The Real Paul Jones

Accept no substitutes

#noemail & Anonymity and Tor

This past two days, I’ve been a bit split–talking about keeping yourself and your sources secret on one day then on how you should share knowledge (without email) the next night.

On Friday, I spoke about Tor and how it can be used (correctly) by journalists at the Reese News Lab.

And on Saturday, I gave the Robert Ballard Lecture for the Carolinas Chapter of the American Association for Information Science and Technology on #noemail. The #noemail talk is a completely updated version focusing on why email will be replaced (largely) by social and sharing, how this is already happening and what factors are driving that change.

1 Comment

  1. Paul, I mentioned your #noemail blog here in this post related the current struggles MetaFilter and other online communities are going through with their dependency on Google for Adsense revenue:
    http://search.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=5196813&cid=47083579

    I looked your slides for the Robert Ballard Lecture. I especially liked your point on “Integrated manageable communications streams” on slide 20, as I feel that gets at the heart of the matter. I agree the web browser is a great platform for all sorts of stuff and that HTML5/JavaScript/CSS3 is finally reaching the point where it is good enough for just about everything (even running stuff compiling to native but sandboxed code). It’s also getting to be that if something does not have a URL it does not exist — even my own authored content like when I refer to it by hyperlink as above. Emails by default do not have URL in a standard way, and so email fails that test (even if you can have email archives online via mailman and such).

    However, I am still left feeling from your latest presentation (admittedly, just the slides) the same way when I commented before on #noemail on your blog years ago. You continue to ignore or de-emphasize that email (and for that matter usenet) is a *decentralized* technology with sent and received content retained and searchable under local control (even if it passes through public networks at some point). I agree email has a lot of problems. Some, like people only reading the first six lines, may have more to do with our society at this point than anything else; others like spam are more problematical — and your point on machines do the sending and people do the sorting is spot on as maybe the biggest part of the problem. But I still feel you continue to ignore that the solutions replacing email in practice involve content that is stored remotely and searching that is done through third parties. Both of those aspects have political power and privacy implications in a democracy. I am surprised you seem to gloss over those implications out of your justified frustration with email. So, while you are right to outline the frying pan of email, in practice you are asking people to leap into the fire of centralized big business (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.) as the most likely alternatives people will actually choose.

    It’s true that people can set up local servers for wikis or chats and such on their own hardware. That is an aspiration of the FreedomBox project. But in practice these alternatives do not have the universality of email, or its ease of use, or even its reliability in keeping distributed local copies. They generally don’t have the flexibility of supporting people picking their preferred client software to talk to others even if via a shared server. We need better free standards and implementations of new ideas (perhaps a social semantic desktop where groups might collectively do the sorting, like I’ve mentioned on your blog years ago). Here is my most recent limited FOSS browser-based experiments in that direction using local browser storage and a JSON-based approach for exporting and importing data between browsers:
    https://github.com/pdfernhout/Pointrel20140331

    P.S. Your blog really needs a preview button… ­čÖé Which I think I also mentioned before as an example of these sorts of issues, where I’m forced to work with your blog’s editor and posting system in order to communicate with you (multiply that by every blogging system in the world with its own unique systems for posting content). I understand why I might need to use standards you define as acceptable to talk to you — but why would I have to use *software* you provide too? Email does not force me to use software you pick to talk to you (or did not, when you still used email).

    P.P.S. Just for fun, I have put a version of this message into that system to generate the following JSON (with some hand editing to pull it out of a full export). In theory, client software I chose running in my web browser could have sent you something like this (only better) to put it into a communication stream associated with this post.
    {
    “@log::2014-05-24T20:58:12.313Z::pdfernhout@kurtz-fernhout.com::2014-05-24 Note to Paul Jones on #noemail”: “\nPaul, I mentioned your #noemail blog here in this post related the current struggles MetaFilter and other online communities are going through with their dependency on Google for Adsense revenue:\nhttp://search.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=5196813&cid=47083579\n\nI looked your slides for the Robert Ballard Lecture. I especially liked your point on \”Integrated manageable communications streams\” on slide 20, as I feel that gets at the heart of the matter. I agree the web browser is a great platform for all sorts of stuff and that HTML5/JavaScript/CSS3 is finally reaching the point where it is good enough for just about everything (even running stuff compiling to native but sandboxed code). It’s also getting to be that if something does not have a URL it does not exist — even my own authored content like when I refer to it by hyperlink as above. Emails by default do not have URL in a standard way, and so email fails that test (even if you can have email archives online via mailman and such).\n\nHowever, I am still left feeling from your latest presentation (admittedly, just the slides) the same way when I commented before on #noemail on your blog years ago. You continue to ignore or de-emphasize that email (and for that matter usenet) is a *decentralized* technology with sent and received content retained and searchable under local control (even if it passes through public networks at some point). I agree email has a lot of problems. Some, like people only reading the first six lines, may have more to do with our society at this point than anything else; others like spam are more problematical — and your point on machines do the sending and people do the sorting is spot on as maybe the biggest part of the problem. But I still feel you continue to ignore that the solutions replacing email in practice involve content that is stored remotely and searching that is done through third parties. Both of those aspects have political power and privacy implications in a democracy. I am surprised you seem to gloss over those implications out of your justified frustration with email. So, while you are right to outline the frying pan of email, in practice you are asking people to leap into the fire of centralized big business (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.) as the most likely alternatives people will actually choose.\n\nIt’s true that people can set up local servers for wikis or chats and such on their own hardware. That is an aspiration of the FreedomBox project. But in practice these alternatives do not have the universality of email, or its ease of use, or even its reliability in keeping distributed local copies. They generally don’t have the flexibility of supporting people picking their preferred client software to talk to others even if via a shared server. We need better free standards and implementations of new ideas (perhaps a social semantic desktop where groups might collectively do the sorting, like I’ve mentioned on your blog years ago). Here is my most recent limited FOSS browser-based experiments in that direction using local browser storage and a JSON-based approach for exporting and importing data between browsers: \nhttps://github.com/pdfernhout/Pointrel20140331\n\nP.S. Your blog really needs a preview button… ­čÖé Which I think I also mentioned before as an example of these sorts of issues, where I’m forced to work with your blog’s editor and posting system in order to communicate with you (multiply that by every blogging system in the world with its own unique systems for posting content). I understand why I might need to use standards you define as acceptable to talk to you — but why would I have to use *software* you provide too? Email does not force me to use software you pick to talk to you (or did not, when you still used email).\n\nP.P.S. Just for fun, I have put a version of this message into that system to generate the following JSON (with some hand editing to pull it out of a full export). In theory, client software I chose running in my web browser could have sent you something like this (only better) to put it into a communication stream associated with this post.\n”
    }

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