The Real Paul Jones

Accept no substitutes

On the 6th Month of #noemail 12 People Sent to Me

November was my 6th month of #noemail and people have learned well how to reach me by means other than email. I think my “vacation” message offering the many alternatives to email helped a lot on this front. As you will see from my deep analysis of the 12 Gmail Priority Messages that I received, no one wrote me angry messages or felt the need to explain to me why I must use email (save one sender).

I divide email-ers into four categories:

  1. evil robots – These send the most email by volume and the least useful email. We call them “spammers” as does Gmail which generally does a great job of dumping these complete time wasters into the Spam Folder. And my favorite email to hate — email that responds to my vacation message with “WARNING This is a Send Only Account” — and one most often that escapes the Spam Filter. Nonetheless, occasionally email that mattered (to me in the past) would end up in the Spam Folder causing me to look into this garbage pail. Of my — and of most others — mail, this amounted 90% of the mail received.
  2. well-meaning robots – Listservs that you always meant to read or forgotten that you subscribed to, Offers from sites you forgot to opt out of, Political messages that were important in some contexts, Alerts telling you about what you just ordered, Alerts about shipping dates for what you just ordered, Confirmations, Reminders of things you wish you could forget, More special offers that you might possibly want some day. These are usually in the non-Priority Inbox in Gmail — again Gmail is very helpful this way — and amount to about 80% of the non-Spam/non-evil robot email.
  3. well-meaning people – They think about 20 plus of their pals want attachments about their family, about fake church signs, about their political causes, about Groupon, about the last message they sent (as in “I want to make sure everyone got this. Some folks email programs blocked it last time”). They want to set up a meeting (I refer them to Gcalendar in my “vacation” message). They have Replied All to some one else’s message inappropriately. They want to collaboratively edit a document (It’s attached. It’s in an ancient version of Word. Or if from a lawyer friend in WordPerfect. Or worse in one case in the past 6 months — a PDF!); I refer them to Gdocs for this. Do not send attachments. Period. No excuses. No Exceptions. Share your pictures on Flickr, Smugmug, Picasa, or Facebook, please.

    Arranging meetings deserves a paragraph of its own. A committee of a dozen people doesn’t need to “send your available dates to the list and be sure to ReplyAll;” we should learn to use Doodle and we’ll all be happier and more efficient. Sign up. Check off your availability. Set the date for the meeting. Done. #noemail needed.

    Overall, well meaning people’s messages account for about 98% of the email not sent by robots.

  4. Real messages from real people with real requirements – I received 12 emails during the month of November that qualified as “Real messages from real people with real requirements.” Of those half solved their problem or concern themselves within a few hours of sending the message and didn’t follow up with any of the alternative suggestions from my vacation responder. Three almost immediately contacted me by Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn or Google+. One called me on my phone.

    Two were from a friend in a higher level administrative postion who also sent me Facebook messages to tell me that he had sent me email. We are still friends — so far. (I know you are taunting me, but I resist even naming you here).

Most regular correspondents have already migrated to #noemail solutions.

Final tally. About 100 non-Spam emails/day. About 20 of those per day were from well-meaning people. And of the 3,000 non-Spam emails received in November, 0.4% were Priority and from real people with real requirements. Or about 3 per week.

Happy #noemail New Year.

Thanks to Rebecca Radish who sends, via Twitter, a link to this NPR story, “Analyze This: You Wrote How Many Emails This Year?” The sweet little app requires Gmail but promises interesting results and insights to those who dare look at their own email habits.

Felix Salmon writing for Reuters in an article just published as “How social networks beat email” reports:

My work email account, in particular, is a nightmare: itís 95% unsolicited PR pitches and 4% internal emails going out to enormous distribution lists which I have no interest in at all. Which means I have to go to a lot of effort to find the 1% of emails that I actually want to read. Thereís got to be a better way.


  1. Hi Paul,
    Some counterarguments! To summarize, I’d submit that this is more about poor email management than the medium of email itself.

    1) As you say, this is no longer really a problem. Gmail seems to block 99%+ of “true” spam.
    2) I unsubscribe or block unwanted listservs or advertising. Honestly, it takes me a fraction of a second to decide whether a well-meaning email is relevant to me, and another fraction to delete it. I don’t understand the problem here – people just need to manage their inboxes better.
    3) Well-meaning people. Now I DO understand this one, though I don’t have much of a problem with this personally. Agree about attachments, and even more re. meetings, though of course you still need to contact people in the first place to let them know that you have a Doodle poll there in the first place (Facebook? Google+? Whatever? Pick one, otherwise you’re creating more spam…)
    4) No social networking service does what email does – sending a message (long or short) to another individual – as effectively. I know its not completely private but lets face it – it basically is private.

    My arguments in favour of email would be that it is 1) asynchronous 2) no advertising or irritating spam. To be honest in my own life I have considered doing the opposite of what you’re doing – heading to “email only” – social networking just seems too much to me and reaches a level where real life is more attractive.

    I definitely agree with you regarding the curse of the cc and reply to all buttons, and regarding email’s inadequacy as a calendar and as a means to arrange meetings, etc. I definitely think that we need to return to simply picking up the phone as a means of simple, non-text based communication. Most of all, I admire you in your experiment. But – I’m guessing you’re making these postings to start a discussion, so there you go! (Btw – how did I find out about this posting? Through a rare visit to Google+ So there you go).

  2. geoff cline

    1/3/2012 at 6:38 pm

    Its been a long while since the Conference on World Affairs. Happily, even a relative luddite like me figured out a way to get a message to you (or, at least I’ve fooled myself into believing I have.) I’d like to learn more about this #noemail stuff. Also, wanted to let you know what I’m up to these days (legal representation of creative people and organizations, based in Austin TX). But the details and poetry are/were in a PDF …which unbeknownst to me has become some sort of “format non grata.” Live and learn.
    Rawk on with your bad self.

  3. Paul

    1/4/2012 at 3:10 pm

    Replied over on FB via message. You can upload PDF there. Looking forward to catching up.

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