Eliminating e-mail, Pt. II

September 7, 2011

A while ago I wrote an entry proposing the idea of eliminating e-mail from my life, and put forward solutions that I thought could help me. The plan was to stop sending e-mails by 2012, and three months early my @mac.com address is read-only.

I’ve gone critical. But I’ve also got notes.

In case you didn’t know: e-mail sucks. People that don’t know how to use e-mail make e-mail suck even more. Spam adds exponential levels of headache to using e-mail. Using e-mail was the worst part of any one of my no-drama days, and through speaking with others I know that I’m not alone. A BBC article from 2008 even expresses how e-mail ruins people’s lives.

There has to be a better way.

And there is!

If you live and breathe tech (if you’re reading this, you probably do) chances are everyone that you wish to contact electronically has either a Facebook or Twitter account; via your influence or the popularity of the services. So naturally, Facebook and Twitter are the answers to our e-mailing woes. And if you have an iPhone, abandoning e-mail for these services is exceptionally easy (More on that later).

The reason Facebook and Twitter are so great for communication is because the services are simple. For direct messaging, there are no subject lines, all communication is listed as a single conversation in descending chronological order, manual sorting doesn’t exist because it doesn’t need to, it’s perfect.

(There are obvious feature(s) of Facebook and Twitter that everybody and their mother know about; Commenting on statuses and replying to tweets. These are so common knowledge that we won’t go into them.)

It doesn’t stop there though.

Facebook actually supplies its users with an e-mail address. It isn’t something that Facebook advertises often, but it’s there. If you have a Facebook account, your new (what you should make your new) e-mail address is username@facebook.com (you can access this information in the Facebook Messages tab in Facebook).

The way it works is genius; If somebody sends an e-mail to your Facebook address — and they are friends with you on Facebook— it will appear to you as if they sent you the message from their Facebook account. Any e-mail sent to your Facebook address from somebody that isn’t a friend on Facebook gets kicked into an unobtrusive “other” folder.

In other words: With Facebook the only messages that will ever present themselves are from the people you want to talk to (family, friends, colleagues). Everything else is an afterthought to you, existing out of pity. And you can’t even tell the difference between a message a friend sent to you through Facebook or e-mail. Your friends can remain prehistoric and you don’t have to be held back by them. It’s beautiful.

But the onslaught on e-mail continues.

Facebook and Twitter offer APIs to developers which if taken advantage of allow users to sign up for services through Facebook or Twitter. No having to fill out long forms, having to click verification links in e-mails, upload profile pictures, etc. Because everything is tied to either Facebook or Twitter.

As an example, I signed up for an app-service called Soundtracking using my Twitter account. It couldn’t have been more simple. Other signups involving either the Facebook or Twitter API that I use include: Gowalla, Foursquare, Loopt, Instagram, Trover, and so on and so forth (there are literally 40+ more, and I don’t feel like listing them all). One-click (one-tap if you use an iOS device!) signup through social networking services is the future.

One login for multiple services. No needing to approve anything via e-mail. There isn’t any reason developers of services shouldn’t implement either the Facebook or Twitter API, or both. Infact I believe so strongly that this is the future of signups, that I refuse to sign up for any non-paid service if it doesn’t implement Facebook/Twitter login. Coupled with my quitting e-mail, and heck, my exterminating Flash, my digital life can be quite difficult at times.

But the future won’t arrive as soon as desirable if we pander to the current norms. If contacts or services lose us by hanging onto the past, they have incentive to win us back by adapting for the future. And if they don’t, something else will.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.
-Charles Darwin

For iPhone users

Download the following apps from the App Store. These apps are essential for mobile social networking productivity (mouthful!). If you just use Facebook download the first two apps. If you just use Twitter download the last two. If you use both Facebook and Twitter download all four. All of the following links open in iTunes.

Facebook (free)
Facebook Messenger (free)
Echofon for Twitter (free) or Tweetbot ($2.99)
Boxcar (free)

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