noemail

So, I am really digging the Google+ thing, but I am worried that it is going to become the time suck monster that Facebook became, and unfortunately, in just days of joining the service it seems I’ve offended my first person.

I live in North Carolina, and one of the people I’ve had the opportunity to interact with is Paul Jones. It’s a little late and I’m tired, so I’ll spare you his list of accomplishments, but let’s just say I’m a fan.

When I saw that he was on G+ (all us cool kids call it “G+” yo), I added him to my circles.

I’m a groovy, hip cat, Daddio.

Now many weeks ago he started an experiment to go entirely without e-mail. Note that he is a technologist and not some guy living off the grid in the hills, so this was a big deal. I wanted to contact him to ask about it, but my default form of contact is e-mail, so that wouldn’t work out so well. I thought about calling him, but I hate phone calls since they are so interrupt driven. Then I thought I could call him up and ask him out to lunch, but my schedule won’t allow it.

Anyway, I never had the chance to talk to him about it until today when I saw him post about it on G+. He was interviewed on a local television station and they posted a 45 second spot on his project. He commented “Kinda covers it” and so I watched it.

I didn’t think it covered it at all. Maybe a nice introduction, but it basically went on for 30 seconds about the fact that people get too much e-mail, and then it had 15 seconds of Paul saying he wasn’t going to use it anymore.

(Note: in looking for links for this post I was reminded of Paul’s opensource.com article and Q&A. I also found a post from Stormy Peters, another person in my circles, from 2004 on the subject.)

Anyway, with his G+ post, here was my chance to ask him about it. Yay! I wrote a several paragraph reply on how I couldn’t see replacing the workflow I’ve built with e-mail with any social technology, and I ended it with “I think any tool, including social media, can be useful. But I wouldn’t be so fast to dismiss e-mail simply because a lot of people don’t know how to use it.”

Note that all the other comments were Twitter-sized attaboys, which while nice to get for the writer, don’t necessarily move the debate forward. But I guess I should have known better than to try to have a thoughtful discussion via the Internet. Paul was obviously miffed, and his reply included the comment “Chill pill time?” which I’m not sure was warranted.

As I have said in the past, I am a huge fan of e-mail. But I spend a lot of time optimizing it. Lately I’ve been able to keep my inbox below 30 most of the time, but that is through a combination of bogofilter and heavy use of procmail rules. Plus I’m a big fan of Bill Jensen’s CLEAR methodology.

I just can’t see any other way that I can provide a better service to my customers using current resources than through e-mail. We support customers around the world in 24 countries (with people in 5 countries), and running their questions through an e-mail based ticketing system is the most cost effective solution. Yeah, I’d love to be like Rackspace and have the ability to answer every phone call within 3 rings, but to do that I’d need to at least double my prices. And we won’t hesitate to pick up the phone when conditions warrant.

In addition to e-mail we use XMPP for instant messaging, and Skype for company meetings like the daily scrum call. So we do use technologies to augment e-mail, but none are set to replace it.

My number one concern is the welfare of my clients. Even above my love of open source my clients come first. If there is a better way to help them I want to know about it.

I haven’t learned anything from noemail that is helpful. Paul did write “My point is that email is unnecessarily at the center of our current communications” to which I can’t disagree, but it’s a little light when it comes to options. He started off his reply with “Almost too much to address here” which is even more frustrating, since if I can’t discuss it on G+, where? Twitter?

I know a number of programmers who severely limit their e-mail use, which I think is cool. In my daily job, however, which can revolve around support, dealing with quotes and invoices, scanning and mailing documents to places like Egypt, e-mail is great and indispensable. Plus it beats the heck out of snail mail.

So, I reach out to you, my three readers, and ask for your opinions on noemail. Is e-mail the new snail mail, as the news program suggests, or is it just that people don’t know how to use it well? How does e-mail play in your daily lives?

And feel free to use more than 140 characters.

UPDATE: Okay, now the story starts to become clearer. Someone on the local WRAL television website posted a lot of rather asinine comments with the username “balog”. That ain’t me, but as I can say without tooting my own horn that I am probably the highest profile Balog in the tech sector around these parts, I can see why Paul would have a huge prejudice against anything I would say as he obviously thought we were one and the same.

Now I definitely owe him lunch and I’m pretty weirded out about this “balog” person.

5 thoughts on “noemail

  1. You know my fear exactly. You and i mosty bailed on facebook about the same time and oddly enough joined google plus at the same time. I have the same worries of the infinite time suck and worry of “always having to check it”.

    Right now though I dig it because its small with only a handful of good friends and I can be myself, unlike facebook where i had to watch what I said because of the 100 some odd people who might read it.

    I don’t know i’m still an email person, i mostly despise social networking and still rely on email and texting. I do say phones are dead though, i rarely use mine and dont’ even have any land lines. I don’t even use skype. Although it would be cool to do a video chat room with people via google plus.

    I’m guessing soon it will become just like FB and I’ll have to bail! Good post on it though and enjoy it while it lasts

  2. @lovelace – yeah, I deleted them. It seemed like they were causing a lot of unhappiness. It wasn’t until Paul pointed me to the WRAL article that I understood why he’d be angry with me, and considering them I think he showed above average restraint in replying.

    I don’t think I can undo the deletes, however.

  3. Email is just another snail mail..faster and with better features. Might be there will be another email some day (might be even that that’s not too far away in the future): IMHO communication can be split into async and sync communication. Sync has developed from “face to face” to “xmpp”, async has moved from “carved into stone” to “email”. Somewhere along the lines was “post-it on the monitor case”..but even today, we carve information in stone if we want it to persist.
    Saying “no email” does not seem to be a solution unless you find another means of async communication. Swapping to sync communication entirely will limit communication capabilities “a lot”.

  4. @tarus, wow, that is very weird that someone else would be impersonating you. From what I’ve seen of Paul, though, he seems like a pretty laid back guy so hopefully things can be worked out.

    For my part, I’ve been watching Paul’s experiment fairly avidly. I, personally, hope it works out for him and in some ways wish that I could ditch email too. But, I understand also that when you’ve built a business that depends on email that you can’t just one day turn it off. Hopefully, however, the debate being stirred up by Paul’s experience will spur more and better innovation on better ways to communicate.

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