Email

Doing email better, or better, not doing email at all


Email. What a disaster. Wastes time. Hard to secure. Ubiquitous.

Some seek to avoid it entirely, for good reasons

This phenomenon can be thought of as a potent modern tragedy of the commons. The commons in question here is the world’s pool of attention. Email makes it just a little too easy to grab a piece of that attention. The unintended consequence of all those little acts of grabbing, is a giant rats nest of voracious demands on our time, energy and sanity.

C&C social media, or email monsters.

But being realistic, we are already locked in to email. So, how can we minimise the harm?

Better clients

See email clients.

Contact syncing

See contacts and calendars.

Better providers

Be smarter about who does all that network transmission of your mail.

  • google mail exists, but that is about selling my personal data to faceless foreign corporations, so no. Unfortunately my contacts insist on using it, so my information is sold off anyway. Note to self: lose friends.
  • If you had time you could host your own encryption-happy server
  • At least get email from someone who is not paying their costs by abusing your personal data.

As for that last one, here are some reasonably-reputable 3rd party email providers who in principle won’t give up your email without telling you because of legal protections.

Here are some that in principle can’t give up your email because they never see your unencrypted data:

Here are some I forgot to file and must look up later.

Archiving email

Mailpiler is a webserver which provides a front-end to a MySQL index of all your emails. Is that what you want? Are you spending your time wisely?

No but actually what can I replace email with?

Which deficiencies do you wish to avoid? If it’s security you might do better with OTR chat clients, or tinfoil hat cryptopunk social networks.

Getting mail transport agents

a.k.a. mail server software. Basic level if you want to run you own MTA for sending messaged but you want some guarantees of privacy or security, you can host your own server, although it is rather tedious. The main, and as afar as I know, only, protocol is called SMTP, but there are many implementations. I have only used postfix. There are hip hackable alternatives like ZoneMTA and Haraka, but I have not used them.

If you want to run your own perhaps it is easier using an insta-deploy postfix server with mailinabox. Or you could use a commercial provider which will handle all the details. mailgun is an example of a hosted service that will send lotsa email for you via an API. Same with Sendgrid. I think Zed Shaw’s Lamson was also such a thing but is now abandoned.

Bulk mail

You know, newsletters etc. Are you building a machine to bulk email people messages about something or other? You probably don’t care so much about confidentiality in this case.

The dominant commercial player is mailchimp, but there are open source alternatives such as mautic (PHP) and mailtrain (node.js).