A “What If” Experiment (Just Thoughts at This Point)

I’ve been toying around (again) in my head with this idea of getting rid of the use of personal email. And I mean this in the respect of using it as the primary means of personal communication. Doing so seems like it would be nearly impossible to do in this day and age, but what if it could be done? What would that look like?

For starters, there’s the obvious question of communication: how would I contact, or remain in contact with people? To some extent, SMS (text) and MMS would fill in the gaps here. These are usually more for the shorter messages, not so much for the longer form messages when I’m catching up with folks (this happens often).

Then, there’s the subject of validation and notification. Email addresses are commonly used as a means to validate user accounts, or to be that central point for user accounts from a service. How would I get around this without email? I’ve tried this with PayPal for the past year and the results are mixed (but positive). But, what if I were to change my mobile number, that would be a ton of places to update a SMS/email contact address for that convenience.

What about in that aspect of creating new contacts? If I were to remove email as the contacting engine, I’d be relying on social networks in order to make the connection. This is good and bad. Good, in that I would have to do a reasonable job of being present on enough visible social networks that I can be contacted. Bad in that I’d have to be present on visible social networks.  Ew…

In some respects I am trying this latter method in respect to how my business card is designed. It is designed not to filter people to an email address for contact, but to use a listed social network as a means to contact me. This works if you are a part of one of those noted networks, not so well if you aren’t. Benefit, I leave my mobile number for those personal contacts, and email for business-only contacts.

Let me note, I don’t think this is something that could be done in a business context just yet. But, I’ll figure out if its viable 😉

Authentication and validation could take place via an OpenID-type account. Here, instead of needing an email address, I’m being authenticated by a service to which I have some kind of secure token, and hopefully the ability to see and manage all of those places where I’m connected. In my ideal world, such an account would be able to be connected to your SIM card (certificate on a mobile web server which sits on your SIM card perhaps) so that you can validate people, sites, and services from a few authenticated devices.

Back to that thought about email…

Then there’s the aspect of communication itself. Just because I get rid of email, doesn’t mean that others do. So whatever I do needs to their communication method of choice and work accordingly. Here again, I think that we need to drastically revamp the behavior of computing, and instead of being so plugged into the methods, live and work with these tools in such a way that makes them smarter. If you will, the intelligence of how we want to be contacted should be something learned inside of the network, not determined and siloed on the outside by us.

Which I think is my main reason for looking at doing something like this. I don’t see much intelligence in the way that we currently go about connecting and communicating with one another. The sender should just need the validated relationship and name of the person, after that the network should take care of getting the message to the receiver in the method they best prefer.

What if this works? What if I’m able to get to the place where I don’t need email for much else. Then what? Is that something that would give value back to the lives of others, or will I be trading one layer of life for another? At this point, I’m just thinking about it. But, given the mess that is email, SMS, MMS, social networking, IM, wikis, and websites, there’s got to be a way to make things simpler for everyone all around.