Could you live without your email?

Posted 01 Jun 2011 by 

bascha (Red Hat)
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Yes. I'd love to just shut the whole thing down.
10% (59 votes)
Yes. In fact, I already did.
3% (15 votes)
No. It is the lifeblood of my communications.
49% (287 votes)
No. Too many people contact me there. Wish I could though.
27% (160 votes)
Maybe. I've been considering it.
11% (65 votes)
Total votes: 586

Co-author: Paul Jones

Most people--including my parents--have email. But now, just as mom and dad (and, though more rarely, grandma and grandpa) are getting on the email bandwagon, it seems a fair number of folks are jumping right off.  And I don’t mean great-aunts who decided it was too difficult or dirty.

The most recent--and closest--notice was a post from Paul Jones, the director of Ibiblio.org and a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill.  Professor Jones also happens to be my former boss, a prolific writer and speaker, a bit of an internet celebrity, and a good friend. And because of his extensive help reviewing and providing the basis for this piece, a co-author.

He posted the opening salvo of the email-less on May 3, and it went like this:

“Giving up email beginning June 1, 2011. You will be able to reach me on Facebook and on most socialnetworking sites as smalljones including Twitter, Gtalk, AIM, Skype, Quora, Hunch, LinkedIn, DropBox, YouTube, XtraNormal and here on this blog.”

Professor Jones isn’t the first person to ponder divesting. He’s following the lead of several other tech pioneers (his friends and influencers, the way he’s one of mine)--Donald Knuth, the Stanford professor and author. And Luis Suarez, a community builder and social evangelist at IBM.  They’ve both written extensively about their reasoning, process, and success since abandoning the inbox.

Jones has conversed with Red Hat thinker Michael Tiemann about the attempt. He’s opened it up for comment on his blog. And we’ve been watching, fascinated. We asked him if he’d mind talking about it a bit more, or if we followed along and shared it with our readers. Thus, this article (and perhaps others that look at the result) was born.

How did we do it, without email? Email is usually part of the writing process at opensource.com. Drafts traded, updates made, all by emailed correspondence. I had to change routine for this article, but it wasn’t difficult. The process was, in fact, quite smooth.  I caught the tweeted updates about Jones’ blog posts (which also showed up in my RSS feed) on my Android phone. We used Facebook to connect, chat, and exchange messages. Google Docs came into play to compose the piece, share it, discuss it, and work on the interview portion. We didn’t trade a single piece of real email1

How the others have fared

Knuth’s been email-free (well, ok, sort of--he has a secretary to receive email and pass along any important information) since 1990. While working on one of the exhaustive volumes of The Art of Computer Programming, Knuth found himself losing too much time wading through spam and unsolicited mail.

Knuth’s solution is probably not practical for everyone. Most of us don’t have a secretary. If we miss the important notice from HR about our benefits, well--no one’s going to print it out and pass it on, and we might get an unpleasant surprise next time we go to the doctor.

But, at the lowest level, Knuth has done the same thing Suarez has--and Jones is attempting: He shifted one form of communication (email) to another (snail mail and direct communication through his assistant).  

Suarez’s approach, however, is a bit more reasonable for the rest of us. Like Jones, he moved the conversations he was having through email to other venues--and often found (as he suspected he would) the new method more appropriate and efficient. Quick responses got moved to chat; more elaborate conversations reverted to that old-tech method--the phone call.

Admittedly, Suarez is not exactly email-free, merely email-reduced. After three years, he was able to reduce his inbox count by more than 90 percent--down to an average of 17 emails per week, instead of the hundreds he was having to sift through before.

But it’s a far cry from what people expected. Like Jones, Suarez had his share of detractors. He’s commented in several of his talks, and in blog posts, that coworkers expected his email-free experiment to be short-lived. Others, more negative, speculated it could cost him his job. None of these things have happened.

The open source problem (and other motivations)

The level of concern--and outright anger--about such a communications change is interesting. Do people resent their own email ball-and-chain so much that, like with other bad environments, they want company in their misery? Or are they simply worried that their emails will go unanswered, or that the new venue for communication will result in more work on their part, or less choice about how they can respond?

Choice is important--especially for Professor Jones, and for opensource.com. Free and open source software (FOSS) advocates would like as much of their technology (if not all of it) to be developed and licensed in open ways. With email, as Jones points out, that choice is dubious--few people take the time to investigate the infrastructure behind their email or behind their internet service, nor that of the people they communicate with. It’s possible to choose open source alternatives often, but nearly impossible to not make use of a proprietary tool somewhere down the line.

The social media universe is wide. For almost every proprietary tool (Facebook), there is a open one (identi.ca, based on a free software package called StatusNet), but the crux of the matter is adoption. If you want to talk to friends who exclusively use FB, or see their posts, pictures, and updates, you have to sign up for the service. Open APIs and plug-ins to other platforms alleviate some of this lock-in, but not all, and they’re dependant upon the user actually using them.

People congregate around a useful social tool. Which tool this is changes, both as technologies develop and per user group. Adults over 55, to cull an example from research and our own anecdotal experience, tend to use email more than they do social apps or online shopping. It would be less likely, for example, for mom to maintain something like a Facebook account or an identi.ca profile. And she probably wouldn’t use both--she would see it as useless duplication of effort, and not have the technical savvy (or desire) to integrate the services.

But bringing up the generational split introduces another interesting wrinkle. Young people still make up a vast majority of the internet’s denizens. The choices people will have in the future depend largely on what tools they--and those that come after--rally around. And in late 2010, Pew Internet and the American Life project found that teens--the generation after Y Millennials--were growing even less likely to use email--only 11 percent of teens (12-17) used email to keep in daily contact with their peers. This is down from 14 percent, over three years (from November 2006 to September 2009). Contrast this with social networking--in 2006, 21 percent used IMs and FB to connect with pals. But 2009, it rose to 25 percent. But the real winner is direct text messaging--27 percent used it in 2006, but over half (54 percent) used texts three years later.

Can we leave our inboxes behind, and follow teens to texts and social networks? What if none of your age-bracket contemporaries choose to subscribe to the same services or use web-enabled phones? How do you pick which social media platforms to invest in?

Next: We interview Paul Jones about his decision to abandon email.

More info

1 I’m not counting the automated emails sent by Google Docs, since neither of us really composed them as email, and they were technically alerts I could have routed through one of several other interfaces.

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    44 Comments

    COD
    LinkedIn's messaging system is basically just a private webmail system limited to the site. Likewise, Facebook messaging is an combination of synchronous communication (chat) and asynchronous (messaging). Again, it's really just a self-contained email system. And email is just the latest form of asynchronous text based communication that replaced the hand written letter. I don't buy that they really gave up email. They moved it to proprietary web based services that provide some sort of barrier to entry to communication in that you have to be connected to the recipient somehow before you can communicate. And when one of those services goes under some sot of drastic change and eliminates the messaging system, they'll probably be regretting the decision to give up email that they control, for faux email that they don't control.
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    pjones
    Open Minded
    From a purely and somewhat dodgy technical viewpoint, you are right. But from social and cultural constructions you are not. We use all these systems differently and we get different rewards and pay different costs. And as you start to point out a there are differences even technically. I would argue that FB Messaging is closer to the future of activity streams and hyperintergration that I'm talking about. Email is not the center of that universe -- and as you notice you have some control over who you communicate with and how. This last part is giant and really differentiates that activity stream from the others you mention. I am constantly amazed that people think they have some sort of control over their current email structure. Look at your inbox. There is evidence that you don't right in front of you. I would be delighted to see something like Mugshot or even FriendFeed or some variety of Open Social to help bring these activity streams (including varieties of messaging systems) together (that's the hyperintergration part). Point me to something like that. Please! I'm serious.
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    grdryn
    Community Member
    What evidence of not having control over our current email structure can we see right in front of us when we look at our inbox? Even if you are right, and there is some aspect of email that we don't have control over; that's hardly a reason to ditch it in favour of centralised mediums such as facebook as our main point of communication, where we have minimal control. I firmly believe that if 'technologys early adopters' are going to ditch email in favour of another (possibly more social) medium, then it should be a free, decentralised one. Communicating with someone through facebook might be <em>easier</em>, but does that make it <em>better</em>? I think as a model for social interaction, it is a very broken one. To communicate with someone on facebook, you must agree to their terms and policies (which historically haven't always been very clear, and often seem to change on a whim...), and also trust the integrity of that particular company. This is something that not everyone will do (and, in my opinion, rightly shouldn't). <strong><em><cite>You will be able to reach me on Facebook and on most socialnetworking sites as smalljones including Twitter, Gtalk, AIM, Skype, Quora, Hunch, LinkedIn, DropBox, YouTube, XtraNormal and here on this blog.”</cite></em></strong> Considering this is an article on a site called opensource.com, and you seem to be called an early adopter of technology, I find it embarrassing that you don't list open alternatives to some of the above. Status.net and diaspora, for example.
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    pjones
    Open Minded
    The choices are a bit old and from an early rev of my message. I've been and early member of Diaspora and yes it's on the message list. Status.net tells me: “Subscription Confirmed: Congratulations, you’ll be one of the first to experience StatusNet 1.0! In the coming weeks we’ll be sending you an exclusive invitation to the Private Beta, and we’ll be looking forward to your feedback.” I've also spend some serious time looking over the projects in Open Social but none of them are quite there yet either. I should have listed indenti.ca as I have had an id there for sometime, but so few others that I communicate with do that I have abandoned it pretty much. My inbox has over 100 new messages that I could delete and feel no loss over in the past 12 hours. Lots of reasons, but that's what I mean about control. And that's not counting what my aggressive spam filter tossed out. I want to invest my time where I also get return. email is a net loss and has been for years. It's my hope that activity streams that integrate a variety of services as Mugshot and FriendFeed once did will help me and others manage our various services. It would be nice if there were some great open services and hyperaggregators in the mix to choose from.
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    Steve Wells
    We can all agree that we get email that we don't want, but I also get Facebook Invites that I don't want. I have over 19 Invites to things I don't care about on Facebook right now. As for the person who gave up email with his Secretary getting important ones. Let me sort that out. He's too important to waste his time checking his own email, but his Secretary's time isn't. How is this different than when I first installed a Novell network at MCV in 1991 and the Directors proudly refused to have computers, because "they wasted their time." This isn't a new stance at all. It's a repackaging of the old stance that my time is "too valuable" for this or that. Which it may in fact be. Noemail is convenient for people. If decisions are made at an ad hoc and shallow level of non-recorded chats, they can be denied later. A broader question is whether #noemail is pushing the Private Internet. If only private networks are used, then only those who can pay for access - like LinkedIn's premium service - will be able to use them. To me noemail is a giant step backward to 1990 when University mainframes monopolized communication. Only this time, instead of respected institutions controlling it, it will be private companies denying access to those who can't pay.
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    bascha
    Open Source Evangelist
    <p>I don't find it embarrassing--I was certainly thinking about these things, even if they didn't come through as clearly. When I'm talking about StatusNet and identi.ca, (though not calling out diaspora by name, it was certainly among tools thought about and tried) these are tools I'd choose, and I'm sure Paul's looked at. But the problem isn't just with what you choose, but also with what your network uses, what has mass adoption, and picking from those the best functional solution per communication need, per audience or correspondent. You have to be able to reach the people you're talking to, and not have too much duplication of effort in the attempt.</p><p>In Paul's case, a fair number of the people he has to communicate with are students. Many of them are smack in the middle of that young demographic for whom Facebook, Twitter, and text messages are the communications lifeblood. The same is true for opensource.com. We use FB, because that's where a lot of people who are interested in what we're doing are. Not everybody chooses an open source app for every task, or is even aware of open source options. That is part of why we're here, and what we're talking about. And why we hope to see folks like you who bring even more of them to our attention. &nbsp;:)</p><p>That being said, FB is by no means an openly licensed project (though <a href="https://developers.facebook.com/opensource/">some parts</a>&nbsp;of the project&nbsp;and certainly large parts of the code it's based on are), and certainly has IP privacy and ownership issues. But the idea of what FB represents in terms of choice (data in and out, to some extent) is useful. I don't think FB isn't the final answer, either, but at the moment it has the idea, functionality, and adoption to make it very useful to lots of people. I'd love to see an open source solution grow in the same space, or even better an open social standard that sticks and works and allows a seat at the table for everybody.&nbsp;</p>
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    COD
    I can understand the desire to lean on your social graph to streamline communications, but it seems dangerous when you don't control your social graph. Facebook owns it. We are just the product on Facebook, we aren't even the customer. In the long run, filtering email based on your social graph is not that big of a challenge. Google could probably do it tomorrow, if they controlled your social graph. They've taken baby steps with Buzz and priority inbox, but they simply don't have the data to know which messages you'll want, and which can be back burned. Personally, I'd rather err on the side of openness and deal with the mess that ensues over letting Facebook (or whoever) decide who can contact me.
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    pjones
    Open Minded
    I see Facebook as only one part of the puzzle. Naturally the folks at Facebook see themselves as the total answer, but I don't buy that. I think that Buzz, Mugshot, FriendFeed and others are steps toward a smarter and better solution, but so far not the one that has had the right traction, timing and adaptation. What I would love, as indicated above and on my blogs in discussion with Michael Tiemann, is a open source solution that is aware of social, location, etc and can and does aggregate as applications rise and fall in importance to me and the folks who want to communicate with me.
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    stites
    Open Source Champion
    I have a different solution to the problem. Whenever one of my email accounts gets overrun with unwanted emails, spam or otherwise, I simply abandon it. I send change of email address notices to the people I would like to continue to hear from and disappear from the rest. --------------------------- Steve Stites
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    bascha
    Open Source Evangelist
    <p>Yes, I've had to do this a few times. But I always miss somebody I didn't mean to lose touch with. And re-subscribing to all the lists and sites I do want to retain is a pain.</p><p>And if it's an account I've used professionally, it's often printed on reference material or published with work I've done. I need those addresses to stay clean, but once they get out there, they get dirty.</p><p>The hope, I think, is to get to a point where you don't have to dump an identity in order to keep it from getting overrun with junk. And you can choose to be out there, but better control what comes in.</p>
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    pjones
    Open Minded
    I understand this and it's used commonly enough to have a name "email bankruptcy". In fact that name inspired me to use a different but similar name for my own effort -- "divestment". I'm not interested in dropping email but in moving my time and attention investments to places where the reward is greater. I will reinvest in new and emerging communications options regularly and divest in those that don't give strong returns. I've done this all along with things that looked promising like Plurk or Orcut or Friendster or (sadly) indenti.ca and I'm on the fence with Hunch and Quora at the moment. I wish I were better about managing my listserv investments, but I guess now I'll get that way as I look for RSS and archives access to replace the mailing lists parts.
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    pjones
    Open Minded
    <p>See also a <a href="http://reesenews.org/2011/06/02/professor-quits-e-mail-for-social-media/16193/">UNC-centric interview at Reese News</a></p>
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    craigharffey
    Open Source Evangelist
    Until the mother of all aggregators comes along, I still need my email. Right now email is my "attention beacon" for social in addition to being the most establised business communication tool there is. I know people have reached out to me on twitter, facebook, blogs / forums etc because I have an email in my inbox telling me so. Getting my systems to notify me is a trivial task with email, too. I love the idea of something more dynamic and fluid, but for now email leaves me in control.
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    pjones
    Open Minded
    I agree that email fills that role for many people. My contention is that it does a crappy job and that we use it out of habit long after the use case has collapsed under its own weight. To recap, we saw email as a Swiss Army Knife only to watch it become a Rube Goldberg contraption and a time sink and annoyance. How to improve the situation? #noemail is my way of probing for better answer; complacency as we slowly sink into the smelly bog isn't the answer I choose.
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    teknikqa
    Open Enthusiast
    Lately, I have been using email more like a notification system. Groups, mailing-lists, commit notices, social network notices far outnumber the messages sent directly to me. Communication happens directly through those systems. Be it Facebook, Identi.ca or GitHub. Even a phone call. Email is a person's address in the virtual world. But the cost of sending a message on the internet is far less than in the real world, which is why we resort to 'email bankruptcy' or #noemail. What we need is better tools and policies. Perhaps a better notification system. Why is it that every website needs your email address? People rarely ask for your address or phone in real life. GMail's priority inbox is a good tool. Too bad it is proprietary. KDE's <a href="http://www.socialdesktop.org/">Social Desktop</a> is step in the right direction. I hope it can evolve to answer some of these questions.
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    pjones
    Open Minded
    Thanks for the pointer to the Social Desktop. I'll check it out soon. Need a mobile solution to have a future too tho.
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    pjones
    Open Minded
    Surprised that no one has mentioned Gwibber.com "Gwibber is an open source microblogging client for Linux. It brings the most popular social networking web services to your desktop and gives you the ability to control how you communicate." Any experience with that or knowledge about that project?
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    COD
    I use Gwibber, but only as a Twitter client. It works - nothing special about it IMHO. The best thing about it is that it runs as a background service. So I can keep my Twitter feed closed and out of sight / out of mind, but if somebody messages me or mentions me on Twitter, I get a pop up message.
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    gscarborough
    Open Minded
    I think a point that people are missing is that these new kinds of communication are better only because of their newness. I am willing to bet, Paul, that if you had 5000 friends on FaceBook that you would receive just as much garbage as you do in your email. What we really want to do is change the ratio of good/garbage messages. Moving from service to service seems to be a poor way to do that. What's more, I doubt you would be doing this if your livelihood depended on those communications. Out of that 100 emails you received in the last 12 hours, how many were really spam? How many of them were legitimate email that you just didn't want to read?
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    bascha
    Open Source Evangelist
    I respectfully disagree--I think there's an actual technical difference between FB-style comms and standard email. And, as Paul's nodded to, that difference is in how well (and how easily) you can control the datastream. I have a fair number of friends on FB. Not 5,000, no, but a few hundred. Paul, I would imagine, has quite a few more. But you are right--that number is dwarfed by the number of people who have the ability to send me email--because that number is, well--what's the population of the world today? ;P Even if I filter my email (and I do, both custom rules and general spam filters either provided by my employer or the hosting entity), someone still has to either (a) mail me once or (b) be well-known enough to trip the blacklist. Otherwise, they're going to slip through. And crafty spammers never use the same ID twice--often spoofing or mimicking known addresses, or simply rotating through randomly-generated ones. Now, are technologies for spamming going to shift--will these n'er-do-well advertisers find ways to worm themselves into my FB (or identi.ca or whatever) inbox? Possibly. Am I still going eyeball-tied to some kind of ad-revenue-generating bit? Probably. It all evolves and we evolve with it. I see this as merely another avenue for thought about evolution. And, granted, limiting my communication to /only/ something controlled with as tight of a gate as my FB settings (friends only, TYVM) would lead me to miss a lot of good stuff I might like to see. But if the cost of that occasional good stuff is the 23--wait, 24--pieces of spam (since 8 a.m. this morning, on only one account, and yes, it is all true unsolicited spam of the spammiest sort)... well, maybe I don't miss the "good stuff" all that much. Or maybe I find other ways to get that good stuff--like through a mailform or other kind of gateway I can better control or at least outfit with a captcha or other human-certifying process. And, as you say, Gary, swapping one service for another isn't really what we want to be doing here--but it's an attempt to test-drive and find the venue that fits as many of the 'have-to-haves' as possible with as few of the downsides. That we can use as long as possible... before the next wave hits.
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    pjones
    Open Minded
    Newness has advantages other than just newness; that is new insights into technologies and their uses are more likely to be baked into the code. This is certainly what I've found as I've been divesting from email and moving those assets and time and attention to other communications areas. Yes, you can send attachments, but far better and easier to use a collaborative document space like say Gdocs. Yes, you can suttle date choices around trying to arrange a meeting date, but far better to use a shared calendar. Yes you can send movies and pictures around as attachments, but... You get the picture. The big picture. Technologies for cooperation, collaboration and communications are leaving email behind. I have a very aggressive spam filter -- thanks to Gmail -- or I would really be in trouble. None of the email that I received was spam -- or nearly none, is a groupon that I don't want spam if the next one the one I do want not spam? or should I depend on my FB friends to alert me? I have many friends, Twitter and FB make it easier to manage that large information and social activity flow. Email, not so much.
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    chrisod
    Open Enthusiast
    Haven't we pretty much solved the spam issue for end users? I'm sure it's a still royal PITA for email system admins, but I've had the same email address since 1998 and I see maybe 1 or 2 spam emails a week in my Gmail account. It's such a non issue that I never think about it, which is probably not a good thing as spam certainly is still a big problem, but it's a problem that technology has mostly hidden from email users.
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    mbck
    Newbie
    Methinks you just are (a) fighting the previous war (against SPAM) (b) succumbing to glitzy fads (c) not paranoid enough about privacy... I really fail to understand how one can hope to waste less time by replacing the one-point-of-contact that an email address is, with several - unless you have some way of unifying the interface to all the sites you're replacing email with. Not to mention the loss of privacy. I see many comments about teens' concerns about how public their personal information has become thanks to Facebook -- I certainly would least expect adult and tech-savvy people jumping on board of that kind of train. I cope with SPAM and other nonsense with mechanical filters à la Spamassassin. I cope with undesirable mail with another level of filtering -- who's not on my whitelist and passes SPAM filtering will still not get immediate attention. And I do not spend time jumping from Web site to Web site to get all my messages. I did ask TPTB, a long time ago, if It could extend my day from 24 to 72 hours. Never had an answer. So I have to forget about many fads, some of which I would like to indulge in. Even if you whois my email address, you'll still have little information about who I am. I like to keep my physical neighborhood and my bank accounts as secure as I possibly can. Social media do not help much in that respect. All the best
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    CustomDesigned
    Open Minded
    There is one application of email that needs to go away: sending status updates or a cool picture to all your friends - especially when forwarded. That belongs on a blog or similar where only interested parties see it.
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    pjones
    Open Minded
    or the spam filter ;->
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    gscarborough
    Open Minded
    One other thought I had about ditching email in favor of other services is that its a bit selfish. I'm not trying to be rude, but if you think about it, its a bit self centered. By ditching email, you are requiring the other party to create an account on another service. I personally don't use Facebook because I don't like giving away my privacy. I also don't like the fact that Facebook will track you virtually anywhere you go on the web. Most other social sites have similar issues. Asking that an end user create an account on one of these sites may serve your interest, but what about theirs? Sending an email has a much smaller impact on privacy, and with encryption, should be completely private. Can you really have a private conversation on any of these other services? You can't even really trust IM or texting for that matter. But you can send secure email from point to point. Anyway, just another point to think about.
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    pjones
    Open Minded
    Gary, email is only one option and the only option that I am foreswearing. I'm open to any other means of communications. Addressing only your security concerns as I've written about your other concerns above. The kind of email that you suggest, encrypted, is rarely done. I haven't received encrypted email but perhaps once in the past decade despite having my public key available for much of that decade. Skype and some IM services do and increasingly will encrypt the connections. In the case of Skype and a few others, these services do point to point connections. email is inherently insecure. There is no way around that. To the extent that email feigns security at all, it's been shoehorned into the protocol and services in a clumsy way at best.
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    ugh
    Why on earth would you leave email for Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn etc? Email is an established system that has worked for _ages_, you're never gonna get locked into just one system, you have complete freedom of choice wrt. clients or hosting etc. I tried sending a private message with LinkedIn once, spent ages looking for the 'save draft' button, then ended up looking for the recipients email address. Twitter DM is a joke. And Facebook… I've seen enough reply-to-all-mistakes there *shudder*
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    pjones
    Open Minded
    Of course, no one has ever done "Reply All" to an email list and embarrassed themselves. "Worked for ages" is properly presented in the past tense when referring to email. email is bloated, creaky and misused. I expect that a variety of components that can form a reasonable and manageable activity stream of communications is close and will ideally and in the near future be as open and as customizable as email once was.
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    urd
    Email is a 'less-than-perfect' solution for communications that does need to be replaced by a secure/traceable (stop spam-bots)/anti-spam solution allowing anyone to be contacted independently of the service provider That said, reading this stream, it does look there is a significant mind set about using 'social-networking' (a.k.a.: data-mining of personal information networks) to create isolated (gated) communities where only you and your friends "hang-out" together. This does sounds like people are trying ‘Disney-fication’ of their communications. In an expanding world, should we be trying to make ‘happy gated communities’ of ‘like minded individuals’? That will lead, inevitably, to the narrowing of viewpoints and intolerance. Shouldn’t we be making ourselves more open to meeting people with different viewpoints/backgrounds? In my view, with the lack of inter-site API standards, this generation of ‘social-networking’ (DMPIN) is pointless. When the sites owners finally get together and agree API’s that allow for secure-intersite messaging, searching and connectivity, which will be about when they stop treating their ‘subscribers’ as a ‘data-resource’, then I’ll join, what will then be, the social-network revolution. In the meantime, I’ll keep with my (well-ordered and small) inbox and avoid the current generation of, so called, social-networking.
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    Stuart Gathman
    When you look at why people use facebook et al instead of email, it boils down to authentication (although immediate send confirmation plays a minor role). Email has been capable of authentication for 20 years. And if you accept only authenticated email (I currently accept HELO, SPF, or DKIM), then problem solved. SPAM control is simply a matter of reputation. Some people complain when their email can't be forged by random parties (e.g. badly configured web apps), but tough. I agree that forgeable email needs to go. I just don't see centralized services like facebook as an improvement. Spammers already use throw away domains to send authenticated email spam, and I've started to see throw away AOL, google, and facebook accounts used to send spam. So you still need filtering and reputation database even with new services (or properly used email). But implementing filtering and reputation for centralized services is much more difficult.
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    CustomDesigned
    Open Minded
    The above is me!
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    pjones
    Open Minded
    The fact that it's only been implemented as a personal hack in 20 years says a lot.
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    CustomDesigned
    Open Minded
    Competent public ESPs like gmail and aol have implemented email authentication for ages. (They still have the whack a mole problem of throw away accounts - but there is no forgery.) The only unauthenticated email is from incompetent (wrt email) ISPs (I'm resisting the temptation to name names - you probably don't know who you are) and small operators who don't want to use a commercial service, but don't actually know what they are doing (and get mad if you try to educate them). So just stop tolerating unauthenticated email. I will admit that gmail, for instance, does not provide a button for end users to "stop tolerating unauthenticated email". However, they incorporate that as part of their mysterious and hidden process of spam control.
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    chrisod
    Open Enthusiast
    This. When I checked the box to enable SPF on my domain account I saw an 90% reduction in the size of my spam folder at Gmail. (My domain forwards all mail to my Gmail account).
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    Unidentified
    I for one will not be using Facebook. I don't believe in using a service that has as little regard for my personal privacy as they do. I continually read stories of how they change privacy settings on a whim or of them selling personal info to third parties. I also hear of people getting infected by clicking on a bogus link on the site because the site security is so poor. The very fact that I cannot trust them to not misuse my information means I choose to stay away. I am not sure what the upside is of going with such a restricted venue such as Facebook is, especially since many, like myself, refuse to use that service. Perhaps if a better service comes along then it might be more acceptable but it will still be far more restricted and require more from those who wish to contact you than using email. I understand the frustration of having to deal with spam and junk, having lost one email address to spammers, yet I have not been driven to give up email. I have just learned to be more careful about how I use my email address. Email is just too convenient and accessible for me to let go of it. There are likely to be new ways of communicating, especially chat, in the future but I expect email will still be a part of the landscape for some time to come. To each his own but I don't expect this movement to catch fire anytime soon.
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    pjones
    Open Minded
    You could use Diaspora https://joindiaspora.com/
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    Unidentified
    I have been very interested in Diaspora and have signed up for an invite, however it is still in Beta and so is not yet really available. Given also that it is by invitation, and likely very limited invitations at first, it is even more restrictive than Facebook.
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    chrisod
    Open Enthusiast
    I am on Diaspora. Beta is being generous. It is still alpha. You really can't do much more than post a status update on it, but there is nobody to see it, so what is the point? I don;t see it ever being more than a niche service popular with geeks.
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    pjones
    Open Minded
    Afraid I have to agree about Diaspora. Geeks, especially open source coding geeks, get their social interactions in the process of writing code and sharing in that environment where they are much less private than in their personal lives. "Here's my code. Judge me on that. I'll keep my birthdate to myself." Nothing wrong with that. But github or sourceforge or launchpad are likely places for social connections and fulfillment for many of the readers and commenters on OpenSource.com Sorry I didn't think to bring that up earlier.
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    gnackenson
    Community Member
    I don't get it. Email is useful, why not use it?
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    pjones
    Open Minded
    Err. Read the article and the interview. Email appears to be useful but I would say not at the cost that it imposes for that usefulness. And most studies agree. I've been collecting many at http://ibiblio.org/pjones/blog/category/noemail/
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    ashcrow
    Community Member
    Email is how I get most communications still.
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    pjones
    Open Minded
    You have my sympathy. But I would guess that as a developer that you get a lot of interaction via IRC, chat and/or IM -- and that you don't even notice that since it's so much more efficient.
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    Editor, writer, and developer. I wear many hats, including the red one. Graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism; long-time interest in all things geeky. Editor of Red Hat Magazine and grizzled industry veteran, including time as an archivist for SunSITE UNC (now ibiblio.org) and ten-plus years at my current gig. I love:

    • vidya games and other dubious online experiences (Second Life, WoW, DDO, Rift--started out with Zork, IRC, and old-school BBS and MUDD/MOO/etc.

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