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And the author has a brief follow-up to responses.

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        The problem isn’t email, the problem is alerts telling you have email. Turn those off, and you can get lots of things done before you check for the latest unfunny joke. Blatantly deleting and ignoring mails that add nothing also help.

        I’m so with you here. In my experience email is fine, the problem is new tools like Slack and Hipchat. They allow you to put asynchronous communication in the same stream as synchronous communication, which causes no end of pain.

        In my mind there’s a reason IRC works well, and it’s that I can log in and participate with what’s happening, but when I switch off it’s clear that I’m out. No input, no decisions, etc.

        There’s also a reason email works well: you have to stop, formulate your thoughts, then disseminate them to an audience that is expected to be asleep, offline, on vacation, or just not watching email.

        Slack breaks both of those models because you’re an @ away from roping anyone back into a conversation - you can summon me when I’m away, or drop fifty messages in a channel, then toss “@owen what do you think” in and I have to go parse four people’s stream of consciousness to provide input.

        Email is great. It’s asynchronous - when you email me you expect a delay. Similarly IRC is great, because you can work through things quickly and then forget. This new wave of communication tries to do both, and the only thing that can keep you sane is having coworkers that understand how to use it. ugh.

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        No, the problem is that the first tool we run to when we need to solve a problem is email. The “quiet hours” aren’t just for the people receiving email; they’re also for the people sending email—to force them to solve their tasks as independently as possible before shipping them off to the next node on the graph. To compare the two extremes, we’re looking at weight being concentrated solely on the nodes versus solely on the edges, tasks spending most of their time being solved versus being transferred.

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      Yeah this seems great and all, but I’m on a team that is all across the globe, and dedicated “office hours” would never work in all the timezones that we have people in. We actually have people with 0 overlap in their 8 hour workdays.

      I use email / internal forums / slack / IM / phone but I really like email, and it’s almost for the same reason as this article. I let email come in all day, but I dedicate an hour or so a day where I am dedicated to answering that email. Seems to work for me the same way that this article is suggesting. I can always set “Do Not Disturb” on my IM / Slack and force people to have to email or call me if it’s really that urgent.

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        It’s weird how people think if something has been around for 10 years, it suddenly sucks and needs to be reinvented. I think email is great, and anything else is just glorified email. I can see why people would want to replace IRC though. I also think people forget there is a difference between Instant Messaging and Offline Messaging.

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          anything else is just glorified email

          glorified centralized email, which makes it terrible right off the bat with no additional discussion required.

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              I don’t need to use anything Google has written to send and receive email to and from gmail accounts (and indeed, I don’t). Similarly, I can use any git toolset (not that I’m aware of one other than the usual one) to talk to github; from the source control perspective, it’s just another remote repository.

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                I wish that were the case. I’ve stayed away for a lot of reasons, but every day my inbox gets another helping Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Hangouts, and Google Groups - especially since Google Chat blocked chat with non-Google accounts. If I refuse all of it, I am the one last annoying person who objects to the standard and wants special treatment.

                Google owns email.

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              Yes, those further illustrate the problem. Your point?

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            People can run their own email servers, most don’t for 2 reasons: technical knowledge, and reliability.

            Also, why are you not complaining about centralized IRC, or centralized slack and friends?

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              Also, why are you not complaining about centralized IRC, or centralized slack and friends?

              Em, I think whybboyd is? The response is to “anything else is just glorified email”, aka tools like IRC and slack. So whybboyd is saying “anything else is just glorified centralized email”.

              So I think you’re in agreement :)

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          It’s weird how people think if something has been around for 10 years, it suddenly sucks and needs to be reinvented.

          You can’t just let people use established standard protocols. This way lie interoperability and a functioning Internet.

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      A solution to this issue is to synchronize office hour slots within teams—creating periods every day where you know you can talk to a whole team at once

      I believe these are called “meetings”.

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        So, new solution: Only communicate at meetings. Thoughts?

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      Interesting—I was expecting a call to switch to Slack-like things, but HBR is suggesting the opposite direction away from free-form digital communication.

      We took the office hours approach at my previous job. It was a way for us on the technology team to filter and streamline requests from other groups, by giving them a place and time where they had our total attention for work and requests so we could maintain our sanity the rest of the week. I think it worked pretty well, surprised more teams in other places don’t do it.

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        Just realized I was thinking of this Paul Graham essay.

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        I think it worked pretty well, surprised more teams in other places don’t do it.

        I just realized that’s exactly what Lisp devs have been saying for years.

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      This article confuses me, mostly because the author either is ignoring or is oblivious to the normal connotations surrounding the phrase “A Modest Proposal.” Or this is even more deadpan satire than I had anticipated.


      As I read, I was thinking, “Is he arguing against office hours? How is this satire? I do not understand.” Perhaps someone can illuminate this issue, given how he continues in his follow up. Is he serious? If he is, why did he choose the phrase “A Modest Proposal” to headline his original idea? And if he’s not, his follow-up just confuses me further as he appears to be doubling-down.

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        I think only the title, “eliminate email”, is satire. The joke is that email is so widespread we can’t globally eliminate it, and the satire is in calling such an unrealistic idea “modest”. The content is in earnest - he advocates eliminating email internally, but keeping it for external communication.

        This satirical use of “modest” can be understood without knowing the history of the phrase “a modest proposal”, and perhaps the author came up with that phrase without knowing its history either.

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        I read it without the additional “baggage” of familiarity with the work you refer to, and I didn’t find that it resembled satire at all. I’m guessing the use of “modest” in the title is to temper an otherwise rather extremist and linkbait-y title.

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      Distinguishing between decentralized email protocols, email clients, message data types, and the organization of collaboration would make these kinds of analyses more useful.

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      Email isn’t the problem. The problem is saying no to people demanding your time.

      I feel like that’s too short to be worth saying, but I don’t see it said very often, and there really isn’t much to add.