the comments. Where among other things, the generational tendencies to use or not use email are underscored.

Fun read from a different angle than that of Luis Suarez and myself — although we both join in in the comments section.


Rockmelt + Facebook = Toward a social browser & #noemail





The very cool, but very busy, browser Rockmelt is getting closer to Facebook with the aim of integrating Facebook’s Unified Messaging System.

Although Facebook messaging was announced last year with the caveat “This is not an email killer.“, just one glance at the rest of the discussion and the charts tell you that email will be drastically different if not dead were the Unified Messaging to be successfully and broadly adopted. But to achieve broad adoption, Facebook needed more than, well, Facebook. Rockmelt is a very good start toward a better answer–not only to the limitations imposed on Facebook by browsers at present, but to the general problem of social activity stream integration.

Gmail has already shown that the browser can compete and even improve on the experience of old school mail environments like Outlook/Exchange. Rockmelt aims to show that the social experience — twitter, RSS, Facebook, etc — can thrive and improve within the browser.

Just as Facebook redefined “friend,” I expect that Facebook Unified Messaging and its competitors will be redefining “email.” You might be using the same word, but it won’t mean the same thing and you won’t interact in the same ways as before. email in name only is #noemail and that’s a good thing too.

Bottom Line: #Noemail Meets #LessFacebook

Ed Cone

Ed Cone

Ed Cone at Ziff Davis’ Bottomline blog gives #noemail some attention as he writes “#noemail Meets #LessFacebook”.

Ed discusses how he manages his time and activities and privacy — especially as regards to Facebook — then confesses:

Email I need to keep for a while, although practically the only reason my own kids still use it is to trade messages with their parents, grandmother, and other aging authority figures. UPDATE: I’m not crazy about some of the alternatives, either. Paul tweets that we might talk via blog posts, Skype, or IM — but blogs are public, Skype is a hassle, and IM is annoying.

Paul and I are feeling different parts of the elephant. We’re not going Luddite, or moving to Walden pond in search of some more authentic experience, we’re trying to figure out the best way to communicate and to stay productive as technology continues to change. If your company isn’t having some version of this conversation, it should be.

Ed nails it in the final paragraph. #noemail, or in Ed’s case #LessFacebook, isn’t about leaving emerging technologies, but about exploring emerging technologies.

And Ed, I didn’t say you had to use Skype; only that it is one option that some people like. ;->

I reply to some confused commenters about technology and social differences between email and others, supposed email privacy, and becoming a file clerk for email ephemera.

What’s worse that Email for productivity? Not #noemail nor #lessfacebook

Ed Huff comments on Facebook that–as my image caption to the graph posted in the article below also points out about the report–Phone calls are more distracting than email or social media. In fact, phones (28%) plus emails (23%) account for most of the workplace distractions with “toggling between activities” is tied with “talking with co-workers” at 10% each.

But spins the data this way: “The majority (57%) of work interruptions now involve either using collaboration and social tools like email, social networks, text messaging and IM, or switching windows among disparate standalone tools and applications”

Yet while most companies (68%) and an even higher percent of individuals (73%) have each added techniques to help maintain focus and minimize distractions, there is little evidence that the same policies attack telephone distractions — the worst.

Reminds me that I’ve always found these final lines of Philip Larkin’s poem Aubade especially chilling:

Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

The Office Phone

What’s the biggest time sink Email or other social media?

What the data say - phone and email are tops

What the data say - phone and email are tops

No question about the answer. Take a look, a close look, at these findings from an commissioned survey run by uStamp (n=500). Despite the co-mingling of the results at’s own site’s cover page for the report, the survey shows there is a giant difference in the amount to time and effort wasted on email than on all other social practices on-line. also commits the sin of mislabeling online behaviors as addictive: “The increasingly common addiction to web-based activity – which psychologists call ‘online compulsive disorder’ – is pervasive in the workplace.”

Still the survey provides interesting data that tell a tale of differences in distractions and their management. Let’s sample a few from’s press release to Yahoo! Finance and elsewhere:

Users reported getting sidetracked in email processing (23%), switching windows to complete tasks (10%), personal online activities such as Facebook (9%), instant messaging (6%), text messaging (5%) and Web search (3%).

Two out of three users will interrupt a group meeting to communicate with someone else digitally, either by answering email (48%), answering a mobile phone (35%), chatting via IM (28%), updating their status on a social network (12%) or tweeting (9%).

The user’s email inbox is the #1 location searched, with 76% of respondents reporting email as the first place they look. Other locations include the desktop (69%), file server (52%), shared workspace (34%), portable storage device (18%) and/or cloud storage (9%).

The average user emails two or more documents per day to an average of five people for review, increasing email-based document volume by up to 50 documents per week. The fact that these attachments are stored on multiple local computers complicates the challenge of finding the latest document versions as well as merging feedback from multiple reviewers.

Individual users are more aggressive than even their employers in taking control of their own time and managing distractions:

68% of respondents reported that their employers have implemented policies or technologies to minimize distractions, while 73% of end users have adopted self-imposed techniques to help maintain focus.

It’s not too hard to see where the problems are. Email and worse the misuse of email for document sharing are by far the biggest waste of time and effort.

I am aware that does have a commercial interest in these results. They say of their company: “The product family brings enterprise collaboration to every business user by transforming the email client into a collaboration and social workspace, called ‘social email’.”

Fast Company features a good summary of the results — but keep in mind that the author, David Lavenda, is an executive with David clearly discloses his relationship to in the course of the article. +1

Rules and Charters for Email and #noemail

Seth Godin's head

Seth Godin's head

Seth Godin reposts his well thought out Email Checklist inviting folks with no clue to get one or two or thirtysix from the list.

36! Yes 36 items on the list! “Before you hit send on that next email, perhaps you should run down this list, just to be sure” Seth, you really don’t expect the folks who commit the minor and major crimes that you describe in the checklist to read this list every time they send a message do you? Before this I thought of Seth as someone who was especially wise and brief and amusing. Down to the last one on this post. Seriously, Seth is always worth a read, but I see unintentional irony in this post.

Chris Anderson of TED

Chris Anderson of TED

Chris Anderson of TED fame (not to be confused with Chris Anderson of Wired and The Long Tail) proposes an Email Charter with an initial 16 points on his UnTweetable: When 140 Characters Is Not Enough blog. Chris has even reserved a URL and put up a holding page at Chris’ final point is “Switch off the computer!”

That’s a nice idea, but better just to go to #noemail If you do that, there are few other rules that you need.

Living in a World Without Google – #noemail scheduling w/Gcal

Google Doodle for Les Paul's 96th Birthday

Google Doodle for Les Paul's 96th Birthday

Living in a World Without Google (instead of #noemail or #lwwe ): Joshua Romero swears off all things Googlish, thereby missing out on this past Thursday’s great Les Paul tribute doodle, as described at length in IEEE Spectrum called “How I Learned to Live Google-free. A quest to quit the most pervasive company on the Web” (Thanks to @shivaviad Googlization of Everything author).

IEEE Spectrum has a great special issue, “The Social Web,” (June 2011). Authors including Robin (150 friends) Dunbar, Siva (Googlization) Vaidhyanathan, Jeff Jarvis, Bob Garfield, and others look at the current state of the Social Web through the lens of Facebook vs Google for the most part.

If you like me have stuck with Google and love Google Calendar — especially as an intelligent scheduling service –, you’ll be delighted to learn that the Calendar now supports Appointment Slots, that is times when you will agree to meet with people, instead of just any open times. Now you don’t have to mark large amounts of time as “Busy” just to get some serious reading, writing, research or sleep done. You can have actual office hours!

One more nail in the email coffin. Scheduling with me; don’t send email.

Misc #noemail : RSS for Groups, USENET, Why email was once used

In a comment below, Tanner asks about RSS in Google Groups and Yahoo! Groups. Both support RSS. For Yahoo! Groups, there is good support for RSS. Help here.. Google Groups seems to handle RSS well as well. Help for Google Groups and RSS here. Mailman/pipermail = Ugh! After many years of code sitting out there and all other modern services providing RSS.

Jim Ellis one of the fathers of USENET circa 1979

Jim Ellis one of the fathers of USENET circa 1979

Nassib Nassar and John Reuning reminded me of how USENET News was once the cesspit that email now is. In the past year, the two universities where USENET was first implemented, UNC and Duke, both turned off that service after 30 years of useful networking. Why? Basically the same reasons that I’ve started #noemail :

Duke didn’t decide to terminate its Usenet server based on piracy. Instead, the relic will be laid to rest thanks to low usage and rising costs. Applications such as Twitter, blogs, RSS feeds, Facebook and more have made communication a bit more user-friendly since the days of Usenet, making it obsolete.

Colleague Rob Capra reminds me what email displaced and why as seen back in 1988 in a paper by Mary Sumner titled “The impact of electronic mail on managerial and organizational communications”. The results showed that electronic mail was used extensively to displace phone calls and memos particularly for “organizing” activities, such as scheduling events, asking questions, and providing feedback.

I note that email is now one of the worst tools for each of these activities. Scheduling is better done by shared calendars or services like Tuggle and Doodle. Questions better answered directly in IM or chat, more widely asked by Hunch and Quora, or generally discovered by search engines. Feedback on documents and presentation slides by Google documents or other collaborative environments.

Robbie Hedge writes about spam and who handles it how. By “who” he means which email service provider like AOL, Hotmail, Gmail etc. Nice quick charts and some explanations and some good questions raised. But many of those questions are answered nicely and wittily by The Oatmeal in “What your email address says about your computer skills.”

What does “Please don’t email me, but use most anything else.” say?

Uses of Honeysuckle nectar

Best of The Triangle - 2011

Best of The Triangle - 2011

On page 59 of the Independent Weekly‘s Best of the Triangle 2011 (sharing a page with an IP3 advert “Best Place to Watch International Soccer for 6 years in a row”) is my little piece about my favorite discovery and reuse of Bill Smith’s Honeysuckle Sorbet. It’s not online yet but is out in print so here’s the text I sent in unedited:

Honeysuckle Sorbet

What invasive species and its transformation into food would give rise to my most transient Triangle experience?

No, it’s not kudzu or bamboo grass or starlings that I’m talking about but that lovely scented treat from Southern childhood – honeysuckle.

How many of us spent the first hot days of May and early June risking ticks and chiggers as we plucked honeysuckle flowers? We pinched each flower’s base and drew the anther through the blossom’s cone to reveal a sweet drop of nectar. Like bees or humming birds, we would suckle on the honey. Then–repeat.

I could and did spend hours at a mass of vine learning in the process which of the flower colors indicated the sweetest drops. (Answer: not the whitest nor the most yellow, but white going to yellow a sort of middle aged bloom is the most tasty and most reliable).

A few years back, I heard that Bill Smith at Crook’s Corner had invented a new dessert treat that captured this experience and improved on it. I rushed down to Crook’s and I wasn’t disappointed – I was taken to a special section of foodie heaven, a place where the most formative tastes of my childhood were re-presented and reformed and reimagined.

Bill had kept the distinctive honeysuckle flavor, made it both sweeter and cooler, by borrowing a cool extraction process some Persian recipes for flower nectar ices. Bill’s invention took me to the cool late May evenings spent along the vine covered hedges picking flowers but without the chiggers or ticks or – thanks Crook’s – the mosquitoes.

Since that first night at Crook’s, I’ve started making my own batches of sorbet. I returned to being food for the insect pests. I’ve been back out in the summer heat – especially this past weekend. But I can stockpile the honeysuckle flavor for a while and make some new uses of the sorbet

Since Bill was good enough to share his recipe in “Seasoned in the South,” I’ll share one innovation here.

Instead of putting the final liquid into an ice cream maker, I pour it into ice trays. Once the ice has solidly formed, serve about four cubes per chilled glass. Add two shots of good bourbon. Garnish with mint. Then as with Mint Juleps, sip slowly while holding the glass from the bottom allowing the heat of your palm to slightly warm the mixture.

Don’t hurry. In time, you will be transported and transformed.

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