Email, the once and future king

I was talking in this direction to someone recently—so let's allow David Heinemeier Hansson to kick off this riff:

Inconvenient fact.

There are a few different levels on which this has, for me, proven to be true. I'll limit it to three: work, personal, and groups. (I think there must be a better word than "groups", but I can't think of it—I mean the organizations we involve ourselves in voluntarily in our spare time.) And, for me, personal and work don't matter so much because I'll do what is asked of me in either case, out of respect (and because I like to get paid). The destruction of group communication is a bit more annoying though.

For me, the avatar of this inevitable retreat to email as a format of choice is a good friend and good person who once told me not to email him anymore because he was moving to Facebook Messages (not yet Messenger, I think, but maybe I'm old and remember it wrong), and that was the future and email was dying. That was ten years or so ago. And the referent person here—still good on all accounts—has taken the inevitable Facebook break and so on. Take that times Twitter as a communication platform, any federated service, anything with blockchain in the description, and so on. The promises of the bulk of the new systems far outweighed the reality.

The platform is not the problem—or the solution. Facebook Messenger is useful, but it ceases to exist outside the Facebook castle walls. Same thing with [name your service]. But email? I have a file full of @uiuc.edu emails from Ye Olde College days, and any email account I've added to my desktop client also has a backup. I ought to add: none of these things are valuable in any abstract sense, but if I needed the information I could retrieve it, versus any other platform where the messages are hosted on the platform, and if I or the platform quit each other—poof—gone.

Anyway. None of that was what I was talking about with a colleague; rather, it was this: we all just went through a weird near-decade-long period where it was possible to run an organization on Facebook alone. It was almost easy. Maybe it's still like that, but it's not as easy now that Facebook, even though it's basically a public utility at this point, is sufficiently toxic that it's hard to get an entire group's membership inside the castle walls. So, in making itself indispensable and sucking the oxygen out of the surrounding environment, then making itself dispense-worthy—I can't make a sentence out of this, I just mean to say that it ruined communication with groups, and I haven't figured out how to repair it except to behave as though that period of temporary ease never existed.

Email, on the other hand, is still there.

And email is, essentially, same as it ever was.

And it will be—tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Why?

...

In the final analysis, maybe we just needed to send each other a damned message, and we didn't need a platform or a way of life or a cult or a solution or whatever. Facebook is only a platform, but a good email is a communication.

(I still have a Facebook account, and I use it daily, but I only use it to fart around.)


Small consolation to me was the homely wisdom of the philosopher, to wit: A woman is only a woman, but a good Ford is a car.
—Edward Abbey, "Disorder and Early Sorrow", The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West (1977)

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