The Real Paul Jones

Accept no substitutes

Good Bye Email (or is that E-mail?) – I’m divesting

Giving up email beginning June 1, 2011. You will be able to reach me on Facebook and on most socialnetworking sites as smalljones including Twitter, Gtalk, AIM, Skype, Quora, Hunch, LinkedIn, DropBox, YouTube, XtraNormal and here on this blog

My calendar is on Google Calendar as You can pick a time there and schedule your best time to meet face to face.

I’ll probably be on freenode too


  1. But how will you survive without the faculty listserv?

  2. Paul:

    Any chance you could offer advice or a primer for the rest of us? I’m hating e-mail more than ever.


  3. Interesting idea, Paul! What’s the backstory, though?

  4. Shane Wallace

    5/3/2011 at 1:32 pm

    I agree: Tell me more! What is the use of having so many other channels open, but not email?

  5. Hi Paul! I’m curious as to the reason email is getting hacked off your long list of online correspondence opportunities. What went wrong with email?

  6. What will you use when a new site/social network/internet promotion asks for an email address? How does a message sent from LinkedIn reach you – well, a message from LinkedIn to tell you a message is waiting for you.

  7. Paul

    5/3/2011 at 1:56 pm

    I’ve worked on email development since 1977 with most work ending in the early 90s. I find email the least productive of all the channels of communication that I use and the most time consuming. Why keep at it? It’s so BITNET so DARPA so old and tired and dull. All the newer approaches offer more in less time and effort. Email makes me into a file clerk. We can be better.

    Shane, I may prune other channels and/or add more new ones over time.

    Longer post next week after grading.

  8. Paul

    5/3/2011 at 2:17 pm

    Andy, I hope that the invaluable messages on the J-school listserv are archived and available on the web. If not, I will be missing some things.

    Tori, Looks like Luis Suarez @elsua is about 3+ years ahead of me. I hope to learn from him.

    Ken, You don’t have to have LinkedIn send you email; you could just check LinkedIn occasionally. About joining new services: I’ll deal with that as it arises.

  9. Paul

    5/3/2011 at 2:58 pm

    Luis Suarez did a great talk about Living in a Word Without Email at IBM here
    Thx Luis

  10. I dunno – I still like having a single point of reference. You’re ‘smalljones’ some places, ‘pjones’ others, and ???

    And I’m not happy trying to contact people on twitter, then facebook, then linkedin, and wondering how I will see their response. I use RSS to keep from having to look at lots of different websites everyday. And I use Google Voice so that I’ve got one phone number: I hate having to call multiple numbers in order to contact people. Breaking away from email seems like a recipe for decentralization and disconnection and amnesia. E.g., this post will be lost to me forever. If this were email, I’d have it.

    At least use claimid or something to tie your selves together.

    I’m not gonna do it.

    — ge

  11. Paul

    5/3/2011 at 8:50 pm

    George, You can use whatever you choose. I choose not email.

  12. I like this idea, but I do think that Ken and George have some good points.

    The issue of new services requiring e-mail to confirm account creation won’t be an easy one to get around. Then again if you use your Facebook mail you probably don’t need another address (but is that cheating?)

    I do agree with George that have a single point of reference is convenient. Personally, I simply don’t check every social network every day, so having a place to receive notifications is nice. Although again, it seems you could use Facebook, if that’s allowed. Personally, I think it would be really nice to have a single point for notifications from all these services, without having any other sort of direct message showing up there.

    When I decide to kick the habit, maybe I’ll create a special email only for notifications and get rid of my other addresses. I don’t know if I’m typical or not, but I have at least four (count ’em) e-mail accounts. I’d like to think I could actually get rid of them all and all the spam that shows up there, so I’ll be interested to hear about how the experiment goes. Please keep us updated.

  13. Paul

    5/4/2011 at 5:29 pm

    Luis Suarez says he’s narrowed it down to a couple of things that email is good at 1) sensitive 1:1 conversations (I would say that Skype is more secure and better suited for this) 2) scheduling (I would say that Gcalendar is better for this)

  14. This will be an interesting experiment, but one I’m assuming will fail. In fact I’m so vehemently opposed to this idea, I’m considering writing a counter blog post. FROM KENYA.

    You’ve certainly got your work cut out for you between now and June 1. I’m assuming these are already on your todo list:

    1) Configure your email provider (UNC) to bounce emails that are sent to you back to the sender (SMTP code 450?). If you just set up a vacation auto-responder (giving you the opportunity to check back over emails sent to you after the experiment) that would be cheating. You need to inconvenience people/services trying to contact you as much as you might be inconvenienced—in order to experience the full network effects of “going off the email grid”.

    2) Remove the “E-mail (will not be published)” box/requirement from comments on your blog (why should we be forced to have email addresses while you go without)

    3) Disable ALL email notifications coming from WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.

    4) Remove your email address from your CV:

    5) Google shows 1,060 results for pjones at, 77 for paul_jones at, and 7 for pjones at on (I wonder if they should be scrubbed—you wouldn’t want anyone accidentally emailing you during the experiment)

    6) Why stop at email, take a chainsaw to your mailbox and refuse delivery of snail mail? That might inconvenience your family though.

    I will end with one more observation. I know this is just an experiment, but at its core it appears like an email moral panic. Going “cold turkey” is the type of thing people usually associate with addictions—which doesn’t match your MO. I would humbly advise trying to use email better. In my experience, Gmail completely transformed my experience of email, made it pleasurable.

  15. Paul

    5/6/2011 at 2:54 pm

    Emailing to those addys is fine as they will return a menu of alternative, and possibly changing, methods for contacting me. All better than email. I think an autoresponder is a fine thing and not cheating at all. I’m only concerned with email not what comes to my US postbox or much of anywhere else. It’s not a case of addiction but one of realizing that to move forward something needs to go. That something is the biggest time sink that yields the lowest reward; that’s email hands down as people as different as Luis Suarez and John Freeman have realized.

    I’ve already disabled most of the mail alerts you mention.

    People accidentally emailing will be fine; they’ll get the autoresponse.

    Enjoy Kenya,

  16. While this is an interesting idea I find the assertion that abandoning email will increase productivity and save time to be questionable at best. I’m a big believer in facts and I don’t see any data supporting a claim that email is flawed, outdated, or less productive than social networking in a corporate environment. All I see in this vein is anecdotal evidence. If there is data supporting this hypothesis, then I’d love to see it.

    I just finished watching the talk by Luis Suarez that you linked to. For the most part I completely disagree with his conclusions and the facts he is basing them on. For example, he notes that he has realized a 95% decrease in email which on the surface sounds great. What he doesn’t mention is how much of an increase he’s seen in the other forms of communication he’s employing. A message is a message, it doesn’t matter whether it’s an instant message, a blog post, a tweet, etc. It’s a communication. All he’s done is shift the medium. If email went down by 95% and the other modes of communication increased by 95%, then I don’t see a difference. My question then is what does such a shift gain? If it takes one minute to write a response what difference does it matter if that response goes back by email or another medium? It still took one minute. He doesn’t present any data to support his conclusion that switching communications mediums is saving time or decreasing the amount of communications required. To assess the potential benefit we need a baseline. How many communications did he receive and respond to before he abandoned email and how much time was spent on each communications method? Armed with that we could compare the numbers to what he’s seeing now and see if there’s really any benefit being realized.

    Another point he makes is that a lot of his email was from people who were asking him to do something (e.g. provide a report). He seems to suggest that eliminating email will eliminate these requests. Won’t the person asking for the information simply shift their request to an IM or a tweet? How is shofting the method of communications going to stop them from asking him to do something?

    Mr. Suarez also touts the benefit of using IM to quickly respond to requests that he knows the answer to. IM’s are an inherently synchronous form of communication, one that I find very intrusive. I hate it when one of my coworkers assumes that because I’m online I’m free to respond to an IM and interrupts my work and train of thought. I’d much rather have an email which is inherently asynchronous and allows me to respond when I have time instead of when they want me to. Ditto for SMS.

    I also find the concept of having what amounts to multiple inboxes as a huge time waster. Whatever we chose to call them the list of posts on a blog, tweets in your Twitter stream, etc. are nothing more than another inbox. In your initial post you listed 11 services that you’ll be using in lieu of email. How can it be more efficient to have to create accounts for all of these services, check them regularly, and remember which one you need to use to communicate with a given person? David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, advocates a single inbox as being the most effective way to manage your work. I happen to agree with that. I see abandoning email in favor of all these different services to be a incredible waste of time. With email I have a single location to go to for all of my communications.

    Finally, email clients, or at least the one I use (Outlook), allow me to automate quite a few of the routine things that come via email. Perhaps that’s possible with some social networking services, but to the best of my knowledge there’s no built-in means of doing that in Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, etc. That means having to read all the traffic manually and decide how to respond. I can’t imagine how that’s more efficient than an email client that’s handling it for you.

    While I agree completely that email is misused and that a lot of email is unnecessary I don’t see that a switch to social networking is going to change the fact that the authors are the problem not the communications medium.

  17. Paul

    5/9/2011 at 6:36 pm

    We disagree, but I”m willing to see what happens without email. Despite the various very helpful ways that gMail allows me to customize, automate, and filter email, email still sucks. Frankly, the various add-ons to email at the client end are little more than lipstick on a pig. A little more lovely to some, but a pig underneath still. About the various channels: the people will vote by their usage.

  18. Paul,

    Good luck on the test. I’ll follow along to see how it goes. I urge you to develop a baseline and some metrics to measure the test. Without those any conclusions on the outcome are purely subjective.

  19. Paul

    5/9/2011 at 9:33 pm

    I donno that one person’s experiences will be at all generalizable to any population — especially if that one person is me. I agree that this is exploratory and will likely be anecdotal, but I”m open to ideas about how to instrument and/or measure there changes if any.

  20. I don’t think the results have to apply to any specific population. My point is that without measurements, even those that apply only to your situation, any conclusion you draw from the test is purely an opinion. If the goal of the test is to demonstrate that social networking is a more effective and efficient communications method, at least for you, then some form of measurement seems necessary.

    Having said that email “sucks” I assume you have a list of reasons that lead you to that conclusion. I’d start there. What do you see as the downsides of email? How can you quantify those negatives? Since I don’t know what your specific objections to email are I can’t offer any suggestions. Some obvious measurements might be the number of communications per day, time spent on communications, number of communications avoided, and engagement.

  21. Paul

    5/10/2011 at 7:55 am

    What email is not good at (followed by what is better)
    collaboration on documents – wiki or gDocs or even the dreaded Sharepoint are better
    arranging schedules – calendaring systems and/or Doodle are better
    person to person interaction (non-mobile) – AIM, Gtalk etc are better. For richer experience, Skype or iChat video
    anything mobile – IM, txt, Twitter
    General news flow – Twitter and/or Facebook News Feed
    Specific departmental or school announcements – RSS
    General questions to experts – Quora, Hunch, ask your Tweeple
    Attachments – any other solution but Dropbox or shared docs like gDocs are better
    Large files – Dropbox
    Social interactions – Diaspora or Facebook or Twitter

    eMail was a very good idea in the 70s and even in the 80s when there were no other choices and at best unreliable connectivity. Horses are lovely, but the roads now are for cars. Same with email. On the older unreliable and ununiform networks, it was a miracle. Now eMail needs to be kept off the Interstates.
    Secure interactions – Skype, IRC, etc

  22. Paul, one observation. All the services you list above, and in your “What email is not good at” comment, are owned and controlled by single companies (outside of RSS and text-messaging—neither of which could be said offer feature parity with email). I find it amusing that your chosen alternatives are primarily centralized, corporate communications solutions rather than distributed, open communications.

  23. Peter Vankevich

    5/13/2011 at 10:18 am

    Interesting discussion. When I joined Facebook a while back, I wrote on my wall:
    I’m not very good with this Facebook. I’m from the old school – email.

  24. Paul

    5/13/2011 at 10:46 am

    Yes that is interesting, but not my point. email needs integration (see latest post about IBM”s attempt to do that), but other than RSS there’s not much that provides an open approach. BTW I do list on my alternatives: Diaspora, freenode, and could have listed Jabber which I occasionally use but has not real central server. I’m open to more open suggestions and alternatives.

  25. Damn Paul. It’s like you said the sky was purple instead of Carolina blue. Such heresy for you to quit email. 😉 I support you Sensei!

  26. Paul, interesting experiment to say the least. I agree with you that email had become a chore that we don’t like. Yet it does offer some level of trusted and reliable communication for other networks to function like Twitter, Facebook, etc. They all require email to verify the accounts and most use it as a unique identifier that does not give away too much info like a social security number. Even if we leave email and move to social networking communications there is still a need to track, respond, and manage the various bits of info contained in messages that we find valuable.

    Good luck with your experiment and I look forward to your conclusions!

  27. Paul

    5/26/2011 at 9:55 am

    Brian M and Brian R,
    See later postings for more detail.

    Trusting email and even calling it reliable is delusional at best. Faking email has long been a problem. See the spam that gets through your spam filters by masquerading as you or as someone in your address book as just a beginning. Email is ubiquitous; your address is your network id — for now. Facebook and Google and OpenId are the emerging alternatives — and they are better and more trustworthy and reliable. They were created not just for convenience but to solve the problems of email in exactly the areas of spoofing, lack of reliability etc.
    Just as a data point; are you over 55?

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