The Real Paul Jones

Accept no substitutes

Date: 9/4/2012

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

Paul Jones with hand thoughtfully on chin
I’ll be one of the speakers in this fall’s Fidelity Investments “Leadership in Technology”
Executive Speakers Series
at the North Carolina State University Computer Science Department on Thursday October 18 at 6 pm.

Who: Paul Jones
When: Thursday, October 18. 6 pm.
Where: Room 1231, EB2 aka Engineering Building II on NCSU’s Centennial Campus. The East half of EB2 is the Department of Computer Science (the West half being Electrical and Computer Engineering). EB2 is a large building – about two blocks wide – so it is worth paying attention to where you are. Classroom 1231 is close to the right end of EB2, on the main level.
What: #noemail – Why you could/should/must use better ways of communicating than email!

Abstract: Nearly 30 years ago Paul Jones began working on unified messaging systems leading from Call-OS, USENET, WYLBUR, TSO, BITNET, DARPA, ARPA to modern (for its time) SMTP mail. That was then, and this is now. Email has become a zombie that doesn’t realize that it’s dead and falling apart, a vampire that sucks your life’s blood away slowly each night. You’ve probably noticed this yourself. Jones has put email behind him. In an attempt to atone for his part for inflicting email on UNC, he is exploring alternatives to email with a shotgun and a wooden stake (and Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) as his tools. This talk with touch on the sad beginnings of email, offer some atonement for Jones’ part in the mess, and discuss trends and alternatives needed to achieve the Logic and Destiny of #noemail.

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

In an interview with Read Write Web, Ray Tomlinson, a principal engineer at BBN Technologies and the so-called “father of email” [if you ignore the earlier work of Tom Van Vleck and Noel Morris] recasts youth’s trending decline in email use by redefining email into something so broad that that word in his mind stands for any messaging system.

Soft rock is not rock and roll despite the presence of rock in the phrase; most of what Tomlinson is willing to call email is simply not that at all.

This is not to diminish Tomlinson’s accomplishment in some of email’s creation including the use of the @, but to say that email is not all electronic messaging. Email has a definition and a strong one that can keep Tomlinson’s good, if dated, work from vanishing into an undefinable mist of meaning.

Once again, Tomlinson confesses that email started on the wrong foot. No “Mr. Watson, come here — I want to see you.” moment. No “One small step for man.” But the first message was”one of a number of “entirely forgettable” test messages.” We now call that spam. A good part of the RWW article is dedicated to the legacy of spam and Tomlinson’s solution–strong identity requirements.

What is ignored is that we have identity in the form of white lists and friends lists that are part and parcel of social communications systems. Something similar exists in email systems but only in the most jerry-rigged sort of way.

New communications must be mobile, terse, highly interactive, allow for collaboration in an integrated fashion. That’s not email.

Email is over. It limps like a zombie looking for brains to devour. Its creator won’t acknowledge that fact even as pieces and parts of email fall on the bloody floor.

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