The decline of email

March 14, 2012

I like the new version of the site stats for WordPress blog authors, especially the geographical stats. I am more international than I realised ! As usual I am a tad behind Telescoper. Apparently he reaches about a hundred countries and I reach about fifty. Meanwhile in Twitterland I have 759 followers. Gulp. Who are all these people ? And a steady stream of people are joining Facebook and want to be my fwiend. Everybody is speaking to everybody else ! Its ballooning out of control ! But … I seem to get significantly less email than I used to …

Is this a well known thing, or just me ? And is it connected with the rise of Blogs Twitter and Facebleuuchhh ? Like most scientists, I started using email in the early 80s. At first it was mostly inside my own institution (RGO at that time). Then there was growing chatter between Starlink nodes. Next, thanks to Decnet and SPAN, it started being possible to send emails to Oz and Yankland and so on. That was magic. Then TCP/IP and SMTP took over, every scientist had an email address of the same form, and the world really became transparent.

The next bit wasn’t so groovy. Microsoft made email so easy (Outlook was one of their best products) that  it was discovered by our University administrators. Suddenly they could pester you and demand stuff thirty times a day. Then your auntie and all your cousins found out about email (Outlook Express…). Clearly, email was going exponential, and it was getting to be a serious problem. I noticed that senior people learned to write three sentence emails, whereas postdocs and administrators sent you six screenfuls of stuff.

But now the tide seems to be going out. Natural feedback cycle ? Everybody going bonkers on Twitter instead ? Or have I just become less popular ?