The Real Paul Jones

Accept no substitutes

“Sounds like an article in The Onion.” #noemail

I’m ending my first week without email aka #noemail. It’s been much less painful that I would have thought. I really appreciate that so many good people have been such good sports about trying other ways to contact me. Not that all have.

At least one person reported that he took time to decide whether to send me a link on twitter instead of email. It was a very helpful link to a paper by Shelly Farnham and Elizabeth Churchill of Yahoo! about Faceted Identities and communications styles online “Faceted identity, faceted lives: social and technical issues with being yourself online”.

Another shared my away message with his wife who responded, “Sounds like an article in The Onion.” It may sound like that but the articles so far have been at where we’ve passed over 2000 views and about 30 comments including my responses and a two parter at where we’re up to 26 comments including my responses.

Let’s face it, Facebook — and Twitter and Google and whoever, some people just don’t want their communications to be owned by The Man. This passion for being unowned results in an over-estimate of email’s privacy and security. I say that is little of either in the case of email and much more of both in other services if that is seriously your concern. But this points to one of the four factors that influence communications choices — the psychological.

Occasionally, I run into a wannabe lawyer who explains that all email dealing with students, health, whatever must not leave a supposedly locked campus network. Of course it is a self-deluding fantasy to think that such a network could be created and sustained or that people would even use it as designed. But for a moment, let’s assume that you could eliminate all forwarding and copying and photographing and thumbdriving etc of email. Or that you could create a policy that an entire campus would faithfully follow to the letter. You can’t but if you could, then that would point to the second of the four factors that influence communications choice — policy.

I’ve also heard, on Facebook, that “I keep my friends and family on Facebook, my co-workers (I assume past and present) on LinkedIn, etc” or ” Somehow I end up with…” or “I’m on Diaspora, but no one else I talk with is there.” This is an expression of the third factor — the social.

Finally, there have been several people who just don’t want to add another service or to whom the technical barrier to entry is too much. “I’m happy with email; I don’t want to learn X. I tried by I never got it going.” or “X doesn’t let me do Y.” This is an expression of the fourth factor — the technical. The services don’t do what’s needed in an integrated way — Is there a decent alternative to Listserv? say — or they are inconvenient to join.

Some policy expressions are merely psychological excuses in drag. The same with technical complaints. People like to do what they are doing unless they are restless, curious and looking for change. Those restless ones are likely to be seen as potential subjects for Onion articles.


  1. I find it interesting that large institutions, say universities, that cry foul when ATT, Comcast et al find it *necessary* to use similar tactics when they are in a provider role.

    Policy makers who do not understand the technology will make dumb decisions.

    Individuals often (nearly always?) don’t like to change their habits.

    It is somewhat ironic that an email account is required for posting comments here…

  2. Paul

    6/7/2011 at 3:51 pm

    I am about nothing if not about irony ;-> I should and will be adding some login options that don’t require email soon.

    Spent the afternoon cracking the UNC Listserv to RSS problem (see next post).

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