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Email, the "cockroach of the internet" (that's a compliment)
August 23, 2014 4:07 PM   Subscribe

Email is still the best thing on the internet
Getting an email address was once a nerdy right of passage for Gen-Xers arriving on college campuses. Now, the kids are waging a war of indifference on poor old email, culling the weak and infirm old-people technology. One American professor maintained that, to his students, "e-mail was as antiquated as the spellings 'chuse' and 'musick' in the works by Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards." The vice-chancellor of Exeter University claimed, "There is no point in emailing students any more." The youth appear to think there are better, faster, more exciting ways to communicate than stupid email.

Yet, despite all the prognosticators predicting it will—choose the violence level of your metaphor—go out of style, be put out to pasture, or taken out back and shot, email grinds on.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (140 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite

 
You betcha. Communication has moved to insta(nt)gram, tweets, and "like" buttons. A sentence or two at most, and done. Immediate gratification rulez!

My grumpy old guy .02 is that "kids these days" have limited attention spans, attention deficit stuff going on, and can't be bothered to compose a thoughtful well-written missive.

...just like this post! ^_^
posted by CrowGoat at 4:17 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


SMS and social are both fundamentally about sharing.

Email is a digital task list with 3rd-party write rights.

College students use the former. The workforce uses the latter. Give these kids a few years ;)
posted by bpm140 at 4:20 PM on August 23 [10 favorites]


I love that someone wrote up this piece because now I have a handy link to just pass off to people instead of boring them with my oft-repeated rantings that pretty much follow along with most of the author's points.

The saddest thing to happen to e-mail for me is Facebook...not its stupid Messages drama but rather that at one point years ago they magically changed everyone's "e-mail address" on their profiles to a fake Facebook one (unless you were a nerdy person that noticed and changed it back, which is a small percentage of all the people I know).

It used to be, if I wanted to reply to someone from Facebook I could just e-mail them. Now, if I don't already know their address, I can't look it up easily anymore (and of course, that's by design, thanks Facebook).
posted by trackofalljades at 4:20 PM on August 23 [5 favorites]


The future freaks me out.
posted by Jeff Morris at 4:23 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


I have several friends and acquaintances on the edge of this divide and it drives me crazy trying to keep track of which ones prefer text messages, which prefer email, or Facebook messages, or even an old-fashioned phone call.
posted by straight at 4:29 PM on August 23 [15 favorites]


I think part of this is the lack of immediacy. If you want something from me now or soon, I'm probably lurking on Twitter or available for texting if i'm available at all. My email account right now is mostly used for "funny pictures/links I couldn't send because you were offline", sending files and such, or as my own personal organizational system for things like doctor's appointments and personal business.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:29 PM on August 23


The Fast Company article starts with this:
"In early 2011, the CEO of a French IT company issued an usual memorandum. He banned email. Employees were discouraged from sending or receiving internal messages, with the goal of eradicating email within 18 months. Critics scoffed. Workers rebelled. But Thierry Breton, the CEO of Atos, has stuck to his guns, reducing message volume by an estimated 20%. His company, by the way, has 74,000 employees in 48 countries."

So, although Thierry Breton's goal was to eradicate e-mail within 18 months, after three years, they've only reduced it by 20%. Am I missing something, or does this really not seem like the best example to show "sticking to one's guns"?
posted by jonathanhughes at 4:32 PM on August 23 [43 favorites]


I still use email for communication more than any other medium. I will use Twitter, Facebook, Hangouts or SMS but not everyone uses those and everyone I know has an email address.
posted by octothorpe at 4:37 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


> The saddest thing to happen to e-mail for me is Facebook

Me too. Recently I was searching through my gmail for something and discovered that my faraway friends and I used to email each other all the time. Just to chat! That just does not happen anymore, and the most insidious thing about it is that I didn't even notice it going away. Now I just read their snarky one-line statuses about the annoying person at Starbucks and see pictures of their kids and think that means we're staying in touch. It's really depressing.
posted by something something at 4:39 PM on August 23 [45 favorites]


Man, that Ryan Holmes piece is a load of horseshit. Not that it should be a surprise: It's a hitpiece on Email to make his own service, Hootsuite, look better. Example:

> Right now, the typical corporate user spends 2 hours and 14 minutes every day reading and responding to email, according to McKinsey’s 2012 Social Economy report.

Yup. That's because that's the crucial component of white-collar work: Managing documents, sending them to each other, arranging meetings, and sharing memos. If I didn't do it by email, I'd be using a service meant to replace email that's sufficiently like email for the distinction to not matter, aside from being considerably less useful due to not having a couple decades of evolved design under it.

Email gets misused by people who narrow their focus to the most limited set of options for any action. For example insisting on conducting long email chains when a phone call or five minutes in the project team's chat room would have worked better. These are people who draw diagrams in Excel, use Word for page layouts, and design logos in Visio. Don't blame the tools for the abuse.

> Employees were discouraged from sending or receiving internal messages, with the goal of eradicating email within 18 months. Critics scoffed. Workers rebelled. But Thierry Breton, the CEO of Atos, has stuck to his guns, reducing message volume by an estimated 20%.

That's a failed campaign, then. It is not a constructive or meaningful example.

> Seeking the path of least resistance, the next generation of office workers are finding better, faster, easier ways to communicate. It’s about time.

The path of least resistance for Holmes to get this bumf published by Fast Company was to email its editor.
posted by at by at 4:40 PM on August 23 [49 favorites]


Email is my important "this needs to be read" form of communication. If I know you and you need to tell me something, email is the guaranteed way that I'll read it. Texting is second, but only for closer people (not everyone I'll communicate with by email needs my phone number) and is best only if it needs an immediate response. Facebook messages/etc. are hit or miss and there's a good chance it'll be lost in the mix.
posted by downtohisturtles at 4:40 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


In early 2011, the CEO of a French IT company issued an usual memorandum. He banned email.

If you're an overpaid bag of tall white alpha-male assholery whose "work" consists of barking orders at underlings (yeah, "they can come see me") then this might work for you. If you do real work, need a virtual paper trail of agreed-upon task division and locations of assets on shared network volumes which you can later refer to, then thinking IM or face-to-face chats will cut it is completely imbecilic. How much you want to bet that the Atos PR person who reported that 20% reduction figure to CNN did so by email?
posted by aught at 4:44 PM on August 23 [40 favorites]


they magically changed everyone's "e-mail address" on their profiles to a fake Facebook one

They just undid that a few weeks ago. Your Facebook email address now just forwards to your log in email address.
posted by COD at 4:44 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


If I send an email to my students (undergrads, I am a TA) via the auto-generated email lists for a given class (which uses their assigned college email address), maybe 10% of them will read it. If I ask them for their preferred email addresses, I still only get maybe 20%. When we had a lot of undergrads working in our lab, it was much more reliable to reach them via text than email. Our former postdoc (and also a lecturer) had a throwaway Google Voice number he gave to students, and that was the best way for him to keep in touch with all of them. They straight up do not bother with email.
posted by pemberkins at 4:45 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


You know what else happens largely via email? Linux kernel development, in the form of inline plain text (not even attachments) code patches.
posted by smcameron at 4:45 PM on August 23 [7 favorites]


You olds still have social circles? I have reach.

Or maybe retch.

not sure.
posted by srboisvert at 4:50 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


They just undid that a few weeks ago. Your Facebook email address now just forwards to your log in email address.

That isn't really undoing it, though. FB is still interjecting itself as a middleman. The email address on display is still the same FB address.
posted by protocoach at 4:50 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


IRC is still central to everybody's work day, in my neck of the woods. Email, too, but more as running log/documentation.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 4:52 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


If I send an email to my students (undergrads, I am a TA) via the auto-generated email lists for a given class (which uses their assigned college email address), maybe 10% of them will read it.

Their fucking loss. If they refuse to communicate it's time to stop pandering to them.
posted by dilaudid at 4:54 PM on August 23 [75 favorites]


COD: "Your Facebook email address now just forwards to your log in email address."

Right. And I wonder if Facebook mines it for whatever they can get out of it along the way.

I agree that e-mail is the communication medium of choice when you need to document what you're doing, when you need to be able to refer back to it, etc. For most purposes I prefer it over all the other options. What gets to me is how the major e-mail providers—Yahoo, Hotmail, and Gmail—have all in their own way been trying to destroy e-mail.

Yahoo and Hotmail both instituted DMARC in a cack-handed scheme that made it so that their own users could not participate in many mailing lists (the list software has been updated, but admins need to make an intentional change to the way e-mail is handled on their lists). Gmail added those dumb "tabs" for social/promotional/whatever e-mail. Most people never check the secondary tabs, and Gmail pipes some really important e-mail to them.

Never mind the technical issues with Gmail's implementation of IMAP, Yahoo's nonexistent security (which leads to a lot of legitimate e-mail from Yahoo users being treated as spam by Gmail), etc.
posted by adamrice at 4:55 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


Pffft..."Death of email" rumors have been getting bandied about now and ten for at least 10 years.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:57 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


The best part about email is hearing people ignore sending them and put it off and whine about how they have to send email and it's so stressful and hard when it is literally the easiest form of communication ever devised by man.

Unless your email begins with the phrase " Under careful consideration we have decided to begin firing onto the crowds.." then it is not stressful.
posted by The Whelk at 4:58 PM on August 23 [18 favorites]


Their fucking loss. If they refuse to communicate it's time to stop pandering to them.

Oh, agreed. I take their preferred emails because I also hate that the university stopped letting us choose which email we use for class lists and instead made us all use the new university addresses (I never use mine either)... but beyond that it's up to them whether they want to bother looking at information from me or not.
posted by pemberkins at 5:00 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: an overpaid bag of tall white alpha-male assholery
posted by stevil at 5:04 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


I deal with college students on a regular basis when they have to interact with the court, and most of them won't open snail mail either. Or answer their phones. I have no way to text them (is there such thing as a free PC to text program?), they won't check voicemail either. Heck, I've found that the new thing is to simply not even set up one's voicemail in the first place.
posted by checkitnice at 5:07 PM on August 23


Gmail added those dumb "tabs" for social/promotional/whatever e-mail. Most people never check the secondary tabs,

...with good reason. I have successfully totally ignored them while applying my own tabs.

and Gmail pipes some really important e-mail to them.

Er, no. I just now looked at those tabs, for the absolute first time ever (and I've had a Gmail account for nearly 20 years now), and discovered I had missed precisely zero emails by failing to pay attention to them and using my own, actually personally useful tab classifications instead. How exactly is this feature "destroying" email?
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:12 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


I also hate that the university stopped letting us choose which email we use for class lists and instead made us all use the new university addresses

I work as an IT dude for a university. Dunno about the rationale where you work, but for us, requiring the use of a University Email for all University Business is about meeting FERPA requirements.

Simply put - you don't know if the email address a student lists as theirs actually belongs to them and not say, their parents. So, the only way to guarantee that Official University Emails get to email accounts we know the students have sole control of is to provide them with a University Email Address.

You would not believe how many times parents call to get access to Suzie Collegekid's university email (and grades and so on). Raising adults or raising children ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:13 PM on August 23 [47 favorites]


most of them won't open snail mail either. Or answer their phones. I have no way to text them, they won't check voicemail either.

For willfully obtuse idiots like that, I recommend a brick through the front window with a note tied to it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:15 PM on August 23 [5 favorites]


Or maybe they just don't want to talk to you.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:15 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


Email is only useful if you use it enough that you have reason to check it regularly. Same is true of facebook, physical mail, twitter, voicemail, RSS, MeMail, whatever.

When you're 14 and you don't have a communications routine established with a lot of your peers, then email isn't any better than any of these others. But as you meet more people who aren't already on the same systems you're on, or as you add new systems and need somewhere to centralize all your stupid notifications, email gets better and better.

Certainly for business use, email is not going away. But I think that young people using less email in favor of other media is not indicative of how the future will be, it's just a pattern now. Young people are also more into boy bands than older people but that doesn't mean in 20 years that's the only thing anyone will listen to.
posted by aubilenon at 5:16 PM on August 23 [37 favorites]


(and I've had a Gmail account for nearly 20 years now)

20 years? You may want to talk to Larry and Sergei about your cut, if that's the case.

posted by bonje at 5:17 PM on August 23 [14 favorites]


Crappy medium for love letters.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:18 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


The vice-chancellor of Exeter University claimed, "There is no point in emailing students any more."

So the students are running things at Exeter? It doesn't take much effort to put in your syllabus that all class news and updates will be distributed by e-mail, and it's students' responsibility to check it.
posted by aaronetc at 5:19 PM on August 23 [8 favorites]


Crappy medium for love letters.

It's harder to burn them in the fireplace when your husband returns unexpectedly from the south of France and you're still drunk on the lavander water scented missives but all progress has costs.
posted by The Whelk at 5:22 PM on August 23 [21 favorites]


requiring the use of a University Email for all University Business is about meeting FERPA requirements

Interesting. At my university, our FERPA training stressed that no email address was FERPA compliant for sending data such as grades (though we did have a secure web-based message system through which FERPA-covered data could be sent).

My syllabus always stated clearly that email was the way students would learn about course-related information outside of in-class announcements. They seemed to engage with email to the same extent that they engaged with the course at all.
posted by audi alteram partem at 5:23 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


The value of email is that it provides a permanent, timestamped, offsite record to prove you sent the information you were responsible for sending, and if the recipient completely failed to acknowledge the information it's not your fault.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:25 PM on August 23 [25 favorites]


I don't know how it is with other colleges, but where I work at, every student is required to have a email address. The college "uses email as the primary way of communicating with students".

And, all those "replacements" for email require an email account to join.
posted by King Sky Prawn at 5:26 PM on August 23 [7 favorites]


aaronetc: "It doesn't take much effort to put in your syllabus that all class news and updates will be distributed by e-mail, and it's students' responsibility to check it."

Send a couple emails with the answers to a pop quiz being given next class and students will check their email for the rest of the semester.
posted by Mitheral at 5:32 PM on August 23 [14 favorites]


I can confirm the students' ignoring their email. Years ago, before Gmail did IMAP, they were disdainful of it because they didn't think our webmail app was enough like Gmail. Now they can at least read it on the Google. But they still don't.

What the hell are colleges supposed to do? Send Snapchats to everyone?
posted by thelonius at 5:35 PM on August 23


If students in college can't figure out how to use email, or if they feel so entitled that they simply refuse to use it, then we are sending the wrong people to college.
posted by elwoodwiles at 5:35 PM on August 23 [35 favorites]


The value of email is that it provides a permanent, timestamped, offsite record to prove you sent the information you were responsible for sending, and if the recipient completely failed to acknowledge the information it's not your fault.

Umm, aren't you thinking of fax? Email doesn't even have a guarantee of delivery, much less proof of delivery (which fax has).
posted by lhauser at 5:35 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


requiring the use of a University Email for all University Business is about meeting FERPA requirements.

Ah, yeah, good point, although I don't send grade-related info by email ever. The students used to be able to login with their student account (university-supplied) to Blackboard and specify their preferred contact email, but that's no longer able to be changed. I think the fact that they were able to use their university account to specify a different email made that okay? But, the option is now gone either way. For my part, the emails I send as a TA are more or less limited to "don't forget to bring your goggles to lab this week." All the grade-related stuff lives on Blackboard, but most students no longer see Blackboard notifications, since they never check the university email address and can't specify a different one to be used for Blackboard communications. Ultimately their loss, but annoying for me.

(The new email addresses are also frustrating because they are an addition to rather than a replacement of my previous department-supplied address, so now I have two official university emails that need checking. I forward one to the other, but still.)
posted by pemberkins at 5:39 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Crappy medium for love letters.

Facebook messages and Snapchat are not an improvement in this department.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:41 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


Teaching students the value of email and not having addresses like meatwad123@whatever is our job, fellow olds.
posted by angrycat at 5:46 PM on August 23 [15 favorites]


OTOH all the super famous or successful Olds I know have email addresses like FGLuv3R@hotmail.com

I guess it's what you can get away with, but there was a mark a distinction that your "obvious" email address was manned by PR interns and your "real" email was some incomprehensible series of alphanumerics you got on Compuserve a million years ago.
posted by The Whelk at 5:50 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


Email's been About To Die for about as long as it's About To Be The Year of Desktop Linux and almost as long as There's About To Be a Malware Explosion on Apple Platforms
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:59 PM on August 23 [15 favorites]


Wow, so many people in the article trolling and the author still pretends their opinions matter? I mean, minor point here, but I wonder if NSAbook is better than email at being a "a counter-productivity tool". What's that, did somebody just say "user error"?

Though I suppose if kids prefer the Daily Mailisation of their lives, with all the ill-judged comments about non-stories, dinner choices and cat photos, then at least they ain't clogging up my inbox. They probably have nothing to say anyway.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 6:17 PM on August 23


The few friends who still communicate with me primarily by email are all people I like a lot. It's like, email is almost a "true old friend" filter right now.

I posted this to my Facebook and Plus feeds along with my email address, inviting anybody who I was in touch with there to join me in the email world.
posted by edheil at 6:20 PM on August 23 [6 favorites]


People who announce parties in email but then change the dates in Facebook messages... Grrr.

Also a big Grrr @ Facebook for sending "you have new" emails every day in a bid to get me log in more, whether I really have new messages or not. It's the boy who cried wolf...

But employers use phones and email, so phones and email are what you check as an adult.
posted by subdee at 6:20 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Someone teach these kids how to forward email from their University account to whatever account it is they do check. There's probably a way to set up "I get notices on my phone when a University address emails me" in If This Then That.
posted by subdee at 6:23 PM on August 23


For willfully obtuse idiots like that, I recommend a brick through the front window with a note tied to it.
Or maybe they just don't want to talk to you.

If I can't get a hold of them they usually end up in jail. Then they get to tell the judge that they don't answer their phone or check their mail.
posted by checkitnice at 6:25 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


What the hell are colleges supposed to do? Send Snapchats to everyone?

After several years of almost no students reading emails, this past spring semester I moved over to text messages as my primary form of communication, using Remind. It's one-way only; they can't respond, and I can email an entire class or cluster of classes with just a couple of clicks. I've seen really good results with it, and plan to continue using it.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:31 PM on August 23 [13 favorites]


(is there such thing as a free PC to text program?)

That's one of my favorite things about Google Voice, but I tried to get a new number for my Mom a couple of months ago and it looked like they'd basically stopped giving them out. Which has me scared they're going to either drop the product or start charging for it. still incensed about Reader, thank you very much you pigfuckers

There used to be a lot of sms-gateway websites out there, it looks like there are still some, although many of them seem to be oriented to bulk sms-sending. You can look at a list like this one for carriers' gateway addresses, too, if you only have a few to send- you send an email to phonenumber@gateway.att.com or whatever. But that would obviously be a serious pita if you have a lot of numbers to deal with, so I'd check for websites, where you'll just need to know the number, not who their phone company is.
posted by hap_hazard at 6:31 PM on August 23 [6 favorites]


Remember when AIM was the thing all the kids were using that was going to kill email?
posted by SisterHavana at 6:31 PM on August 23 [10 favorites]


It's a great point that email is still kicking. Email is treated as "real" in a way other things aren't; the convention has become for email address to be treated as a default username, to the point where I'm annoyed when I have to make a non-email username.

One thing I'm curious about is the venerable old mailing list. It was an early form of social network, with one person sending a message and other users – in some cases hundreds of them – receiving them. I'm still on mailing lists, some of which are very active and get many messages per day, but I haven't been on a new one in years. The oldest ones are generally hosted at universities, which were early hubs for this kind of thing. And lists with private archives are literally "dark" places from a search engine perspective.

Email lists create unique dynamics; particularly they tend to favor people who write lengthy emails at the drop of a hat, and can exclude other participants by overwhelming them with volume. And I've noticed they tend to have long tails, with several lists I'm on frequented by a relative handful of people who have been doing this for years. But others have regular volume contributed by a half-dozen to a dozen posters, typically.

And I have to wonder, is this a common thing still? Not just to be on old mailing lists, but to have them keep going with live traffic on a daily basis? Or is it a fading thing?
posted by graymouser at 6:39 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


Whenever someone proclaims the death of email, I have to suspect that they own stock in a social networking or wireless phone company. Unlike SMS, social networking and many IM networks, email doesn't serve to enrich any single company by charging for delivery or providing a captive userbase or what have you. Sure, email has its problems, but I haven't seen anything I would yet consider a complete replacement for it.
posted by Aleyn at 6:51 PM on August 23 [13 favorites]


What the hell are colleges supposed to do?

Keep sending email. And then, when students complain, say "You should have checked your email. Bad student. No cookie."

But all my paying jobs have been in Industrial Scale Education at Big State U.

And I have to wonder, is this a common thing still? Not just to be on old mailing lists, but to have them keep going with live traffic on a daily basis? Or is it a fading thing?

Fading but still around. I get email most weeks, but not days, from polmeth or statepol, and traffic on the ancient Culture listserv (I think I first subscribed in 96) flows in waves where there'll be nothing for a while and then a big burst of stuff, but it hasn't seen 500-message days in probably ten years.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:58 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


Man who were you people getting long thoughtful emails from friends in the past? Because my friends either spammed me when their inbox got compromised, or never responded, or responded way late, or lost my email address. Facebook works better for them. All we ever talk about is their kids, or for a rare few, politics. Don't need email for that. Heart to heart talks are for phone calls or visits.

Still I use email a lot. For documentation, and invoices, and messages to the husband too long for IM/texting. It's still useful. Kids don't have to do as much ass-covering and bill-paying as adults; email's good for those things.

Maybe something better will come along, I'm fine with that, but I can't store and search texts and IMs as easily as I can emails.
posted by emjaybee at 7:03 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


The standards (how should we send thins kind of information around between systems?) world depends on listservs. At this point I don't contribute much, but it is fascinating to watch the decisions being made.
posted by rockindata at 7:21 PM on August 23


The articles were interesting, and certainly had a lot of hand waving. For me, email in a work environment is now a very different thing than in my personal life. In my personal life, all of my real life friends have drifted away from using email to communicate and it seems like it is now mainly a way to sign up for services, and to receive receipts and bill notifications. The "college kids don't use email anymore" trope seems to be the same thing: the main use here people are talking about seems to be mass notifications, where texting or facebook or whatever probably works just as well.

At work, it is a different story. The world I live in revolves around email, and we have a zillion business processes that have email baked into the workflow. Our email system has about 45,000 mailboxes, of which maybe 35,000 are humans - the rest are either group mailboxes or things that are used by applications to send or receive email. And like most of corporate America, we are running Microsoft Outlook, which is wound ever so tightly into our desktops. Ryan Holmes of Hootsuite does a good job of articulating some of the problems with email, but doesn't explain how any of the alternatives make the situation better for the bread and butter of email: being able to keep a searchable, chronological record of a workflow or an interaction. Experiments in alternatives at my workplace haven't been all that successful. For one thing, they all involve getting users to remember to open their browser and log in to whatever the alternative it. Two, now you've got two places to check when looking for information.

I can see a future where I'm just using email to catch Redbox receipts and billing notifications from the water utility, but these guys have a long, long way to go to displace email from the workplace.
posted by kovacs at 7:24 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


I deal with college students on a regular basis when they have to interact with the court, and most of them won't open snail mail either. Or answer their phones. I have no way to text them (is there such thing as a free PC to text program?), they won't check voicemail either. Heck, I've found that the new thing is to simply not even set up one's voicemail in the first place.
posted by checkitnice at 8:07 PM on August 23 [+] [!]


Eponysterical! (Ha! Bagged my first one!)
posted by Fuzzypumper at 7:25 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


Email doesn't even have a guarantee of delivery, much less proof of delivery (which fax has).

Within an email system, it does. So, if your place uses exchange, or Zimbra, or Groupwise, then proof of delivery is baked into the system for accounts in that system.

Which is to say, we have had students try to pull the "I didn't get the email" trick and been able to provide date -hour-minute-second reports of when they did in fact, receive the email, when the read the email, and when they deleted the email. Usually much to their amazement.

Like they are the first ones to try this and I got my degree in Moronity at Stupid U.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:45 PM on August 23 [14 favorites]


Is there a single viable email alternative that isn't captive to a provider? You can host your own email, or move it freely among countless providers, large and small, choosing the one with the policies you like, all without ever changing your address. And it doesn't get autosnooped and used for targeted advertising.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:49 PM on August 23 [8 favorites]


thelonius: "What the hell are colleges supposed to do? Send Snapchats to everyone?"

Stop writing campus wide memos. You want to carpetbomb students-all, it better not be another fucking notice about extended hours at the Rec. Ideally, IT charges departments for every email sent to student inboxes, because there is an asymmetric cognitive burden on writing.

And make sure your student onboarding process gives them ample invitation to forward email to their actual 'I check this' inbox. If they have one. At least for me, college was the first point at which email was expected to be checked. My dumbass CS TAs were emailing me questions at my CS departmental email, which I didn't even know I had, and at 18, did not really fathom how to write a .procmailrc forward.

Finally, there was a time in which campuses didn't have student email, and yet they functioned. Have you experimented with what they did back then?
posted by pwnguin at 7:51 PM on August 23 [7 favorites]


(and I've had a Gmail account for nearly 20 years now)

20 years? You may want to talk to Larry and Sergei about your cut, if that's the case.


I can't count...make that nearly 10 years. I got my account via invitation back when that was the only way to get them.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:13 PM on August 23


iirc, they used to put paper in our little cubbyholes, which we'd check
posted by thelonius at 8:13 PM on August 23 [9 favorites]


I've lived the other sides of this. I went to college just late enough for everyone to have a college provided email address, but before actually using it was essential. Some people used them a lot, others not at all, and college business (including course information, campus safety announcements, things like that) was done entirely on paper. I know I never emailed a professor even once during my entire undergraduate study.

Then I was a TA in grad school at a time when email was straightforwardly the default communication method -- there were occasional students (grad and undergrad) who would insist on using their personal email instead of the .edu one but couldn't figure out how to set up forwarding, but the onus was on them to figure it out.

Now email is the default for important work business (maybe the way fax was for a while, and carbon paper typed letters before that), but we all use texts when something is urgent because everyone has a phone with them all the time. Everyone I know who is teaching at colleges/universities complains about the difficulties to forcing students to use a single mode of communication -- it almost doesn't matter which mode is chosen (email, text, etc) as long as everyone is using the same one and can reliably send and receive communications.

Going back to the notes in the mailbox in the basement of the student union probably sounds attractive sometimes.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:47 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


PINE.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:52 PM on August 23 [25 favorites]


Last week someone who is only five years younger than I am (40) made fun of me because I arranged a social gathering via group email. "What, were you out of carrier pigeons?"
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:27 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


Re: carrier pigeons, did they have an idea that would have worked better than email for this situation and if so, what was it?
posted by ostranenie at 9:34 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


I was told the way to go was to create an event page on Facebook.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:37 PM on August 23


People who TEXT me with multi-point business related inquiries deserve an E Honda hundred hand slap. This happens more and more. I refuse to respond to business over text. Call me. Or email when I can respond when I want, and not be perceived as rude for not responding instantly.

SHIT IS NUANCED
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 9:40 PM on August 23 [12 favorites]



I was told the way to go was to create an event page on Facebook.


Which is functionally the same as creating it by Exchange, Groupwise, or any of a thousand other "groupwise" social clients.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:41 PM on August 23


All of that being said - I should point out that I am relying more and more on Email when something needs to be officially official - that I said it, when I said it, how I said it - and telephones/face2face when I'd prefer to be a little less searchable under FOIA/etc.

It's sort of a cultural change, I think. It used to be a ringing phone was a bad omen, but anymore it's a pretty good sign things are still managebly low key.

I find I have been ducking emails more and more and phone calls less and less, which is a complete reversal from when I started my career.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:46 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


And, all those "replacements" for email require an email account to join.

SMS doesn't necessary require email address.

People who TEXT me with multi-point business related inquiries deserve an E Honda hundred hand slap. This happens more and more. I refuse to respond to business over text. Call me. Or email when I can respond when I want, and not be perceived as rude for not responding instantly.

text back "call me" - takes 10 seconds or so.

My 2c: there's not much point to email once you have a telephone-number-based messaging system that does the same thing (which it doesn't quite, yet).

And, IIRC, a LOT of email threads could be wrapped up much faster by a phone or face conversation.

You gotta admit that email is becoming fairly worthless for everyone who's not that into forwarding YouTube videos. Push technology in a pull-focused new world, etc etc.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:07 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


People who TEXT me with multi-point business related inquiries deserve an E Honda hundred hand slap. This happens more and more. I refuse to respond to business over text. Call me. Or email when I can respond when I want, and not be perceived as rude for not responding instantly.

text back "call me" - takes 10 seconds or so.


It adds up when practically every other person texts for business or complicated matters. I get the sense that increasingly often people use texting as a method to try and guilt the other party into responding instantly. Maybe, maybe not - but when you pick up your phone you can open the mail app or the text app and it seems like there's a reason behind the choice of which one you use. Email has more leeway - maybe just hours, maybe as long as days - but if you don't respond to an email within 10 minutes people don't automatically assume you're being rude.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 10:22 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


mrgrimm: "there's not much point to email once you have a telephone-number-based messaging system that does the same thing (which it doesn't quite, yet)."

I don't have a smart phone but from what I've seen it seems like the big stumbling blocks would be archiving, sorting, searching, multi participant threading, attachments and backups. The latter especially. It seems like half the time people switch phones they loose part or all of their phone data. Most prevalent when switching platforms. Also do phone messaging systems allow for BCCing?
posted by Mitheral at 10:32 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


I want a "paper" trail, at work. When someone says "You never told me this," with email, I can say "Yes I did, at 2:32 pm on Monday, and I know you get the message because you replied to it at 4;16."

There are times when I reach for the phone, then put it back down & open Mail just for this reason. Chat windows don't cut it when you need permenance and time stamps.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:51 PM on August 23 [21 favorites]


I discuss politics with strangers and share jokes with friends on Twitter, keep up with distant friends on Facebook, text my best friend to see when she is free for coffee.

I make job applications on email. I also send longer messages to friends than I can any other way, get messages from my mother, and share important files for work and personal projects.

If you left me with only one of these communication media, I know which one it would be: you can pry my email account from my cold, dead hands.
posted by jb at 11:06 PM on August 23 [7 favorites]


basically: twitter, facebook, texts - these are all fun, like games.

Email is a serious tool.
posted by jb at 11:07 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


Crappy medium for love letters.

Perhaps. But when the one you are sending them to is in the field, or in a warzone, or some such and postal mail can take months and emails, if not instant, are at least checked within hours or days in most cases.

Don't get me wrong - I still write my beloved billet doux on lovely stationery when he is away on work. But being able to email, or in our current case iMessage, a few times a week may reduce it to the trivial but knowing he is thinking about me (and when he is in dangerous places, is safe and still able to access his laptop) can be just as meaningful, reassuring and sometimes downright erotic.
posted by Megami at 11:22 PM on August 23


I get the sense that increasingly often people use texting as a method to try and guilt the other party into responding instantly

Latency is a big difference between different media. If I'm writing an email and it's lunch time, I'll totally just stop and continue again afterwards. For IM though (or SMS which is really the same thing), I'd want to get to a good stopping point in the conversation - the point of that medium is the quick turnaround time. And that's sometimes a LOT faster because you can just say "wait, did you mean X or Y?"

For instance Monday a friend is in town, so some other folks and I are gonna meet up for dinner. I started out over email, but when I found out that one of the friends had dietary restrictions, I switched over to IM with her to find out whether the place I had in mind was viable. It wasn't so we spent maybe 10 minutes talking about other ideas, found one that was great, and then switched back to group email, to disseminate the actual information about the plans. Basically ideal. Though we are all over 30. Maybe if one of use was 17 we would have had to use morse code over Yo in order to communicate with them effectively.
posted by aubilenon at 11:39 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


basically: twitter, facebook, texts - these are all fun, like games.

As a non-native speaker classmate of mine put it: "Do you play facebook?"
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 2:26 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


I use email for class-related information, via a university listserv (they can pick their address) separate from the course management system (so I can tell them if that system is down at a crucial time). I don't send grade information on the listserv. My syllabus says "check your email," missing important information is the non-checking student's problem. I also have rules about how I check my email, so they know how to contact me.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:50 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


In early 2011, the CEO of a French IT company issued an usual memorandum. He banned email.
I'm still not convinced Atos isn't a French government conspiracy whose sole purpose is to stop people making fun of Capgemini.
posted by fullerine at 3:06 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Last week someone who is only five years younger than I am (40) made fun of me because I arranged a social gathering via group email. "What, were you out of carrier pigeons?"

Ugh. This smug, self-regarding attitude about "technology" (as if they had designed a Theremin and built it out of a drawer of spare parts or something, rather than spent all day playing on their phone): I don't like it, no sir.
posted by thelonius at 4:04 AM on August 24 [16 favorites]


There's probably a way to set up "I get notices on my phone when a University address emails me" in If This Then That.

You can set up notifications in the default android mail app.
posted by ersatz at 4:09 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


I hope in the near future everyone works in digital asset management systems(DAMs); until then I'll just keep linking email servers to my DAMs to alert people when they have to log in.

Eventually weaning people off of email (for work; it has it's place as private communication) is a life long goal of mine. Email is exclusive, shared systems are inclusive. Transparency in the workplace FTW.
posted by EinAtlanta at 4:25 AM on August 24


My experience is the same: email is for work (unless you don't want a record of what you said, and there are times that you don't), telephone for personal. I'd like a better way to organize enterprise-wide email, though. Having a thousand people with 2000 .pst files is making me anxious.
posted by Mogur at 5:18 AM on August 24 [2 favorites]



I've been sitting here trying to imagine doing the things I do without ever using email. I don't use it as often as I used to but I'm having problems seeing how to get rid of it all together especially as people have already said for the workplace.

At work I've started using Trello and love it. It has pretty much replaced emailing about projects with two of my colleagues. I can see how platforms like this could replace a lot of internal emailing in a workplace. I do find it better way to communicate and keep things organized.

I can't see how this type of thing would work with outside communications with anyone that's not 'in the group' though or would be useful for one off communications, like a question to a supplier.

I do use texts for tasks that need quick or not so in depth type of communication. For instance I needed to get some info and files from someone. We texted back and forth a few times to organize what I needed but the file info came by email. In the past I would have used email for the whole thing and it would have taken longer.


I barely use email for personal communication any more. That has definitely changed over the past few years. I used to talk to my sisters through email a lot. Now it's through different social media and on thinking about it I like it a lot better. I find I'm in touch with their day to day life a whole lot more now and get to see and be a part of lots of little things as well as the big things. If a bigger conversation is needed we use messaging and super serious important stuff means phone call. We also still regularly talk on the phone and because we're in touch with lots of the smaller life things we use those as jumping off points.

We used to email photos to each other. I like shared photo galleries a whole lot better then that. Heck of a lot easier to upload and share a link. Easier to keep organized as well. I still use email for sending pictures I want to remain totally private. My nephew for instance is very aware of the internet and privacy and for the most part he's totally okay with pictures of him going up there. Occasionally there are things that he's okay with his Aunties seeing but doesn't want them posted somewhere so he'll ask that they be just emailed. I find it interesting that at 11 years old how aware he is about the internet and privacy.
posted by Jalliah at 6:25 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Faculty and administration still need and use email to notify students of what is deemed by them to be useful and important...would you expect a prof to text students about work being commented upon, or assignments due etc? It is true that students in general and the young prefer texting or other forms of communication, but they continue--so says my college daughter--to check regularly for emails from those that continue to use that form of communication.
posted by Postroad at 6:34 AM on August 24


Chat windows don't cut it when you need permenance and time stamps.

At my place of employment (a Fortune 500 company) we have Microsoft Lync as an internal IM system, in addition to email. Although email is still the primary mode of communication, use of IM has been growing.

However, Lync is tied into Outlook, and all conversations are saved in an Outlook folder and I can refer back to them later just as easily as I can email.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:37 AM on August 24


Email is exclusive, shared systems are inclusive. Transparency in the workplace FTW.

Reading these comments I feel like maybe we do entirely different versions of "work." I use email for things like "here are my revisions to the scope of work for the contract amendment" or to provide a response to comments from the review committee. Control over who it goes to is entirely the point, along with the easy ability to attach documents and have a basic record of what information was provided at what time.

There's very little in my work email that would benefit from being shared with my entire staff or with the entire organization -- none of them need to know about contract revisions or budget discussions with my admin controller or an employee's personnel issues with HR. If it was switched to a transparent system, all of those discussions would need to move to another mode of communication that provided email's control over distribution and kept records of what was sent.

We don't use any kind of IM internally (thank heavens) but a lot of companies I work with do, and there are issues where they lose track that their IM is internal only and the information they are sharing there is not accessible to the external components of the team. For that kind of thing to seriously take over from email you'd have to solve those interface issues while also allowing companies to maintain fully internal networks as well.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:42 AM on August 24 [2 favorites]


We have Lync too but it doesn't seem to do multi-person conversations very well. I'd love to be able to use IRC again at work but corporate would never allow it.
posted by octothorpe at 7:10 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Revisions are one of the very reasons email should be replaced. In a DAM, the most current draft is evident. No more version conflicts.

As for privacy and security, that's easily managed with access control lists (ACLs). Your work group can still keep things among themselves. But no more mailing around to see who has a copy of what, and then getting the wrong edit copy, or last year's version - unless you're checking edit histories for specifically those things.
posted by EinAtlanta at 7:11 AM on August 24


Except that the only DAM that most companies use, including mine, is SharePoint which is so broken that it's almost useless.
posted by octothorpe at 7:22 AM on August 24 [6 favorites]


Except that the only DAM that most companies use, including mine, is SharePoint which is so broken that it's almost useless.

My experience is that Sharepoint works acceptably (given its quirks and errors) when you have thirty people operating out of different offices all needing to access and edit a set of documents. That way you avoid the problem of people working off of the old version or missing that a document is now considered final. But it's total overkill (and extra work) when you just need to send one person a draft of something for their comment.

As for privacy and security, that's easily managed with access control lists (ACLs).

Again, this makes a lot of sense when you have a central set of project documents, some of which everyone gets access to and others need to be limited to just a few. But that's not the same at all as needing to email HR about an employee issue, or any number of discussions that lead up to the formation of the project team that will be on that ACL. They are both useful tools, but having the one doesn't negate the use of the other.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:50 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


I used to know a guy who carried a pager and a cell phone. You could page him and he'd call you back.

Lately people email me to see if it's a good time to talk on the phone.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:19 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Email doesn't even have a guarantee of delivery, much less proof of delivery (which fax has).

I've got clients who still use faxes that receive by telephone lines and print out paper copies. So "our people" are having to call "their people" to ensure the fax machine did not run out of paper, that the fax hasn't arrived unnoticed for several hours or that faxed report wasn't inadvertently picked up by the wrong person and never redelivered. And if someone states "oh I'll just fax that over," the admins who handle faxes hate it because that means constant calls about "did the fax arrive yet?" and "will you call and see if the fax got sent yet?" And that's not even going into the resends because the fax was blurry, crooked or cut off. Most of my current clients want an email alert that they should go to the appropriate on-line portal for the next action.
posted by beaning at 8:32 AM on August 24


Email is the digital equivalent of a mailed letter, and is a pretty durable concept. The humble email will only be displaced by something when that something picks up all email's advantages (directed, can be vendor-independent, can be secured, portable, self-archiving and easily searchable).

In my opinion, email's biggest flaw is that there isn't yet a proactive, dependable way to verify the identity and trustworthiness of all senders, which would about eliminate spam in one stroke. Spam filtering has progressed to the point where we don't seem to care about that so much, but spam certainly cheapens the medium.

Email can certainly be misused. I took ONE course this year at a small U, and they automatically assign a student email, then got all huffy when i didn't check it religiously. Never did find a way to have that account forward reliably.

Business texts: text back "call me" - takes 10 seconds or so.

Um no. Stay the fuck off my phone (calls or SMS), unless you've been specifically ok'd by me to use that channel because I've decided that you are important and trustworthy enough to be allowed to INTERRUPT ME.

The key to staying sane in this always-on world is to be strict in deciding who is allowed to interrupt you and when. (and no, I'm not on Twitter. How did you know?)
posted by Artful Codger at 9:01 AM on August 24 [4 favorites]


As long as we live in a world that values a paper trail, we'll always have email. We're moving slowly towards paperless systems (ha, remember when paper was the thing that was going to go away overnight?), but we'll always need something that provides proof of communication in a durable way. I think email will be it for quite awhile yet. And when it slowly starts to go, we'll have people who bring it back under the guise of letter writing. email has replaced pen and paper in that respect, but few people will want the concept of sending something of value that can be archived reliably to go away. I can't think of anything that we currently have that will meet this need in a predictable way.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:12 AM on August 24


Umm, aren't you thinking of fax? Email doesn't even have a guarantee of delivery, much less proof of delivery (which fax has).

If there is one communication technology that should be taken out behind the woodshed and shot, it's fax. It predates voice telephone, for gods sake. Fax has guarantee of delivery only in the sense that it gets sent or it doesn't, but you have zero way to identify who actually recieved it. Did the super-important secure document get picked up by your intended, or by the cleaner in the office after hours, or by an office temp who tossed it into an inbox without putting it into an envelope first? And is it legible? Email allows me to securely send a message, without loss of quality for attachments, encrypted such that only the actual intended recipient can open it even if it gets mis-delivered. I can ask for return receipts and read receipts, so that I know exactly when it was recieved and whether the recipient opened and read it. And unlike so many other alternate electronic communication means, using email doesn't require the recipient to sign up for a service he or she doesn't already have. (Private citizen? Odds are the person has an email address; how many people do you know with a fax machine at home?)
posted by caution live frogs at 9:12 AM on August 24 [3 favorites]


Business texts: text back "call me" - takes 10 seconds or so.

You can't really use SMS in business unless you have all of your co-worker's cell phone numbers which is never going to be the case.
posted by octothorpe at 9:22 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


there isn't yet a proactive, dependable way to verify the identity and trustworthiness of all senders

DMARC does work well... but it operates at the domain level.

If identity and trustworthiness is to be evaluated for the individual sender, I'm not sure what can help. Any per-person reputation system is going to be gamed until it's useless.
posted by Jubal Kessler at 9:28 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


The key feature of email -- at least modern Internet email -- to me is that it is "unowned." That is, it exists only as a collective hallucination, brought about by protocols that anyone can implement by building a mail server that talks to all the other mail servers. There is no CEO of email, no board, no main menu, no toll-free number to call for customer service. And that's made it admirably difficult to control for purposes like political censorship -- while also vulnerable to phenomena like spam. Other unowned technologies include the Internet itself, the Web, IRC, and nntp newsgroups.

Compare that to the more recent "owned" technologies that substitute for email functionality: Twitter DMs, Facebook messaging, Whatsapp. These do have CEOs, and acceptable use policies, and are able to act more readily and comprehensively against spamming -- but also able to control the platform once it gets popular, whether for the companies' own purposes or at the behest of governments.

And that's what makes me hope email -- and the Web -- keep surviving, and evolving, against their increasingly powerful and popular owned counterparts.
posted by zittrain at 9:44 AM on August 24 [22 favorites]


One of the things that I've liked about gmail is their integration of chat into the interface. So while email is required yet, it's also nice to use it for quick inter-office messages and such, or a quick note to my wife or daughter. So while one model might see it as needing to choose between different forms of communication where one is becoming preferred and pushing the other out, a better model might see different types of communication having particular strengths (and perhaps always will), thus integrating these things in one place is pretty helpful.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:20 AM on August 24


Last week someone who is only five years younger than I am (40) made fun of me because I arranged a social gathering via group email. "What, were you out of carrier pigeons?"

I'm glad I'm an old and we can still arrange by email. One of my husband's buddies wants to arrange everything by text and I lose track of it, and half the time I don't get the texts (which is bad because I'm the calendar-keeper). Email is just easier--except for my teenaged nieces and nephews, who don't seem to use it at all.
posted by immlass at 10:28 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


I think one of the hallmarks of the upcoming technical generation is that immediacy sometimes trumps functionality. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it also sometimes makes things with a slightly greater barrier to entry more tedious, and more often avoided. In my mind one of the great indicators of this is that when YouTube got popular early on, the quality of playback was not very good compared to other mediums. But because it was so immediate, the trade-off was worth it and many people actually preferred catching episodes of shows like South Park on there instead of things with better visual quality. Texting is more real and immediate, versus a medium that pays more attention to things like form and presentation, even if it has other built in benefits.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:37 AM on August 24


Jubal Kessler: If identity and trustworthiness is to be evaluated for the individual sender, I'm not sure what can help. Any per-person reputation system is going to be gamed until it's useless.

I suppose. And the email accounts of people or entities with good reputations would be that much more attractive as hijack targets.

Still, i don't know if the reputation thing (commercial or community-based) has been tried at a serious enough level. I think there's a biz opportunity there, maybe.
posted by Artful Codger at 11:42 AM on August 24


(Private citizen? Odds are the person has an email address; how many people do you know with a fax machine at home?)

The majority of All-In-One scanner/printers are also fax machines. What I don't have anymore is a landline to actually deliver the faxes to it.

Anyway, zittrain above echoes my earlier comment about there not being any nonproprietary alternatives to email. The idea of Mark Zuckerberg being the intermediary to all my social and business interactions is appalling.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:46 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Sharepoint isn't actually a DAM; it's a crazy halfway point between an FTP server and a shared drive. Microsoft doesn't even use SharePoint as a DAM. See:

http://www.cmswire.com/cms/digital-asset-management/dam-confusion-in-the-marketplace-026261.php


The cruddy thing is that even though salespeople knew SharePoint wasn't really a DAM, the product was sold that way. Now that Microsoft is in bed with ADAM, a true DAM, let's see if selling SharePoint as a DAM solution still happens (hopefully not, or they upgrade using ADAM code & tech).

When people brag that SharePoint does so work in their office environment, it's because a dedicated person was paid to customize the thing. Off the shelf? Not so much.
posted by EinAtlanta at 12:44 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


Revisions are one of the very reasons email should be replaced. In a DAM, the most current draft is evident. No more version conflicts.

And in the CYA world of work, that's exactly why email is important: no changing something and claiming it was always like that. Don't get me wrong, I like those systems for documentation, etc., but I have to have a paper trail. Last year, I had a project that did not get tested at all: thankfully, Jira (where we put all of sprint stories) has revisions and history, so I was able to show where the QA dude had actually changed the acceptance criteria and requirements (rage) after the fact so it looked like he tested it. And email chains were a huge part of showing what really happened.

And, maybe I'm jaded, but even after I have a conversation with someone about something work critical, I send a recap in email confirming what we agreed upon. (OK, yes I am jaded/old.)
posted by sfkiddo at 12:49 PM on August 24 [6 favorites]


And, maybe I'm jaded, but even after I have a conversation with someone about something work critical, I send a recap in email confirming what we agreed upon. (OK, yes I am jaded/old.)

I do this every time I discuss something with my boss, especially if she agrees to do something. She is so bad at organizing and keeping track of what she is supposed to do. Some days I don't know how she manages. Even though she forgets to check all her email half the time my butt is always covered. It's also a great way to get her to leave me alone and at the same time think I'm the most amazing and organized project manager. She'll ask me about some issue and I say I don't know, you were going to do ABC, it's in your email and she'll be all 'oh gosh, yes, I need to get more organized....' and trail off as she goes to check her computer though most of the time she doesn't make it that far because she'll get distracted by something else along the way. I also get to be all,' have you taken care of X yet, I emailed you like you said' and boss her around.
posted by Jalliah at 1:26 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Chat windows don't cut it when you need permenance and time stamps.

At least Lync's predecessor had a log option you could turn on. Or may IT just turned it off because they don't want us using it for "business". I work in a bureaucracy which is happy with email. My sense is that we have Lync because there are a vocal group of Communications people who love the idea of social media at work. So everyone has Lync and Yammer now, and imo we now waste a lot of time chatting about nothing.

that's exactly why email is important: no changing something and claiming it was always like that.

Tell that to my previous supervisor! He had no compunction about changing/erasing dates on emails, or re-arranging previous writing to suit his needs. When called on it he would bluster and claim it was all true. As far as I know he's never been taken to task for this nonsense. Plus he's in his 40s and presumably grew up with email.
posted by sneebler at 2:03 PM on August 24


omg I miss PINE. We used to have typing contests using the chat(?) function. I also would totally stalk people on it, checking when they last logged in. O_o

Also I think I used the same password all four years of college. I distinctly recall pondering my password choice for over an hour, because it was IMPORTANT not because of security reasons. I used "potato" by the way.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:09 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


The archiveability of the form is also key for data hoarders like me. I have a friend who is a veritable drunken poet laureate of the text message. For his birthday one year, I collected our friend group's favorite messages from him and then compiled it into a handwritten mini-book. Maybe my best gift idea ever.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:17 PM on August 24


What the hell are colleges supposed to do? Send Snapchats to everyone?

For modern college students? E-mail or text the mother.

She will then go to the dorm, wake her student, kick the one-night stand out of the room, bathe, dress and feed her kid, and then give a list of replies, messages and forms that need to be sent out, and wait there while the offspring performs the actions under her guidance. Then she will go back into the dorm room, clean up all the empty beer bottles, and curl up on the end of the bed to wait for the student to came back.

MomDroid- it's the communication medium that will replace emal.
posted by happyroach at 3:25 PM on August 24


I was talking to someone the other day who uses an app to communicate with his young adult children. It was like texting, but free - though you both have to have smart phones and install the application.

I asked: why didn't he just email his kids? He said that they didn't check their email more than every couple of days, whereas they would get the messages on this smart phone app right away.

But I was still boggled: all smart phones do email. I get a notification every time I get an email (even says how many emails). What was the advantage of this third party application?

He couldn't explain.
posted by jb at 4:41 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


that's exactly why email is important: no changing something and claiming it was always like that.

Tell that to my previous supervisor! He had no compunction about changing/erasing dates on emails, or re-arranging previous writing to suit his needs. When called on it he would bluster and claim it was all true.

sneebler, that is truly evil. What a jerky jerk jerk-face.
posted by sfkiddo at 5:26 PM on August 24


We don't use any kind of IM internally (thank heavens)

Pfft. We use three different IM systems internally.

More is better right?
posted by aubilenon at 5:29 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


I am 100% behind email but I acknowledge Facebook solved a social problem that plagues email users: a Facebook user can be pretty sure that a FB Message to another user will be received at The One True Inbox of the person. Facebook makes an effort to ensure that Facebook accounts map 1 to 1 to a person.

I can't imagine the social movement that would compel email users to ensure that everyone has their up-to-date email address and to check that particular inbox fervently. No more "I changed ISPs so my email address changed". No more "I signed up for MeFi with my Hotmail account so that's listed on my profile but my Hotmail account got too much spam so I never check it". That is a dream world.
posted by Monochrome at 6:35 PM on August 24


thelonius: "iirc, they used to put paper in our little cubbyholes, which we'd check"

Interesting. I'm not sure that really scales to 20k students though. If you pretend for a moment that campus mail works at the same price as USPS, it would cost a university around $10,000 to send a single 'all students' memo today. Maybe a bit less, with bulk mailing techniques, maybe a bit more to print them up in the first place. But even if it was only $3k, the price meant that student inboxes were substantially slimmer. And hopefully faculty used other means of communication like announcements at start of class.

The price of sending is so low, the volume of mail sent grows, and other problems appear. We collect all the daily notices people want to send into a single gigantic email, which people mostly ignore. And it's constantly flagged as phishing, or spam. Before we migrated to gmail last year, students inboxes would actually fill up, partially due to 'forward and keep a local copy' defaults, and partially due to the atmospheric prices of SAN storage.

I kinda want to set up a dummy student inbox just to collect metrics on how much crap students are defaulted into these days.
posted by pwnguin at 7:29 PM on August 24


Monochrome, I think it's the same problem: if someone moves from Facebook to another social network, there's the same issue of finding the person on the new network.

It's true that Facebook is both a directory (searchable by name, with results ordered semi-intelligently through a connecting friend Kevin-Bacon graph) and a means of receiving messages. But as you point out, the directory wouldn't be much needed if email addresses could be forever. And they can be, for those who elect to register their own domains (I plan to keep jz.org and its corresponding email addresses indefinitely...) and then forward mail to that domain to whatever ISP or other email host is current for them. With domain registration so cheap -- free, even -- that seems a reasonable choice.

BTW, Facebook has long scanned private messages between users for content that violates its terms of service such as copyright infringement, as well as for behavior that looks like solicitation of minors. I'm curious if people would weigh the merits of that any differently from an ISP/OSP doing the same for email. My instinct is that people would be much more upset about hypothetical email scanning (putting spam detection, which is on behalf of the user, aside) than quite real Facebook private message scanning.
posted by zittrain at 7:45 PM on August 24


> the directory wouldn't be much needed if email addresses could be forever. And they can be, for those who elect to register their own domains (I plan to keep jz.org and its corresponding email addresses indefinitely...)

IKR!? But for whatever reason, vanishingly few people are interested in "owning" their identity.
posted by Monochrome at 8:07 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Monochrome: "That is a dream world."

That's a nightmare. Right now I have a strong work/personal split between two addresses plus some fringe addresses for special purposes. Combining those is a show stopper.
posted by Mitheral at 8:41 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Isn't doing the thing you'd rather not do at the moment, because the reward it will bring is greater than the reward of not doing the thing, the essence of college work adulthood? An instructor saying "Give me your email address, and expect all course-related communication outside of class meetings to come through that channel" is no different than an instructor saying "You want to play video games and drink beer, I'm telling you to read these chapters instead," or "You want to sleep until noon, I'm telling you to come to my class instead." It's just a thing you have to do to get the thing you want.

Somehow I get better at Oldspeak every year. Without practicing or anything.
posted by Rykey at 9:37 PM on August 24 [8 favorites]


> Right now I have a strong work/personal split between two addresses plus some fringe addresses for special purposes.

Don't we all. I was trying to say that for my gearhead friends, they would hate to email porschefan85@aol.com to find I'd moved to pcars85@cox.net to find I'm now checking p85guy@yahoo.com to see that I was too busy with school to check anything but tac00001@stateschool.edu until I settled on notaporch@gmail.com. Thank you for reading my email history from 1998 to 2004. Addresses changed to protect the innocent.

Combining those is a show stopper.

You needn't. I have a work phone and my own phone. No one cares that I have two phones; my coworkers care about one number and my friends care about another. Both groups care that the number they dial goes to me.
posted by Monochrome at 10:34 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


all smart phones do email. I get a notification every time I get an email (even says how many emails).

This is precisely why I don't have my email set up on my smart phone.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:31 AM on August 25


The One True Inbox of the person. Facebook makes an effort to ensure that Facebook accounts map 1 to 1 to a person.

Except that anyone can make multiple facebook accounts, like multiple emails.

And if I post something on facebook that I wish to be announced to all my connections, it will only be shown to some people at FB's whim, unless I pay extra money. Whereas, whenever I used a yahoogroups or other email list, it went through to everyone.
posted by jb at 4:42 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Obligatory xkcd
posted by Mogur at 4:49 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Decentralization. I don't want put my core communications in your Twitter/Facebook aggregator startup.
posted by pashdown at 6:38 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


DevilsAdvocate: "This is precisely why I don't have my email set up on my smart phone."

Protip: Android only alerts you when you have Important mail, as defined by the Priority Inbox Bayesian filter you train. I still turn notifications off for work mail, but there is a middle ground.
posted by pwnguin at 9:12 AM on August 25


My iPhone doesn't notify me of new email either. I don't know if I turned the notification off or if it was off by default.
posted by soelo at 10:24 AM on August 25


Heck, I've found that the new thing is to simply not even set up one's voicemail in the first place.

Way ahead of the curve on that one. Hell, I guess my geocities e-mail address might even be back in vogue some day.
posted by malocchio at 10:24 AM on August 25


I prefer email over all other forms of communication, even though I never use it, because it's a standard, not a product. I really wish there were a way to tie all my communication tools into a single service, with a public front page at rebent.me, that would combine all my emails, facebook chats, instant messages, text messages, and everything else possible into a single stream.
posted by rebent at 12:48 PM on August 25 [3 favorites]


Protip: Android only alerts you when you have Important mail, as defined by the Priority Inbox Bayesian filter you train.

You're assuming I use GMail as my primary email.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:52 PM on August 25


You use something better?
posted by pwnguin at 9:38 PM on August 25


You use something better?

Fastmail FTW!
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 3:12 AM on August 26


I use something different.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:14 AM on August 26


DevilsAdvocate uses MAILER-DAEMON
posted by rebent at 5:21 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


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