Email

  • By now, you probably already know that Yahoo scanned customer emails for U.S. intelligence”, and if you haven’t you can read all the details in the previous link, or in many other places. Here, I only want to point out one thing, mainly but not only to software geeks, and to any organizations whose goal include promoting privacy: this whole Yahoo story is just one more perfect example that one of the most urgent things to do in the digital sphere is to give everybody their very own, personal email server, at the smallest possible cost.
  • The ubiquitousness of no-brain-required social networks and mobile apps has made many people forget, or never learn, a boring truth of digital life: a LOT non-ephemeral online communication still happens via less glamorous, but much more effective tools like email and mailing list. This can have unintended consequences. It is in your interest to understand this, because it is still almost impossible that you can live an adult life without using email at all, and it will be so for a few more years, at least.
  • Sometimes support comes in the most unexpected ways. Today the NSA, the super-secret spy agency that intercepts countless digital communications worldwide, greatly helped me, by providing evidence that a little project of mine is a really great idea that is sorely needed NOW.Thanks NSA. I mean it. And the reason is that (full story here): http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/personal-cloud-free-software/ the NSA is gathering contact lists in large numbers that amount to a sizable fraction of the world’s e-mail and instant messaging accounts.
  • Source: Ray MacLean on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/raymaclean/3548172441/ UPDATE 2013/09/17: THIS PROJECT NOW HAS A HOME AT per-cloud.com I have been using my own email service and self-hosted blogs since 2006⁄2007. I started explaining why everybody should do the same three years ago, when I proposed Virtual Personal Email Servers to overcome the big limits of today’s email. In 2011 I repeated why it is important to find alternatives to Gmail.
  • Using third party services like Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook, Flickr, etc… to communicate and work online is very convenient but also has huge drawbacks: even ignoring the privacy issues exposed by the Snowden affair, you become completely dependent on a private (foreign) company that may cancel your account in any moment, because they basically feel like it, or even disappear in a few years (Facebook or Google too big to fail? That’s the same thing people said of Geocities or MySpace just a few years ago).
  • Last month there was a discussion on Slashdot about do-it-yourself Gmail alternatives. Email is an essential Internet service. Therefore, I think that the object of that discussion is extremely important, and that it is a pity that almost nobody realizes the implications of the current email infrastructure for the masses. The next paragraph is a synthesis of two comments in that discussion (from cshark and toygeek) that explain well what the real problem is.
  • Even in this age of private and public organizations merrily handing out their email Gmail or some other “cloud” provider, there still are lots of organizations that run their own email server. This is better, in my opinion, for reasons I have already explained in “Wanted: Virtual Personal Email Servers”. Every now and then, however, the administrator of one of those servers goes online and asks something like “how can I automatically refuse or delete all email coming from certain countries?
  • Email is one of the most useful and more widely used applications of the Internet. So far, however, I have met very few people that seem aware of how suboptimal its usage is, or of the problems that may arise when many people will start to realize it. Please note that, while the rest of this page explains these statements only in the case of email, most of it applies to any other form of direct, person-to-person communication through the Internet (chat, IM, VoIP phone calls, social networking through Facebook or Ning…).
  • Preface: this is the translation of a post written on April 2, 2010, to explain to all italian Internet users, with a real-life example, of the complete uselessness of copying or forwarding protest email about whatever argument to politicians or any organization. Now that the Italian Regional Election are over, and all political parties are free again to… work for the best interest of the country and announce new initiatives, I have re-started to receive in my mailbox tenths of invitations to mail-bombing, that is proposal to flood the mailbox of some party or Parliament Member with petitions and other messages whose text is already available to cut, paste and send in the email itself or on some website.
  • Email is a crucial, basic service that is almost impossible to not use these days, but the way email is normally used these days has serious limits. The most common answer I get when I try to explaine those limits is some variation of “you may be right, but… I’m not I software programmer and never will, so I have no choice but to use what’s around”. This is wrong. I already run my own email server and I never had to compile or write any software in order to do it.