The Real Paul Jones

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#noemail? There are many apps for that

Quartz has created a great infographic for Hewlett Packard (aka HP) showing how the multitude of new messaging apps fit into existing business categories. SnapCash and Venmo for banking, Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel and Hinge for dating (carefully daring not to speak the name of the ground breaking Grindr and its sexual subculture off-shoots), etc. Each app is also represented by icons for Secure Messaging and Voice, Dating and Networking, Enterprise Chat, etc. A lot of information artfully presented although far from fully inclusive of the messaging space.

What these apps have in common is that they address most if not all of the driving forces (technical and social) toward #noemail (greater reliance of open collaboration, mobile rather than stationary work spaces, the untamable nuisance of spam replaced by whitelists and other controls, quick and terse interchanges often while in motion, many brief highly interactive exchanges constituting a conversation stream, context appropriate messaging, and highly customizable communications alerts and streams across all devices as desired. in case you’ve forgotten)

Or as Quartz writers creatively describe the situation:

About 25 percent of all life forms on Earth are some kind of beetle. In the App Store, messenger apps are becoming just as prodigious, with new species appearing en masse despite the popularity of Facebook Messenger, iMessage, Skype, and WhatsApp. Nearly 20 successful venture-backed messaging apps hit the market in the last 12 months to acclaim. Some of these­—like “text concierge” Magic—have been properly recognized for their ability to challenge legacy communication giants and blockbuster upstarts alike. The industries and messaging apps at the heart of the disruption battleground are visualized here.

HP/QZ infographic on messaging apps

Year Four of #noemail

On June 1, 2011, I stopped sending or reading email replacing that elderly and inefficient means of communication with a collection of emerging technologies.


Email, as we have known it, is changing because of identifiable forces:

  1. greater reliance of open collaboration
  2. mobile rather than stationary work spaces
  3. the untamable nuisance of spam replaced by whitelists and other controls
  4. quick and terse interchanges often while in motion
  5. many brief highly interactive exchanges constituting a conversation stream
  6. context appropriate messaging
  7. highly customizable communications alerts and streams across all devices as desired

While there is strong indication that these changes are driven by age-related demographics, there is no reason that better communication should be the sole property of young people texting or older folks Skypeing with their grandchildren or middle schoolers collaborating with Google Docs or software developers with IRC open in several windows and posting commits to Github.

Several attempts to replace email have come onto the scene and several have gone or faded in promise. Google Plus seemed like a great solution for a while and now seems less so. Diaspora looked like a challenger to Facebook’s walled garden. ello came on quickly and almost as quickly became a footnote.

Others aimed at work groups were more sticky: Slack is by far the leader, but it shares that space with Asana, Glip, Hipchat, Yammer and Chatter or just old-fashioned IRC.

New email interfaces and enhancements from Google seen in Gmail and in Inbox as well as IBM’s Verse attempt to conquer the problem by using analytics, integration of other streams and more complex interfaces.

Of course, new apps are appearing on mobile devices (see point 2 above) almost daily and the ability to manage their alerts and to integrate their communications streams is stronger as mobile platforms evolve to support more integration of cross app interactions.

It is much easier now to say “I just don’t do email anymore” than it was four years ago. And I expect that #noemail will continue to make more sense to more people in the coming year.

Credit: NYTimes

Quitters Unite (on video and on blogs) – #noemail

Emanuele Terenzani aka @dedenzani (aka lele on several #noemail discussions), an IBMer working in a finance centre in Bratislava, tells of his #noemail journey at 2 years on and of insights that he’s gained by using newer more effective and more social means of communication at his blog, Iteration 3.0.


Claire Burge @claireburge and Luis Suarez @elsua have build up a nice series of interview and discussions on their YouTube channel now up to Episode VIII. The shows cover a range of topics and feature interviews with some very experienced #noemail folks to add color and additional insights.

An even more dynamic, and talkative, group is active at a Slack instance called #noemail managed by @elsua. Meeting a lot of good folks from all over the world and learning quite a bit from then them and their @epicstories and #hintstips (more on how to be involved in this later on)

In the meantime, I’ve embarked on a little writing project. More news on that as November approaches.

Blame the people – #noemail

Repeating what I just responded to Neil Tamplin on his blog (and tweet) article ““Email isn’t evil. How we inflict it on each other might be!”

Email doesn’t spam people. People spam people (but as with guns, absence of the weapon causes a decrease in the crime) #noemail

Neil is not the first to ask us to behave civilly, sanely and considerately when we use email. And he is not the first to believe that posting some guidelines will lead us to a better world.

I was not the first, when in the 1980s, is wrote an article for our university as Ms. Mail Manners called “An excruciatingly correct guide to email behavior.” I see echoes of my 30 year old document almost every day. In conversation. In business press articles. In blog posts. Even in a special Slack group on #noemail.

Nerdly twists along the same line are occurring, even as I write this, at Y-Combinator’s Hacker News discussion that begins:

Email is probably one of the the oldest (and most used) services of all time. Email killed the Fax and Letter Writing in general. Today, it is the de facto communication tool for businesses.
In recent years were born hundreds of services that have tried to make email less painful.
In your opinion what will be the future for email?

As you might imagine, hackers are promoting their favorite hacks to deal with email and their favorite emerging substitutes, but even technologically focused people still post things like:

Gustomaximus 11 hours ago
I think the problem is not so much email, but teaching people how to use email correctly. My company recently sent the entire office on a full day Outlook course. Going in everyone was thinking how this was such a waste of a day. Going out everyone was so greatful.

Besides Gustomaximus’ overtrust in Outlook as a solution to anything and his misspelling of “grateful,” he shows a naive trust in the stickiness of corporate training. Perhaps age and experience will correct these problems, but as the evidence shows neither aging nor experience much changes the commission of email sins.

Look at your inbox, or don’t. The ages and experience of the worse email offenders make no difference. What does make a difference is that those — often “born mobile” as opposed to merely “born digital” — who don’t even bother to send email are the more efficient, productive and frankly happier.

Email. It’s not a people problem; it’s a technology problem that expresses itself in bad human behavior.

Tweets of #noemailday Tuesday May 5, 2015 Storifyed

Collected Tweets about #noemail & #noemailday from the 5th International #noemailday Tuesday May 5, 2015 as described by @lordlancaster of @noemaildayhq in his Manifesto Selections from @dilbert_daily @phdcomics @newyorker @claireburge @elsua etc.

You d better not be emailing me

Today’s State of Work: The Productivity Drain – #noemail

Service Now (UK) pointed me to their new infographic that accompanies their longer report on “Today’s State of Work: The Productivity Drain.”

Of course my eyes scanned through the document stopping at “THE CAUSES OF WASTED TIME: Three reasons why admin work takes so much time.” Reason 2 (of the three, the center piece) stopped me.

First I saw:

Outdated and Inefficient

Then I saw exactly what Outdated and Inefficient technologies that they had identified:

email is top

After registering (no cost but a bit of contact info which could result in sales contact hopefully not by email), I browsed the report in full It’s here (PDF) and yes there is much more on the ways that email and spreadsheets waste your time and patience and how the choice of unstructured communications and clutter combine to cost your enterprise greatly. Good survey here from a survey of 915 managers in the US and UK.

#noemail : Replying behavior and overload edition

What happens to email replying behavior when people are experiencing email overload? A new study, with a very large N of greater than 2M, from a team from Yahoo! and USC Information Sciences presented at the 24th International World Wide Web Conference digs in and tells us in detail.

“Evolution of Conversations in the Age of Email Overload” [pdf] from Farshad Kooti, Luca Maria Aiello, Mihajlo Grbovic, Kristina Lerman, and Amin Mantrach found at (via Jeff Pomerantz aka @jpom):

…found that users increased their activity as they received more emails, but not enough to compensate for the higher load. This means that as users became more overloaded, they replied to a smaller fraction of incoming emails and with shorter replies. However, their responsiveness remained intact and may even be faster. Demographic factors affected information overload, too. Older users generally replied to a smaller fraction of incoming emails, but their reply time and length were not impacted by overload as much as younger users. In contrast, younger users replied faster, but with shorter replies and to a higher fraction of emails.

Among other findings in general is that younger, especially male, emailers tend to be more mobile, faster and more terse in their replies (pointing toward messaging behaviors rather than email behavoirs as noted here as among the reasons why email must and will die).

In the meantime, you can learn more about #noemail from Luis @elsua Suarez and Claire Burge @claireburge on their bi-weekly video Vodcasts Life Without Email on YouTube. Now up to Episode 6.

And you can take a planned email break on May 5, 2015 for #noemail Day.

#switchpoint ideas: Digital Development Principles

On Thursday April 22, I’ll be leading a MicroLab session on Digital Development Principles with Merrick Schaefer, the Lead of the Mobile Data team at USAID, and INTRAHealth’s own Dykki Settle as part of the SwitchPoint conference in my favorite NC community, Saxapahaw.

Do concepts like designing with the user, understanding ecosystems, and using all things open (source, standards, data, innovation) around the world excite you? They excite the international development community too! Join us for a discussion about the Digital Development Principles ( – the product of a global groundswell to capture lessons learned and guide future donor investments in information and communication technology for development (ICT4D). Together we will explore how the Principles help create new opportunities and synergies, driving us beyond simple technology solutions to true transformative change.

A photo posted by switchpoint (@switchpoint) on

The Return of #NoEMail Day – May 5, 2015

No Email Day
It’s back! And just in time for a nice mid-Spring cleansing of bad habits. The 5th #noemailday will be celebrated on 5/5/15 aka May 15, 2015. The date was selected so that both those who write dates as Month/Day/Year and Day/Month/Year can be represented. Not really. The first #noemailday was 11/11/2011, then 12/12/2012, then 3/3/2013. Last year’s #noemailday was 4/4/2014. If you miss 5/5/2015, then your next chance will be 6/6/2016.

Founded by Paul Lancaster now of SageOne in UK after his issuing of the No Email Day Manifesto (a great slideshare read which I recommend), No Email Day offers a chance for companies and individuals to take a break and discover better ways of communicating — better than email which is pretty much any other way at all.

For some deeper viewing and good insightful conversation about #noemail and alternative communications strategies, catch up with Luis @elsua Suarez and Claire Burge @claireburge on their bi-weekly video Vodcasts Life Without Email on YouTube. Now up to Episode 5.

Follow #noemail, #noemailday and @noemaildayhq for breaking No Email Day news and join the No Email Day Facebook Page

#noemail efforts at Netapp and Facebook

In How Service Automation Got Us Out of Email Jail
in Wired’s InnovationInsights blog, Thomas Clarke, Director, Quote-to-Invoice PMO & Performance Measurement at NetApp reaches out to ServiceNow and their services partner, Cloud Sherpas, to try to get a handle on what emails actually are about. Turns out email in and of itself isn’t very good for expressing complains or placing orders or much else. But is “a service automation solution based on a system of conditional logic to automatically analyze incoming emails, extracting key information based on the sender, subject and email text then using this information to populate standard request templates, which were then automatically sent to the right team member using the solution’s built-in workflow engine” really getting at the client services problem or is it just making the best of a horrible situation with a flurry of buzzwords? Like King Canute, the waves of email cannot ultimately be tamed even by “service automation.”

How Facebook Controls the Future of Messaging: “The tech giant is building a huge moat around social interactions with Messenger and WhatsApp” writes Dan Frommer in The Atlantic. It’s in the maths. Facebook-owned WhatsApp has 700 million monthly active users and Facebook’s Messenger has 600 million monthly active users. And it’s in the design. Messenger plans to be a platform play not just an app. Messenger will bring together a number of communications streams for the individual (as Slack does for the workgroup). In it’s platform capacity, Messenger will not only let you send branded GIFs (from say ESPN) but also claim a place (just announced) in the world of electronic wallets and payments. What’s up with WhatsApp then? For the moment, the company and product remain at “arm-length” from Facebook management focusing on being a simple and free/cheap alternative to SMS says Frommer. Possibly a client for Messenger’s platform.

At Medium, Steven Levy’s article, Facebook Messenger Wants to Rule Your Conversations: “Last year Facebook made us install its messaging app. Now it’s recruiting developers to make sure we use it for just about everything,” tells us how Facebook is adding complexities and services to Messenger. In my mind, Facebook has never really gotten mobile. The main Facebook app is nearly unusable on a phone largely because it tries to duplicate the workstation/laptop experience inappropriately on mobile. But Facebook does have a clue about what doesn’t work on mobile:

Facebook has always believed that the asynchronous nature of email was unsuited to the instant, always-on rhythms of the “social graph” that binds us to our connections, and has long tried to offer an escape hatch from the tyranny of the inbox. While Messenger isn’t explicitly trying to kill email, it is trying to wean you off email for many kinds of communication.

Strong words there and accurate as far as WhatsApp goes. Whether that will workout for a bloated Messenger platform or not is yet to be seen.

And in Spain, WhatsApp tops Email #noemail

No sooner than I had posted the Economist story below, than did I hear from Luis @elsua Suarez who pointed out that in Spain, mobile is bigger than ADSL AND WhatsApp is greater than SMS AND email.

Verne does the reporting and graphics in Spanish (thanks Google Translate):

Over 64.8% of Spaniards use messaging services and of those 96.4% use WhatsApp. 88.6% of WhatsApp users use the app daily.

email vs whatsapp in spain

The charts showing the drop in SMS usage and the rise of mobile are very impressive. A lot has happened in Spain in only 5 years.

[Spain] is the European country with the highest penetration of mobile smartphones, with 66% of mobile users, and this year [2014], for the first time in history, the mobile phone has become the main type Internet, overcome the ADSL and cable or fiber.

Fall of SMS to WhatsApp, WeChat, etc #noemail

Email may be entrenched, but so it seemed–until recently–was SMS. I mean it came with cell-phones themselves. But cell phones evolved into smart phones and suddenly SMS looked like black and white TV, like AM Radio, like dial phones, or heck even like landline phones. They became something of a previous error. Something people over 60 who are unashamedly proud of their own lack of technology competence take out of their pockets after a drink or two to show you exactly how lost they are in the current world.

Those people who take out the flip phones don’t do SMS. Well, not many of them. They do go home and sit at a computer to do email or to “push the Skype button to talk to their grandkids” as one explained to me.

WhatsApp vs SMS

The Economist writes this week in “Mobile services: The message is the medium: Messaging services are rapidly growing beyond online chat” about the trajectory of online messaging and specifically how SMS (see chart) is declining in the face of more robust and smartphone friendly services, among those services mentioned are WhatsApp, WeChat, Slack, Quip, HipChat, Line, Spark (Cisco), Verse (IBM), KakaoTalk, Viber, Snapchat, FireChat, Telegram, Secret, Whisper and Yik Yak.

But the focus of the story is really on Facebook Messenger and it’s rebirth or perhaps more properly it’s morphing into a platform. What a platform is is still somewhat in question. Like Cloud or Natural, it seems to be a flexible term rather than a well defined term of art. One thing a platform seems to have is support for mobile payments and integration of other services.

Right now the field is crowded but bets are on Messenger and on Slack if the Economist is to be believed.

WhatsApp handled more than seven trillion messages last year, about 1,000 per person on the planet. In Britain users spent as much time on WhatsApp as on Facebook’s social-networking app, according to Forrester, another research firm. In China subscribers to WeChat are estimated to use the app for about 1,100 minutes a month on average.

Kids These Days (reprise) – #noemail Too Dark a Blue edition

Inspired by kids at a nearby university that is just catching on (see slides from my talks there and here), PhD Comics captures the conversation about email vs #noemail perfectly.

But remember, they can’t, according to Daniel Ariely, go 48 hours without email.

Duke students would do well to remember the Wilde quote:
“We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.”

From PhDComix

#noemail Round Up

Luis Suarez and Claire Burge continue their every other Thursday vodcasts Tomorrow, Mar 26, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM (EDT-US) with Life w/o eMail – Episode IV – eMail Is Broken, What Can Be Done? #noemail

There will be a live Q&A session as well during the live vodcast, so you can share across any potential questions you may have for the co-hosts. Come and join us! It will be fun!
The hashtag for this vodcasting series as well as the ‘Life Without eMail’ movement will be #noemail

Claire tells her personal story to 3XE Digital in What Happened When I Gave Up Email.

BBC Capital’s Renuka Rayasam interviews Claire and others in The end of the inbox: Companies that banned email

“Email is a very selfish tool,” explained Burge, who now runs a Dublin-based consultancy called Get Organised. “People dump tasks into each other’s inboxes without thinking about whether they are being considerate.” The result is that “you become a slave to your inbox checking your email first thing in the morning until you go to bed.”

Farhad Manjoo of New York Times discovers and enjoys Slack, the Office Messaging App That May Finally Sink Email

Following up only a few days later, Manjoo writing with Mike Isaac notices Slack Said to Be in Talks to Raise Money at More Than $2 Billion Valuation. That’s BILLION with a B.

But the most insidious news comes from Huffington Post as Alexis Kleinman writes about Crystal App as This App Wants To Change Email Forever — By Getting Inside Your Head. Crystal helps you write empathetic posts to each person you email with based on a profile developed by you and your past history with that person.

With the personality profile, you’ll see advice on how to speak to the person, email them, work with them and sell to them. You’ll even be told what comes naturally to them and what does not. Crystal also displays something called “accuracy confidence,” based on how much information the app could find about the person


#noemail Episode 3, Invention of Internet Radio, Twitter + Acxiom

The Hangout On Air with Luis Suarez and Claire Burge is now ready to be seen on YouTube as Episode 3 of Life w/o eMail on Luis’ channel.

“If you gonna be the swimming coach, you need to get in the water”

WXYC on Jeopardy

About the same time as the HOA, MCNC released this article about our 1994 invention of internet radio. We couldn’t have done it without great highspeed internet and great engineering on the MCNC/NCREN side. A quote from 1994 by Michael Shoffner helps tie the article to Episode 3 (21 years later):

“The Internet isn’t just for email anymore. This statement is becoming increasingly true as the technology involved progresses and more resources are devoted to developing Net-based end-user applications. The Internet is ideal for wide-area transport of all sorts of data, especially when these data originate at a central source (server) and are distributed to many users (clients) on demand.”

Arkansas Online

Just a few hours before, Brian Fanney published a piece on Arkansas Online about a new alliance between Twitter and the all-knowing Acxiom Corp in which I’m quoted saying:

“This is about Acxiom understanding highly granular demographics. Data is good, but what they [Acxiom] are really smart about is getting to the granular level where they can predict behavior.”

Facebook, Twitter’s chief rival, is about “presentation of self,” Jones said. Because Facebook asks what users like, how old they are, where they live and other personal information, it’s easy to target ads to users — even across many devices.

“The hard part is — on Twitter — you have to get someone’s picture based on who they follow and what they post about,” he said. “Over time, you can derive a lot of information from that.”

I think you can see the connections here. A movement from email, a history of a development that took us beyond email and the serious implications of the potential misuse of our newer communications technologies.

Watch, read and enjoy.

What’s Wrong With Email? #noemail

What’s Wrong With Email?
Google Hangout On Air with Luis Suarez and Claire Burge and me
Thursday Mar 12, Noon EDT – Live

Later on YouTube

Vodcast: Episode 2: Life Without eMail: What’s Wrong with eMail? #noemail

Luis Suarez and Claire Burge continue their vodcasts series with Episode 2: Life Without eMail: What’s Wrong with eMail? #noemail

In which: Claire and Luis each present their Top Three Reasons Why Email Has Gone Wrong?

1) Demands “Empty Me Out!” but also “Feed Me!”–like a man-eating plant from Little Shop of Horrors
2) Selfish rather than for the team
3) Does not help people focus on work (or on much else).

1) Volume = Competence echoing Lumbergh’s video. Not really. Email volume is a false measure of productivity.
2) Email is a very bad management tool. But it’s used that way too often. Email is a very bad knowledge base. See Claire’s number 2. Inboxes are personal silos.
3) Email is no longer a productivity tool. It was the only way but now it’s overloaded and not working to solve the problems of collaboration.

Includes a teaser for the next episode (11 am EST-US March 12 Thursday) which will include a very special guest speaker and on the YouTube page some very good comments.

Office Space icon Bill Lumbergh “Email volume = competence”

Office Space icon and productivity expert Bill Lumbergh “Email volume = competence” in this ironic reworking by the #noemail product Hip Chat from Atlassian makers of Confluence enhanced wiki software for team collaboration. Bill deploys the proven work enhancing and often overseen PowerPoint is his vignette as well as other morale boosting management techniques. Enjoy.

$$$ flows to IM/Chat space for teamwork w/o email – #noemail & Glip

Margret Anne Hutaff points is to this Tech Crunch article “VCs Stop, Collaborate And Listen To Teamwork Tech” by Christine Magee. Magee crunches the numbers to show where the money goes. In this case, the money is flowing toward collaboration platforms and apps. Why?

Magee gets one very solid money quote from Santi Subotovsky of Emergence Capital

“The adoption of mobile devices is creating a huge opportunity,” says Santi Subotovsky, partner at Emergence Capital. “Eighty percent of the world’s workforce is not sitting in front of a computer, but now they have mobile devices,” Subotovsky says.

Yes that’s why #nomail is the solution. The workstation is gone. Your work is where you are and more likely than not that’s not at your office, desk or Krishna-forbid a cubical.

Slack is the big bear but there are many competitors — looking at specific audiences, price levels and varieties of integration. Included in the Magee article, besides Slack are Remind (aimed at education), Quip (coming out of wordprocessing), and Zoom (coming for video and conferencing). But, as you see in the chart above, there are many others that are solidly funded and mature.

Soon after I tweeted about the Magee article, I heard from Jeff Strinko of Glip (not to be confused with the above Quip) which offers secure chat and video conferencing as well as the usual integrated calendars and the like. Glip is aimed at mobile and at getting you and your team out of the Inbox and into productive activities — rather than just planning those activities.

Peter Pezaris, Glip founder, compared his product with Slack here on Quora recently. I haven’t test driven Glip (yet) but it looks like he makes some good comparisons and contrasts.

Good engineering underway and a good selection of #noemail options are emerging. Soon we’ll have something(s) that are: highly collaborative, mobile preferred, whitelisted, terse, quick, highly interactive, context appropriate, available to all devices, and with highly manageable and customizable communications streams

Are #noemail days the Casual Fridays on the 2010s?

Slave to Email

There have been a flurry of articles recently calling for a #noemail day at work. Not easing into a reduced email daily practice or the switch from email to better forms of communication, but just “Hey relax. Change things up a little get to know each other better. Casual Friday. #noemail Wednesday. Beach Volley Ball after work.”

Now on the face of it, this isn’t such a bad idea. I mean a few folks will seriously reconnect and realize who they are working with and why. Some of them will not jump up and get a new job once they realize that. I mean they may remember why they joined the company in the first place — in a good way.

And a few will have begun to develop some of the better communications options we’ve been discussing here on this blog for the past nearly four years. That’s progress.

But for more it’s just a novelty, a change up, a head poke up out of the rut – the cubical, the open office, the Skype conference that daily rules the lives of office workers.

Consider Stephanie Vozza‘s “Why Your Company Should Consider Banning Email” in a recent Fast Company Leadership post, an article that can’t decide how much a company should give up when they give up email.

Vozza rehearses a selection of stories covered by Fast Company in years past to go from the evils of email (stress, poor communication, etc), to taking a day off, or half a day off, to stalwarts ATOS and Angellist who have made serious moves from email. Oddly–it seems at first–her final paragraph, dedicated to quotes from Babak Nivi of Anglelist, who just in the article in a paragraph above praises HipChat, in favor of face-to-face communications. Finally you get that the article is a fine humanistic piece about reconnection.

While there is nothing wrong with desiring a human connection, a conversation, or even a location-centered company, all of that is difficult to achieve and in many cases the needs of the workers, the needs of the company and the needs of the clients trump location, trump face-to-face and reestablish the routine that Vozza seeks to undermine in favor of an enriched work life.

There is no going back to face-to-face only, location-based work places.

What #noemail will have to do is to offer strong alternatives that are highly collaborative, mobile preferred, whitelisted, terse, quick, highly interactive, context appropriate, available to all devices, and with highly manageable and customizable communications streams

Let me without irony invite you to begin getting ready for #noemaildayhq May 5, 2015 (aka 5/5/15). I mean it can’t hurt to try.

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