More productive with[out] e-mail?

Monday, August 30th, 2004
Could you live without your email for a day? Do you think it would make you more or less productive?

Twenty-one years ago, I helped develop one of the first 8-bit LAN e-mail systems. (This one ran on the TurboDOS network.) At the time, I offered this new e-mail solution to my corporate clients; however, I could barely give it away.

The typical answer at the time was:
"Why do we need email when we can walk over to someone's desk, pick up the phone, send a fax, or send a Telex?"
Eight years later, I worked with a client that was using MCIMail -- which was only a step up from using Telex -- to send messages from one desk to another in the same building -- a process that took several minutes. It was actually faster to walk across the hall then it was to use a dial-up modem to upload each message at a cost of up to a dollar a piece.

Now, e-mail has all but replaced Telex machines and faxes are only used for paper documents that cannot be sent in electronic form.

Jump forward to the age of the Blackberry, where people not only expect to be able to send a message to anyone, anywhere, at any time, but some companies expect their employees to actually respond within 2 minutes! A big change from the MCIMail days.

For better or for worse, email has certainly changed the way that people communicate over the past 20 years.

This month's Fast Company Magazine has an article about how Veritas has declared each Friday to be a no-email day.

How has e-mail changed the way that you work? How would the elimination of e-mail, if only for a day, change things for you?

MindManager for Kids

Friday, August 27th, 2004
To visualize some ideas for their U.S. FIRST Jr. Robotics Team, I taught Amy and Wendy how to use my computer to create a mind map. We loaded up MindManager and within minutes the kids were using the software to create their basic map.

Image:MindManager for Kids

Mind mapping is not new to my kids. MindManager just makes the process much easier.

I really enjoy coaching Jr. Robotics because it provides me with a tangible way to show young people the results of their creative thinking in action.

I plan to look into teaching the team how to use MindManager as part of the preparations for this year's competition.

Over the next 4 months, the girls and I will be blogging about our team experiences on the way to the robotics competition. Be sure to add this site's RSS feed to your reader so that you can remain informed.  

Until then, here's a link to the girl's 2002 Jr. Robotics web site.
My colleague, Michael Sampson, has just published the first part of his two-part white paper: Collaboration Software Clients: Email, IM, Presence, RSS & Collaborative Workspaces Should Be Integrated for Business Communication.

In his paper, Michael returns to "first principles," as he discusses the types of software-facilitated interactions the information professional deals with on a day-to-day basis. I think Michael does a great job of identifying the key requirements for functional collaboration while proposing how things, in his view, "should" work.

Michael's paper examines the strengths and weaknesses of:
Instant Messaging
RSS Newsreader
Collaborative Workspaces

I've known Michael for many years and he does amazing work. We first collaborated together in 1997 on a presentation for the Electronic Messaging Association,  (EMA), on the topic of "Smart Messaging." At that time, Michael was a strategist for Telecom, New Zealand, and I was CTO of Peloria Technology Corp. I moderated a presentation with Michael and another colleague, Eva Wylie, of Unisys Corporation. Together, the three of us spoke about the present and future needs of collaboration in the area of multimedia messaging. It's been fun these past years to see some of our predictions come to pass.

There is obviously still a long way to go, and Michael seeks to address these issues.

A neat thing to know about Michael, is that he writes these reports and his daily Shared Spaces blog as a way of staying sharp in his field. No doubt, he generates new business from some companies, who read his work and choose to engage him for strategic consulting, but the driver, as he once explained to me, is the public accountability that his blog and these reports create for him.  Michael's already published that he will post part II of his paper in September, so he's already got a stake in the ground.  (You will want to add it to your "Waiting For List"). I'm sure he won't disappoint us.

Nice work, Michael!

I've got a busy week ahead; I'll probably have more to say about Michael's report soon. For now, I encourage you to download it and have a look.

Y2K - 4 years too late?

Saturday, August 21st, 2004
For the past two days, my faithful laptop has been resetting its on-board clock to 4:00 PM on December 31, 1999. Each time I reset the clock back to the correct date/time, it reverts to December 31, 1999 within a few hours.

Image:Y2K - 4 years too late?


I've been unable yet to isolate this to Windows 2000 or to the ThinkPad hardware itself. The only recent software change that I'm aware of was to run a WebEx session for a client test. (I've no reason to suspect Webex; still I've no idea why this is happening and why now.)

Michael Sampson suggested this would not have happened if I had purchased a Mac. (There's always one out there!) Bruce Elgort, will probably just say that it's because I have not updated my photo since then.

Perhaps it's just my system getting back at me for my concern over whether it would see me through Y2K.

Has anyone seen this before?

Can you relax under a fire hose?

Monday, August 16th, 2004
I have. I even paid good money for the privilege.

Recently, Kathy and I saw the most interesting machine on display at a kiosk at the Ontario Mills Mall.  It looked like a high-tech medical device with a translucent blue cover. It was actually a computer controlled water-jet massage machine.

Image:Can you relax under a fire hose?

Kathy encouraged me to give it a try. Not sure of what I was getting myself into (literally) I took off my shoes, stepped up, and paid my $10 for 7 minutes. The attendant took my money and pushed a button. Soon, the shell of this kooky contraption began to open, revealing what basically looked like a chiropractor's massage table, complete with hole for my face. I climbed in and laid down. With another button press the clam-shell closed, exposing only the top of my head. Inside, a giant Mylar sheet protected me from what was to come next.

Next, the attendant put a pair of headphones over my ears so that I could listen to some delightfully soothing music. She also handed me a remote control so that I could control the machine or stop it quickly. Then the fun began.

Pulsating water-jets began to move from the tip of my toes to the top of my head. Then the row of jets cycled in the opposite direction from my head back down to my feet. With a click of the remote, I could pause this motion to precisely focus where the high-pressure water jets would land.

Seven minutes is about all I could take for my first water massage, although I imagine that I could work up to longer runs. When I exited the machine I felt tingly and energized.

Imagine starting and finishing each day under the fire hose. I guess it is all a matter of perspective...

All in all, a good massage without getting wet or even sweaty.

I want one.

Aqua Massage

Ministers using GTD?

Sunday, August 15th, 2004
There is an interesting discussion in the David Allen GTD forum on the topic of Ministers using GTD.

I enjoy reading about how productivity principles can be applied to various aspects of our daily lives. The book of Proverbs is packed with wisdom about this.

I've added my two cents to the discussion.

Walking through the Bible, again...

Sunday, August 15th, 2004
Last year, our family participated in the popular Walk Thru the Old Testament Seminar. The seminar is an innovative way to learn about the people, places, events, and history recorded in the Bible. What I think is particularly fun about the Walk-Thru seminars is that the audience is actively engaged during the entire seminar. You can't sit still. The presenter, while teaching history, uses catch-phrases, body language, and hand-signs to help the audience literally, "Walk thru" the Old or New Testament in just four hours.

Image:Walking through the Bible, again...

There were two concurrent seminars, this year: an adult Walk-thru, and a children's Walk-Thru. I volunteered, along with several other adults, to help "Miss. Donna," as she presented the seminar to a group of almost a hundred children. Miss. Donna did an outstanding job and had everyone moving, laughing, and learning from start to finish.

At the end of the seminar, all of the kids (and even the adults) were able to demonstrate a better understanding of the people, places, and events of the New Testament from memory; they did this by reciting (in order) the more than seventy catch-phrases and hand-motions which they had learned.

It was a great deal of fun, and really helped to make the stories of the Bible come alive.

If you hear of a Walk-Thru the Bible seminar near you, look into it. I highly recommend it.

Quick update from Ojai

Sunday, August 15th, 2004
I've just wrapped up a busy but productive week, working with the fine folks at The David Allen Company. The team has concluded a week of staff development, training, and relaxation. I did a lot of work behind the scenes, deploying new technology and planning the systems that will help the team move the company forward. As a virtual organization, with staff constantly on the move around the world, there are many opportunities for me to show them how to use technology to better support the work that they do.

While I serve many of these folks on a regular basis, most of our interaction is virtual so it's always nice when we have the opportunity to connect in person. I enjoy what I do, and whenever I get to work with nice people doing life-changing work, it makes my efforts all the more rewarding.

Ojai is wonderful place for fine dining, and David is a delightful host, treating us to some truly outstanding meals. Thanks, David!

David, Jason, and I also talked about our blogs, the feedback that we have received, and some of the things that we each plan to write about in the future.

More to come.

Italian food and children’s software

Sunday, August 15th, 2004
Last week, I took my family out to Buca di Beppo for an Italian Dinner, served family-style. Kathy took my daughters to the rest-room. Apparently, in the ladies rest-room there were several pictures on the wall.

Emily pointed to a reproduction of a painting and said, "I know the name of that painting, it's the 'Birth of Venus.'"

Kathy asked her how she knew that, and she said she learned it from JumpStart Second Grade.


The dinner? It was fantastic. Recommended.
Challenging Entropy

Have you ever wanted to drag all of the messages in your in-box into a folder just so that you could see what a clean in-box looks like? I have. Sometimes, I have even wished that I could drag my whole office into a folder - just so I could see what a clean office looks like.

As a technologist, I take great pride in my ability to help my clients design and implement systems to help them organize their information, communications, and actions digitally. Sometimes, however, my skill at organizing bits and bytes does not always consistently carry over from my digital life into my paper life. If you are like me, and you sometimes get out of control, there is hope for you.  The key is learning what clean feels like and knowing how to get back to it.

Hello, my name is Eric Mack, and I have a messy desk. (At least whenever I am completely immersed in a project, which is most of the time.)

Last week, in a moment of such intensity, I shared that I had misplaced my in-box. My post apparently struck a chord as several people have written, posted in forums, and even blogged about their messy desks.  Others wrote that my post inspired them. One individual even picked up on my attempt to blame my situation on entropy. I have seen the enemy... and his reflection is in my monitor.

Well, I am pleased to report that I did manage to locate my in-box -- It was right there all along, hiding under a pile of incompletion and ambiguity. All it took was some dedicated in-basket processing using my modifed GTD workflow diagram to get back to clean.

Image:Sometimes, I wish I could drag my office into a folder

A few days ago, David Allen made some of us uncomfortable by posting a photo of his office. Yes folks, David's desk really does look like that -- except when I'm sitting at it; but don't tell David.  (I often work in David's office, and I can honestly say that in all of the years that I have been going to his office I have yet to see observable signs of entropy at his desk; or even creeping out of his in-box.)

What do David and I have in common?  We both like cool gear and systems and we both know how to get back to clean.  What is different between us? Well, David's desk always looks like a finely manicured garden, mine is often much more organic.  

Thanks to David's GTD Methodology, however, I know what "clean" feels like and I know how to get back to that state quickly enough.  I am grateful to David and his example in this area. If you have not read David's book, I highly recommend it. It's been a great help to me.

My office? It cleans up nicely.

Image:Sometimes, I wish I could drag my office into a folder

Kelly gets her 5 minutes of fame

Monday, August 9th, 2004
Kelly and I were honored to be in the wedding of a close friend of mine. Kelly was the flower girl while I stood up front and thought about what it will be like to escort each of my daughters down the aisle someday.

During the rehearsals, Kelly walked so briskly that Kathy and I both encouraged her to walk more slowly. On the day of the wedding, Kelly did just that; she took her sweet time; so much so, that the wedding procession was almost done by the time she reached the altar, yet the bride was still in the aisle. (Oops.)

Image:Kelly gets her 5 minutes of fameImage:Kelly gets her 5 minutes of fame

There was some concern that the bride and groom might not find their way out from the reception, so we added a pilot-car sign to Kelly's gown ...

Image:Kelly gets her 5 minutes of fame

The wedding went well, and my friend and his new bride did not stop beaming the whole time.

The only problem (for me) was that Wendy caught the bouquet ...

Application for permission to date my daughter

Thoughts on how to pay for a wedding
For the past several minutes, I have been wrapping up my independent research paper entitled, "CP/M and OS/2 - Key trends in 8 and 16 -bit computing."

This paper evaluates the impact that the CP/M and OS/2  operating systems will have on the future of collaborative computing.

For my research, I dusted off my 20+ year old Heathkit H-8 Computer, with its over-clocked (2.0 Megahertz) Z-80 processor, 64 kilobytes of RAM, and a dual floppy sub-system with an amazing 720 kilobytes  of off-line storage. To move files to/from the Internet, I used my reliable Hayes 300 Baud external modem. (see below)

Image:I will not be publishing my latest research report
Yes, that is what personal computers used to look like.
Note the original Heath/Microsoft Manuals in 3-ring binders:
CP/M, Basic-80, COBOL, Fortran-80, WordStar, and SuperCalc,

Regretfully, I have come to the conclusion that the current climate is unfavorable to the publication of yet another independent research report. Therefore, I have decided to suspend indefinitely the publication of this report. I am concerned that this important work might not receive the consideration that it merits. Worse yet, it might show up as the subject of the next independent research rebuttal coming out of New Zealand.

I am not sure if my work could stand up to the scrutiny of Michael's objective evaluation and commentary. (Besides, my web server might not handle the traffic his rebuttal would surely generate -- at least not until I added a second 2400 baud modem connection to my ISP.)

IBM and Microsoft will now never know what I have to say, and the direction of group computing may be forever changed.


Help! I can’t find my in-box!

Thursday, August 5th, 2004
It was right there, next to my monitor only a few days ago...

For the past few days, I've been highly focused on a few key client projects.

Image:Help! I can´t find my in-box!

This morning, I looked up and noticed that my in-box was gone!  Funny, I don't recall moving it and I don't think anyone came in and took it.  And, what's this pile of "stuff" doing here? Where did THAT come from?

Ok, the truth: no one actually stole my in-basket; it's just entropy.

My office is a documented entropy environment. (I guess my work style must create the ideal conditions for it or something.)

Oh, well, time to get out my GTD workflow diagram and clean this mess up.

Home Education on the Rise

Thursday, August 5th, 2004
CNN reports that as more parents seek control of the curriculum and environment for their children, the estimated figure of students educated at home grew by 29% this past year. The results were released Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Education Department.

Kathy and I have just returned from the Christian Home Educator's Association of California annual conference, where we spent a weekend with thousands of other parents who are successfully home educating their children.

Image:Home Education on the Rise

It was inspiring and energizing to be with such a large group of parents, gathered for the sole purpose of further equipping themselves to educate their children at home. The speakers were great, and the organizations, vendors and colleges present provided valuable curriculum, books, resources, and training in various methodologies of education.

I'll post a more detailed summary of the trip and commentary soon.

Christian Home Educator's Association of California
Last week, I publicly promised Dr. Radicati that I would post her written response to my questions in its entirety on my web site. Monday a staffer from The Radicati Group called my office to let me know that I could expect a written response to my e-mail on Wednesday. Here then, is yesterday's e-mail exchange from Dr. Radicati:

From: []
Sent: Sunday, August 01, 2004 9:50 PM
Subject: Dr. Radicati, do you plan to respond to Michael Sampson's response to your Messaging Market Analysis?

Dr. Radicati,

My name is Eric Mack; I shall assume that you are aware of me --  if not for work with the EMA many years ago, when I was CTO of Peloria Technology Corp, then at least from my recent comments on my personal blog:

Michael Sampson's response to your Messaging Market Analysis a week and a half ago raised many questions for me and for my clients. Many companies and trade publications refer to your reports and analyses for information on the messaging marketplace. As you can imagine, Michael's response has generated more questions than it answered.

Your recent response to Ed Brill's blog on your web site answered several of the questions that I had about motivation for the publication of the report, thank you. What I was hoping that you might also address, were the specific issues that Michael Sampson raised. So far, I have seen no response to any of Michael Sampson's comments about your analysis -- from you or from anyone else. Michael's objections to your analysis and conclusions were specific and clear. I'd like to know what you think.

Dr. Radicati, will you post a public response to Michael Sampson's response to your paper, or should I assume, that Michael's observations and responses are correct?

If the referrer activity on my web site coming from other blogs and from Google searches seeking "Radicati" is any indication of interest in this topic, I am not the only one with questions. I know that at least my clients and I would like to know what your response is to the Sampson paper.

As I have offered on my public web site, if you would like to respond directly, and I hope that you will, you may reach me at my email (below) or at my office, 661-242-8410 x101. I look forward to hearing from you. I promise to post any written response from you in it's entirety.

Eric Mack.

Eric Mack,
eProductivity Specialist,
Making Technology Work For You

VideoPhone:         661-665-7878  H.320 Codec, 2x64 (ISDN)
Corp Web Site:
eProductivity         http://www.eProductivity.NET
Facsimile:                 661-242-0171
Telephone:                 661-242-8410 x101
--- Nothing new below / Fin du message transmis ---

From: "Sara Radicati"
Date: 08/04/2004 11:37 AM
Fax to:

Subject: RE: Dr.Radicati, do you plan to respond to Michael Sampson's response to your Messaging Market

Hi Eric,

Thanks for your email - I read Michael Sampson's response to my paper but frankly, I don't see where it raises issues that I still need to respond to beyond those which I have already posted on my web site.

My view/position is:

1. I believe Michael is entitled to his opinion about the market for Notes, Workplace and Microsoft Exchange. My company clearly has a different position as expressed in the whitepaper.

2. Nothing I have read in Michael's response changes my mind about anything we have already written in our paper.

3. I am amazed at the amount of discussion/publicity all of this has genrated given that my company had already openly come out against IBM Lotus's Workplace strategy since the beginning of the year. I have given countless interviews in which I expressed the opionions which are summarized in the whitepaper in question. I have also made my views known to IBM Lotus senior management when we have had briefings and they have asked for our feedback. In a nutshell, I believe IBM Lotus's workplace strategy is weak and will cause than to lose market share over the next four years.

4. I am also amazed that it seems that a portion of Lotus Notes customers/followers don't realize that Workplace Messaging is a replacement strategy for Notes - I guess they must not be understanding the same things as they listened to the IBM Lotus formal presentations.

Finally, I am not interested in blogging or discussing this topic much further since everyone's opionion is fairly well ingrained and polarized at this point. We have stated our opinion as it stands in the whitepaper and we will continue to stand by that position. I do, however, take a great deal of offense when people attack my company's integrity simply because they don't like our point of view. I think that is extremely sad for our industry and very underhanded.

You can make this entire email available to others if you wish but frankly that only encourages what I think is by now a fairly pointless discussion.


Sara Radicati, PhD
President & CEO
The Radicati Group, Inc.
595 Lytton Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Tel: 650-322-8059 x.18

From: []
Sent: Wednesday, August 04, 2004 11:03 AM
To: Sara Radicati
Subject: RE: Dr. Radicati, do you plan to respond to Michael Sampson's response to your Messaging Market Analysis?

Hello Sara,

Thank you for your email today.

While I do not share the conclusions raised in your report, my real objections have to do with undisclosed interests or even the appearance of such -- either of which can be damaging to you and to the credibility of our common profession, as technologists and consultants.

I won't repeat here what I have already written on my blog, but I do encourage you and your analysts to read and consider some of the procedural objections that have been raised. I would be happy to discuss the concerns that I have raised, either publicly or privately.

Before I leave this issue, may I please encourage you, in any future reports, to address the concerns which I have raised on my web site up front. If a reader understands the objective, the sponsorship, and the method used to reach the conclusions presented in your papers, then they will be in a better position to make use of the information that The Radicati Group has to share.

As I promised, I shall post your email in its entirety as a comment to my blog.  (I feel an obligation to at least bring closure to the question that I posed, of whether or not you would respond to the Shared-Spaces response paper to your report.)

Thank you for taking the time to share your position with me.

Eric Mack

Eric Mack,
eProductivity Specialist,
Making Technology Work For You

VideoPhone:         661-665-7878  H.320 Codec, 2x64 (ISDN)
Corp Web Site:
eProductivity         http://www.eProductivity.NET
Facsimile:                 661-242-0171
Telephone:                 661-242-8410 x101
--- Nothing new below / Fin du message transmis ---

From: "Sara Radicati"
Date: 08/04/2004 12:19 PM        
Fax to:
Subject: RE: Dr. Radicati, do you plan to respond to Michael Sampson's response to your Messaging Market Analysis?


I think you have not understood a single thing I just wrote to you - again, everything I needed to say about this topic or our methodology, ethics, processes, etc. is already posted on my web site.

I really don't have any more time for these endless discussions.


Sara Radicati, PhD
President & CEO
The Radicati Group, Inc.
595 Lytton Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Tel: 650-322-8059 x.18

My previous blogs on this topic:

July 23,2004 When does Market Analysis Research" become "Marketing?
July 28,2004 Radicati Market Research Questions
July 30,2004 Dr. Radicati Responds... Well, sort of

Franklin, on getting things done

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004
I find Benjamin Franklin's thoughts on productivity inspiring and convicting. Perhaps you will too...

Last night, I surfaced from a marathon string of client projects which I had been working on for the past several days and evenings. In need of a break, I pulled something from my electronic read/review folder to shift my focus.  I found an old essay that I had written about Benjamin Franklin's views on time and its use. Any of Franklin's maxims could become the foundation for an essay on how we use our time. Here are a small collection of his thoughts...

Franklin, on personal productivity and the effective use of time:

Benjamin Franklin, who lived from 1706-1790, is often remembered for his many inventions and experiments, political writings, and witty common sense.  In 1732, Franklin began to publish some of his stories, wit, and wisdom under the pen-name of Richard Saunders in a publication by the name of Poor Richard's Almanac.  Poor Richard grew to become one of the most influential publications in American history and Franklin's numerous sayings and words of advice have remained an active part of American thought ever since.  

Inasmuch as the author is up late on the night before his American Literature class completing the required reading assignment of Poor Richard Improved, dated 1758, he is convicted by Franklin's admonition: He that riseth late, must trot all Day, and shall scarce overtake his business at night.  Thus condemned, the author will highlight some of Franklin's words of advice concerning the subject of personal productivity and the effective use of time from Franklin's publication.

Franklin begins by explaining that while government taxes may be burdensome and costly we are taxed twice as much by our idleness.  Thus, we are to be constantly seeking to make productive use of our time at all times since time is the stuff that life is made of and lost time is never found again. Franklin further reminds us of the fleeting nature of time since thou art not sure of a Minute, throw not away an Hour. And, as the author is reminded this evening, time enough proves little enough. Franklin encourages us to plan ahead and points out that there is value in not putting off things that need to be done: one today is worth two tomorrows. We are further encouraged to take action immediately upon becoming aware of the steps to move ahead: - have you somewhat to do tomorrow, do it today. Finally, Franklin tells us that just as employees are mindful to not be caught by their employers wasting time, we are our own masters; he thus admonishes us that we are to be ashamed to catch ourselves idle.

Franklin provides many examples of the benefits when our time is used efficiently and productively. These include financial and edible benefits: plough deep, while sluggards sleep, and you shall have corn to sell and to keep, leisurely benefits: employ thy time well if thou meanest to gain leisure, and good fortune: Diligence is the Mother of Good luck. At the same time, Franklin points out that the consequences of not using our time productively can be costly: The sleeping Fox catches no Poultry and Sloth, like Rust, consumes faster than Labour wears, while the used Key is always bright. The benefits of the effective use of time can also be seen with the relative ease with which things can be accomplished compared to the effort required when time is not used efficiently: Sloth makes all Things difficult, but Industry all easy.    

Finally, Franklin demonstrates that small things done consistently can have great effect in his example: constant dropping wears away stones.

The wisdom of Benjamin Franklin and the wit with which he dispatches it, are amazingly to the point. In fact, in the example of this brief essay, more words have been invested in the illustration of Franklin's advice than Franklin's advice itself - which violates Franklin's maxim on the economy of words: a Word to the Wise is enough.

Do any of these words of wisdom apply to you?

If so, what actions can you take now to move you towards your desired outcome?