e-mail take 2: You get to e-mail; I don’t

Chris Abbey posted a comment to my recent posts about “E-mail considered harmful” and “new protocol” to indicate I was imposing an artificial burden. Please let me clarify:

I last ran an open source project in 1999. Since that time three technologies have become more widespread:

  • blog
  • wiki
  • content management system (cms), aka “portal”

I am investigating each in turn to explore what it provides to see how it might better be incorporated into the running of an open source project. I am also continuing an experiment to learn by actual practice how instances of open-source-software-based technologies compare with commercial offerings. For example,

  • blog: WordPress versus IBM’s internal blog tool (I forget the name; it’s so bad I don’t use it any more);
  • wiki: MoinMoin vs Notes TeamRoom (Sean Haselden likes this puppy. I’ve used it and it works.)
  • cms: Drupal versus something-else. I haven’t really explored the cms space much; I did speak with Joomla folks at LinuxExpo in Boston, but I think Drupal is the best bet. Some folks in Cambridge have looked at it, Chet has put one up. Kieran Lal who used to run the ExtremeBlue program has moved to a new company in this area; there’s a group in Vancouver doing interesting things, and


If you read the above you will see it is a mixture of

  • a response to a question raised in public and phrased to be read in public
  • the source of person email characteristic of two people who know each other, laden with technical jargon

And … that’s the point! Now I am a strong believer in “full public view,” the right of every group member to see everything, yet it is hard to do this in the existing email culture. People’s habits are too ingrained.

For example, a few nights as the few folks reading this blog know, I saw a post by SteveO and decided to quickly write up something for aW. And I decided to stay up late to right it. I wanted to get it done, and I wanted it be on hand as SteveO was flying across the country (BTW, I am going to write an upcoming column along the line “Remember Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? Suppose Steve named his cat Carmen. Then we could play the game Where in the World is Carmen O’Grady? And you know what, we would only have to read Steve’s blog every five friggin’ minutes to know where that damned cat was. Steve’s a blogging GPS system.”)

And then I realized I was writing to SteveO, and that Bob Sutor was probably going to be there, so I sent a short “heads-up” to Jim, SteveO and Bob.


To Jim Chao (IBM alphaWorks), Steve O’Grady (RedMonk)


I heard about the bash some time back, but have been busy on other matters. As it happens I also be writing abou “bashing”, both in the Unix and MS sense, shortly.


I’ve always enjoyed your blog. I’m a “Go Mets!” guy, and don’t they play baseball in the AL, but given a choice I prefer the Sox over the Yankees. I have a relatives in Maine; they summer in Pretty Marsh on Mt. Desert. Hope you enjoy the party at aW


FYI and I plan to attend the OSSC meeting Tue. in Norh Castle.


Steve’s blog posting prompted me to write my own aW birthday card: https://daveshields.wordpress.com.


Good work, Dave. Staying up late, getting off that note, giving Bob the skinny. But something went wrong? What was it?

I took unfair advantage of everyone else reading the blog. By that email, SteveO knew that I knew Bob, Bob knew that I was in communication with Bob, Steve learned that I was a Mets fan, and also a fellow friend of Maine.

Now we had all shared this information. But no one else knew it. It known only to us, not to all, because it had not been disclosed in full public view.

Take another example. One of my colleagues recently mentioned that a note had been sent the the maintainer of an open-source-software project we had been involved in, but no response had been received for over a month. Wowsers! I assumed the poor chap had died, as open-source-software folks are supposed to respond to their e-mail, but … we needn’t have all the details to get the point.

Take yet another example. I recently got sucked into an e-mail chain that included the maintainer of an open-source-software project, an outside contractor, someone else from the community, and then a few folks were sucked in who were also on that mail list. As it happens I had read many of the posts of the mail and knew some of the folks involved, but I had never subscribed to that mail list. So when I innocently replied to the note, everyone got it but that mail list. It bounced there. So this mixed community of people on the mail list and people not on the mail list knew what I had, but not all the people on the mail list.

So I decided to run an experiment to see if I could carry on meaningful collaboration without using e-mail.

Well the experiment will continue, and I do hope SteveO does acknowledge my Hello.

PS: By the way, the IBM Academy Paper proposal got accepted. Good news. I’m also going to see if I can write my part of it directly on the web, collaborating with others, and never send or receive a single piece of email while doing so. The interesting part is that my fellow authors will proably not be able to attend the conference because it will be IBM only, but they will have the fun or knowing they don’t have to go because the will have helped to write it!

Having fun yet? That’s the job of TWITcentral.


  1. Posted October 1, 2006 at 12:32 | Permalink | Reply

    hello! 🙂

    the internal blogging system, incidentally, i believe is an instance of the Java based Roller system.

  2. cabbey
    Posted October 1, 2006 at 13:20 | Permalink | Reply

    Sean’s not the only one inside the firewall that has opted to go the wiki route, on a daily basis I access at least two wiki’s internally, and over the course of the week at least three others. It’s amazing how fast these systems are supplanting team rooms in the technical arena, well ok, maybe it’s not that surprising for anyone that’s actually had to USE a teamroom extensively. Only the PMs and Managers *use* the teamroom any more.

    It really only took two things to make the wiki work for us as a teamroom replacement: 1. ACL’s, we tied it into “bluepages” (IBM’s internal corporate directory, accessible via ldap.) 2. we enabled attachments. And actually, “teamroom replacement” isn’t being fair to the wiki… it goes far beyond what a teamroom is capable of.

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