The Real Paul Jones

Accept no substitutes

Challenging email: Pingly, Slack, Twitter DM & Discipline – #noemail

This past two weeks brought to my attention four challengers to email overload and a promise of more #noemail alternatives. The three applications, like many emerging alternatives, attempt to include mobile friendliness, terse messaging (sometimes with stickers or visuals), highly interactive communication and context appropriateness.

Charleston SC’s Post-Courier interviews Twitpics founder, Noah Everett, as he challenges email with Pingly. Okay not so much challenges as offers a delay of sorts. Pingly is said to come “from the phrase ‘Ping me’ (send me an email later.)” And in a display of tortured syntax: “We’re building basically from the ground up a brand new email service.” If someone is on your Pingly whitelist, their messages get marked as important. Despite the hype, Pingly is really an interactive whitelist management system for your inbox. Not #noemail.

Meanwhile, TechCrunch’s MG Siegler aka @parislemon, who himself did a brief #noemail stint, looks at signals from Twitter about extending their DM feature as an email killer. Siegler promises or predicts only a maiming of email in his title, but he opines and predicts and wishes from much more. I do too. DMs are one of my favorite features of Twitter, a back channel to the public Tweet Stream (as Siegler also notes and loves). An additional shared passion we share is for the forced terseness of Twitter communications: “But wait, Twitter DMs are only 140 characters, that will never work! In the context of email, that would very much be a feature not a bug.” But remember this article isn’t about what is now available so much as a wish list for Twitter developers.

I haven’t yet tested, Slack, which The Verge hypes as an email killer in an interview with founder Stewart Butterfield. Butterfield, himself has been #noemail for over 4 years (he says), so we can expect some insight here as well as a working product. Slack was developed, not coincidentally, about 4 years ago as a chat tool for Massive Multiuser Online games (MMO) — where terseness, interactivity, whitelists, and context control are essential. So far so good. Even better, Slack integrates communications across applications. As Butterfield says “Itís all your communication in one place, instantly searchable, and available wherever you go” or in market-speak “Itís a messaging and search platform that creates a single unified archive accessible through powerful search.” Despite the promise of #noemail, Butterfield hedges his bets by offering to integrate email into Slack in the future. In doing so, he repositions Slack from an email killer or an alternative communications integration play. The sort of Swiss Army Knife with too many specialized blades to fit into your pocket.

Vergers talk about Slack mostly loving the search but also talking about teams using Slack. And rightly dissing email.

Washington Post writer, Brigid Schulte, gets to Mailbox Zero and tells you how. Like getting into Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. Well, a little more that that. Schulte proposes a set of practices that will, if followed with discipline, at least reduce your inbox size if not enhance your life. If you are anxious enough to be disciplined. What we know about people, just look at your desk clutter for a second, is that more than a few of us have that kind of self-discipline. And we look askant at those who do, seeing them as OCD or just anal. Not that Schulte’s practices are bad ones. They are very good. But they are also just simple common sense productivity practices whether in regards to email or to any other business task that can overwhelm you.

Why not just go nuclear on the Inbox at the corporate level as the German giant Daimler has done with their employees by promising to have all incoming emails received while on vacation deleted so not return to bulging inbox as reported in Financial Times (registration required)? [precis of the article here at The Atlantic without blockage].


  1. For all that, here is a recent Atlantic article and related slashdot discussion on why email is not going anywhere, which makes much the same points as I have here previously (email is decentralized, standards-based, non-proprietary, interoperable, ubiquitous, extensible, mobile-friendly, etc.):

    I’d agree it would be good to have something even better than email (a social semantic desktop?), but closed-source proprietary centralized walled garden solutions like you repeatedly profer don’t seem like a general improvement. And what do you do if these platforms close up shop? Why notfigure out how to build something better for knowledge exchange on email or other open web standards? Still, WordPress with Akismet is an excellent platform for exchanging knowledge — but it still relies usually in practice on email for push notifications.

    Ultimately, what are your “requirements” for a better platform?

  2. Paul

    8/18/2014 at 12:40 pm

    Thanks for the links. Add to them the very helpful and insightful Medium piece by Thomas Knoll Putting Email in Its Place.
    I’ll comment on all three in another post soon. Briefly, Alexis’ article is little more than a nostalgia piece proving that email like a rightly forgotten 80s band may have a special place in the hearts of those who endured it in its heyday, but it’s dead to kids today. I could summarize the piece as “You Kids with your Snapchats and Instagrams Git back to emailz and GIT OFFA MAH LAWN!”

  3. Paul

    8/18/2014 at 12:59 pm
    This slide lists what I’m looking for through any messaging service or any combination of messaging services

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