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A practical introduction to functional programming

Another word for itSun, 01/25/2015 - 22:12

Categories:

Topic Maps

A practical introduction to functional programming by Mary Rose Cook.

From the post:

Many functional programming articles teach abstract functional techniques. That is, composition, pipelining, higher order functions. This one is different. It shows examples of imperative, unfunctional code that people write every day and translates these examples to a functional style.

The first section of the article takes short, data transforming loops and translates them into functional maps and reduces. The second section takes longer loops, breaks them up into units and makes each unit functional. The third section takes a loop that is a long series of successive data transformations and decomposes it into a functional pipeline.

The examples are in Python, because many people find Python easy to read. A number of the examples eschew pythonicity in order to demonstrate functional techniques common to many languages: map, reduce, pipeline.

After spending most of the day with poor documentation, this sort of post is a real delight. It took more effort than the stuff I was reading today but it saves every reader time, rather than making them lose time.

Perhaps I should create an icon to mark documentation that will cost you more time than searching a discussion list for the answer.

Yes?

I first saw this in a tweet by Gianluca Fiore.

Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies: An Introduction

Another word for itSun, 01/25/2015 - 21:52

Categories:

Topic Maps

Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies: An Introduction edited by: Alessandro Bausi (General editor), et al.

The “homepage” of this work enables you to download the entire volume or individual chapters, depending upon your interests. It provides a lengthy introduction to codicology, palaeography, textual criticism and text editing, and of special interest to library students, cataloguing as well as conservation and preservation.

Alessandro Bausi writes in the preface:

Thinking more broadly, our project was also a serious attempt to defend and preserve the COMSt-related fields within the academic world. We know that disciplines and fields are often determined and justified by the mere existence of an easily accessible handbook or, in the better cases, sets of handbooks, textbooks, series and journals. The lack of comprehensive introductory works which are reliable, up-to-date, of broad interest and accessible to a wide audience and might be used in teaching, has a direct impact on the survival of the ‘small subjects’ most of the COMSt-related disciplines pertain to. The decision to make the COMSt handbook freely accessible online and printable on demand in a paper version at an affordable price was strategic in this respect, and not just meant to meet the prescriptions of the European Science Foundation. We deliberately declined to produce an extremely expensive work that might be bought only by a few libraries and research institutions; on the other hand, a plain electronic edition only to be accessed and downloaded as a PDF file was not regarded as a desirable solution either. Dealing with two millennia of manuscripts and codices, we did not want to dismiss the possibility of circulating a real book in our turn.

It remains, hopefully, only to say,

Lector intende: laetaberis

John Svarlien says: A rough translation is: “Reader, pay attention. You will be happy you did.”

We are all people of books. It isn’t possible to separate present day culture and what came before it from books. Even people who shun reading of books, are shaped by forces that can be traced back to books.

But books did not suddenly appear as mass-printed paperbacks in airport lobbies and checkout lines in grocery stores. There is a long history of books prior to printing to the edges of the formation of codices.

This work is an introduction to the fascinating world of studying manuscripts and codices prior to the invention of printing. When nearly every copy of a work is different from every other copy, you can imagine the debates over which copy is the “best” copy.

Imagine some versions of “Gone with the Wind” ending with:

  • Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. (traditional)
  • Ashley and I don’t give a damn. (variant)
  • Cheat Ashley out of his business I suppose. (variant)
  • (Lacks a last line due to mss. damage.) (variant)

The “text” of yesteryear lacked the uniform sameness of the printed “text” of today.

When you think about your “favorite” version in the Bible, it is likely a “majority” reading but hardly the only one.

With the advent of the printing press, texts took on the opportunity to be uniformly produced in mass quantities.

With the advent of electronic texts, either due to editing or digital corruption, we are moving back towards non-uniform texts.

Will we see the birth of digital codicology and its allied fields for digital texts?

PS: Please forward the notice of this book to your local librarian.

I first saw this in a tweet by Kirk Lowery.

Popular this week on GISuser…

AnythingGeospatialSun, 01/25/2015 - 18:20

Categories:

Mapping
TweetA few highlights on trending articles from the past week… Post by GISuser.com.

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A quick Radiodan: Exclusively Archers

Planet RDFSun, 01/25/2015 - 14:29

Categories:

RDF

I made one of these a few months ago – they’re super simple – but Chris Lynas asked me about it, so I thought I should write it up quickly.

It’s an internet radio that turns itself on for

Crawling the WWW – A $64 Question

Another word for itSat, 01/24/2015 - 20:14

Categories:

Topic Maps

Have you ever wanted to crawl the WWW? To make a really comprehensive search? Waiting for a private power facility and server farm? You need wait no longer!

Ross Fairbanks details in WikiReverse data pipeline details the creation of Wikireverse:

WikiReverse is a reverse web-link graph for Wikipedia articles. It consists of approximately 36 million links to 4 million Wikipedia articles from 900,000 websites.

You can browse the data at WikiReverse or downloaded from S3 as a torrent.

The first thought that struck me was the data set would be useful for deciding which Wikipedia links are the default subject identifiers for particular subjects.

My second thought was what a wonderful starting place to find links with similar content strings, for the creation of topics with multiple subject identifiers.

My third thought was, $64 to search a CommonCrawl data set!

You can do a lot of searches at $64 per before you get to the cost of a server farm, much less a server farm plus a private power facility.

True, it won’t be interactive but then few searches at the NSA are probably interactive.

The true upside being you are freed from the tyranny of page-rank and hidden algorithms by which vendors attempt to guess what is best for them and secondarily, what is best for you.

Take the time to work through Ross’ post and develop your skills with the CommonCrawl data.

Tooling Up For JSON

Another word for itSat, 01/24/2015 - 19:22

Categories:

Topic Maps

I needed to explore a large (5.7MB) JSON file and my usual command line tools weren’t a good fit.

Casting about I discovered Jshon: Twice as fast, 1/6th the memory. From the home page for Jshon:

Jshon parses, reads and creates JSON. It is designed to be as usable as possible from within the shell and replaces fragile adhoc parsers made from grep/sed/awk as well as heavyweight one-line parsers made from perl/python. Requires Jansson

Jshon loads json text from stdin, performs actions, then displays the last action on stdout. Some of the options output json, others output plain text meta information. Because Bash has very poor nested datastructures, Jshon does not try to return a native bash datastructure as a tpical library would. Instead, Jshon provides a history stack containing all the manipulations.

The big change in the latest release is switching the everything from pass-by-value to pass-by-reference. In a typical use case (processing AUR search results for ‘python’) by-ref is twice as fast and uses one sixth the memory. If you are editing json, by-ref also makes your life a lot easier as modifications do not need to be manually inserted through the entire stack.

Jansson is described as: “…a C library for encoding, decoding and manipulating JSON data.” Usual ./configure, make, make install. Jshon has no configure or install script so just make and toss it somewhere that is in your path.

Under Bugs you will read: “Documentation is brief.”

That’s for sure!

Still, it has enough examples that with some practice you will find this a handy way to explore JSON files.

Enjoy!

History Depends On Who You Ask, And When

Another word for itSat, 01/24/2015 - 16:52

Categories:

Topic Maps

You have probably seen the following graphic but it bears repeating:

The image is from: Who contributed most to the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945?

From the post:

A survey conducted in May 1945 on the whole French territory now released (confirming a survey in September 1944 with Parisians) showed that interviewees appear well aware of the power relations and the role of allies in the war, despite the censorship and the difficulty to access reliable information under enemy’s occupation.

A clear majority (57%) believed that the USSR is the nation that has contributed most to the defeat of Germany while the United States and England will gather respectively 20% and 12%.

But what is truly astonishing is that this vision of public opinion was reversed very dramatically with time, as shown by two surveys conducted in 1994 and 2004. In 2004, 58% of the population were convinced that USA played the biggest role in the Second World War and only 20% were aware of the leading role of USSR in defeating the Nazi.

This is a very clear example of how the propaganda adjusted the whole nation’s perception of history, the evaluation of the fundamental contribution to the allied victory in the World War II.

Whether this change in attitude was the result of “propaganda” or some less directed social process I cannot say.

What I do find instructive is that over sixty (60) years, less than one lifetime, public perception of the “truth” can change that much.

How much greater the odds that the “truth” of events one hundred years ago are different from the ones we hold now.

To say nothing of the “truth” of events several thousand years ago, which we have reported only a handful of times, reports that have been edited to suite particular agendas.

Or we have some physical relics that occur at one location, sans any contemporaneous documentation, which we would not understand in its ancient context but in ours.

That should not dissuade us from writing histories, but it should make us cautious about taking action based on historical “truths.”

I most recently saw this in a tweet by Anna Pawlicka.

A first look at Spark

Another word for itSat, 01/24/2015 - 15:57

Categories:

Topic Maps

A first look at Spark by Joseph Rickert.

From the post:

Apache Spark, the open-source, cluster computing framework originally developed in the AMPLab at UC Berkeley and now championed by Databricks is rapidly moving from the bleeding edge of data science to the mainstream. Interest in Spark, demand for training and overall hype is on a trajectory to match the frenzy surrounding Hadoop in recent years. Next month's Strata + Hadoop World conference, for example, will offer three serious Spark training sessions: Apache Spark Advanced Training, SparkCamp and Spark developer certification with additional spark related talks on the schedule. It is only a matter of time before Spark becomes a big deal in the R world as well.

If you don't know much about Spark but want to learn more, a good place to start is the video of Reza Zadeh's keynote talk at the ACM Data Science Camp held last October at eBay in San Jose that has been recently posted.

After reviewing the high points of Reza Zadeh's presentation, Joseph points out another 4 hours+ of videos on using Spark and R together.

A nice collection for getting started with Spark and seeing how to use a standard tool (R) with an emerging one (Spark).

I first saw this in a tweet by Christophe Lalanne.

The Internet Of Things Will Be A Hotel California For Your Data

Read/Write WebFri, 01/23/2015 - 23:09

Categories:

Web

The Internet of Things promises to create mountains upon mountains of data, but none of it will be yours.

I don't mean that you won't be generating lots of data with your Fitbit, smartphone and a myriad of other devices. No, I just mean that—as the Electronic Frontier Foundation warns—come the Internet of Things, all your data will belong to someone else.

I've written about the importance of open source to the Internet of Things to preserve developer freedom and encourage standards. But what may be even more important is the ability of open source to keep your data ... yours.

The Hotel California Of IoT Data

Software may be eating the world, to quote Marc Andreessen, by powering ever-greater shares of our ever-more digital lives. But that software is nearly always closed to us. Despite the rise of open-source software, virtually none of the software that we use is actually accessible to us.

That's a problem.

As the EFF spotlights, "when it comes to digital products, owners have rights. Renters on the other hand, have only permission." Make no mistake, in today's digital age, we are most definitely "renters" with virtually no rights—including rights to our data.

While we may have superficial access to our data, we rarely have ownership of it—or of any digital things, for that matter. (When I "buy" a movie I don't really own it; I just have the right to watch it on a certain device). This is particularly problematic for the Internet of Things, as the EFF notes:

If my car breaks down, I want to be able to take it the mechanic I trust, not the one General Motors hand-picks for me. I also don’t want my trusted mechanic driven out of business because she can’t afford to pay licensing fees for the diagnostic codes she needs to do her job. Or maybe I want to tinker with the software to make the car run better, or test it for malware. As author Mr. Jalopy succinctly put it, “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it.” And if you don’t own it, it may pwn you.

A General Problem

Not that Internet of Things vendors are particularly evil. As Forrester analyst Jeffrey Hammond points out, mobile (apps, operating systems, everything) reflects this same trend of locking in user data. Actually, as Twitter open source chief Chris Anisczczyk laments, basically the entire Internet these days is constructed with a one-way data street in mind. 

Sadly, we've come to expect this, something Ethan Zuckerman posits was inevitable given our unwillingness to pay for value:

[A]dvertising is the original sin of the web. The fallen state of our Internet is a direct, if unintentional, consequence of choosing advertising as the default model to support online content and services. Through successive rounds of innovation and investor storytime, we’ve trained Internet users to expect that everything they say and do online will be aggregated into profiles (which they cannot review, challenge, or change) that shape both what ads and what content they see. Outrage over experimental manipulation of these profiles by social networks and dating companies has led to heated debates amongst the technologically savvy, but hasn’t shrunk the user bases of these services, as users now accept that this sort of manipulation is an integral part of the online experience.

We can do better. Do we want to, though?

Noted privacy and open source advocate Glyn Moody reminds us that "if they have your [Internet of Things] data, they know all about you," with "big privacy issues" as a result. At an individual level we may not care ... that is, until our personal health data is used to block us from buying life insurance, or millions of cars, including ours, are remotely unlocked and made available to thieves.

This is not necessarily different from tracking on the Web, which has been par for the course for years, as noted. But as Mike Pittaro suggests, "[Internet of Things] with device/service lock is just a rich source of easy to control data."

Not that I want to be a Luddite alarmist. I don't. I just worry that we're far too casual about the implications of the Internet of Things and data.

Just because a device generates my data doesn't mean its vendor should own that data. And while credit card hacks make the headlines, I'm more concerned by legitimate businesses tapping into my personal, Thing-generated data to offer or deny me services.

How about you? Think it's a big deal or overblown? Your comments are welcome.

Photo by Sonny Abesamis

cs_shadow: Tips for Google Summer of Code

Planet DrupalFri, 01/23/2015 - 22:41

Categories:

Drupal

Google Summer of Code 2015 is approaching and few people started asking me about how to get selected in GSoC 2015 and where to start. So I though to go ahead and write a blog post so that others can also benefit. This post targets students who have never participated in GSoC before and want to know how to get started with the application process and open source in general.

What is Google Summer of Code? How it works?

The GSoC FAQ page should suffice to answer most of your queries and I strongly suggest to go through it before looking anywhere else for answers.

Google Summer of Code is a program that offers student developers stipends to write code for various open source projects. We work with many open source, free software, and technology-related groups to identify and fund projects over a three month period. Since its inception in 2005, the program has brought together over 8,500 successful student participants from over countries and over 8,000 mentors from 109 countries worldwide to produce over 55 million lines of code.

So, basically this is how it works:

  • Different orgs (open source organizations) submit their applications to be part of the program and Google chooses about 190 of those based on their application and past record.
  • Once the orgs are selected, the list will be available on Melange. Each org will have an ideas list and a homepage.
  • You need to choose one of the ideas from the list on the ideas page and submit your proposal. (Details on this below)
  • Then you wait for Google to announce the list of selected proposals. If you find your proposal there, then the hardest part is over and now you code with your org for about three months and complete the proposed project.
  • If everything went smoothly so far, you'll get a handsome paycheck for your contribution and you'd have learnt a lot about your project, org and open source.
There are so many orgs, which one do I choose?

This is probably the single most asked question every year around this time. The answer is pretty straightforward if you're already involved with any open source organization and want to continue work with the same org, then go for that one. If the answer to the previous question is no (which might be the case for most of you reading this post), then you need to choose a few orgs from the list of all accepted orgs. Although you will finally work with only one org, it might be a nice idea to select 1-3 orgs to which you may submit your proposals. You can shortlist the orgs based based on tags, for example if you're familiar with C++, you can filter the orgs which have the C++ tags mentioned on Melange.

If the org list of this not out yet, you can look at the list of orgs which participated in GSoC last year. For instance, you can take a look at the list of orgs which took part in 2014 and 2013. Filter the orgs based on the tags you're either familiar with or want to work on. Orgs which participated in previous years and took in more than a couple of students are more likely to get accepted again this year. Based on this and your favorite tags, you filter out 1-3 orgs.

After this, the next task is to go through the idea list for those orgs and decide what ideas interest you most. If you don't fully understand the ideas, it's completely fine and the next step will be to get your doubts cleared up by contacting the org and/or the mentor of the task (more on this in the next section).

Okay, I've decided an org and project idea, what do I do next?

Once you've decided what project idea interests you most and some parts of the description are either unclear to you or you want to clarify a few details, you should get in touch with the task mentor and the organization in general. All the orgs have a contact section on Melange which will tell you how to contact the org. Most orgs prefer communication either via IRC or mailing lists so you can get in touch with the org. You can also ping the task mentor in IRC or mail him to clarify any doubts that you might have regarding the project.

Although its not compulsory, its usually a good idea to contribute to the org before sending your proposal. In order to that, you can ask questions like "Hey I'm new here, can anyone help me get started on how to contribute." either on IRC or the mailing lists. Since orgs get asked such questions very frequently, many of those have a 'Getting Started' page and if it'll be very helpful if you find that page and follow the instructions. If you've any doubts don't hesitate to ask those. Mentors are generally nice people and will help you through.

How to start contributing

Contributing to an org means either helping to fix bugs (issues), writing documentation or doing testing etc. All the orgs use an issue tracker to keep track of their issues/bugs and most of those orgs have a novice/beginner/quick-fix tag which lists tasks which are easy to fix for beginners. You can get more info on that by contacting the org. Contributing to open source is fun and if you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong.

Writing a good proposal

Once you've finalized the project idea, and have got started contributing to the org, the next and the most important step is to write a proposal. Many orgs have a application template of sorts and if your org has one, you need to follow that. Otherwise, you can start by specifying your personal information and then moving on to project description. Following are a few tips for writing your project proposal:

  • Include a detailed timeline based on how you intend to complete the project.
  • Make sure to list any bugs you've worked on and/or links to your contributions.
  • Double, actually triple check for spelling mistakes.
  • Don't forget to mention your contact info.
  • Last but not the least, don't forget to update Melange with your latest proposal.

Once your proposal is ready, you can ask the task mentor (and/or the org admin) to review it before you submit it finally to Melange. Ask them if you could explain any parts of it in a better manner and follow up on their feedback. The most important part is really understanding the project idea and reflecting that in your proposal.

Some Do's and Don'ts

Following are some miscellaneous tips for communicating with your org in a better manner:

  1. Don't ask to ask: Don't hesitate to ask any questions and its much better than asking something like "Hello! I ran into an isuue, can anyone help me?" Instead you're more likely to get a helpful answer by asking your real question instead of asking to ask your question.

  2. Be patient and don't spam: Once you've asked your question, wait for some time for someone to answer it. Its not a good idea to spam the channel again and again with the same question at short intervals.

  3. Mentors are humans (and volunteers): After mailing a mentor, at least wait for 48 hours for them to reply. You need to understand that they are humans and most of them contribute in their volunteer time.

  4. Use proper English language: Its really not a good idea to use SMS language while communicating on IRC or mailing lists. Also, note that excessive use of question marks is frowned upon. Although you need to be respectful, but addressing mentors as Sir/Ma'am is not such a great idea.

Final words

If you follow the steps mentioned above sincerely, you'll have a great chance of getting selected into GSoC this year. If you have any doubts, feel free to ask those in comments below.

PS: A little background about me

I was a Google Summer of Code student with Drupal in 2014 and org admin for Drupal in Google Code-In 2014.

Tags: Google Summer of Codegsocgsoc2015Drupal Planet

Wanted: Session Ideas For SMX Advanced

Search Engine LandFri, 01/23/2015 - 22:01

Categories:

Search
Here's your chance to help shape the agenda for our always sold-out Seattle conference. The post Wanted: Session Ideas For SMX Advanced appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Drupal Association News: India – Embracing a Contribution Culture

Planet DrupalFri, 01/23/2015 - 20:25

Categories:

Drupal

While we know there are over 33,000 Drupal developers around the globe, I had no idea how strong Drupal was in India until I was there with Rachel Friesen, scouting locations for a possible DrupaCon Asia. By meeting with the community at camps, meetups, and dinners, we saw first hand how strongly India is innovating with Drupal and contributing back to the Project.

When it comes to geographic referrals, India is second in driving traffic to Drupal.org. However, they aren’t second in contributions, but things are changing. I was especially impressed with the relationship between Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Pfizer, a $51.5B life sciences company. Pfizer allows TCS to contribute their code, which is often not allowed for legal reasons. Since contributing back is a one of Pfizer’s top values, they asked TCS to make contribution part of their culture - and they did. At TCS, Rachit Gupta has created contribution programs that teach staff how to contribute and gives them time during work hours each week to contribute code. With a staff of several hundred developers, this can make TCS become a mighty contribution engine for the Project.

I’m equally impressed by other Indian web development consulting agencies that I met like Axelerant, Blisstering Solutions, Kellton Tech, and Srijan, who also have a contribution culture in their organizations. They even set up KPIs around staff contributions to make sure they are keeping this initiative top of mind.

While India celebrates its 68th birthday on January 25, it’s a time to celebrate its growth as a nation-- and, in its own way, Drupal has a hand in the country’s prosperity. Shine.com, a Drupal job search site, shows there are over 15,000 Drupal jobs in India.  All of the companies I talked to are growing their teams to meet that demand. Imagine if this contribution culture is fully embraced by Indian web development companies? The impact on the Project will be significant.

Individuals are also stepping up to support the Project and there is a passion for contribution that is spreading. I keynoted DrupalCamp Delhi, where over 1,000 people registered and 575 people attended. I saw first hand how dedicated the organizers were to make the event informative and fun. Several sprint mentors were on hand to lead more than 75 people through a full day sprint. Plus, the following weekend was Global Sprint Weekend and sprints popped up all over India in Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Goa, Hyderabad and Pune.

Not only are Drupalers in India helping the Project, but they are also using Drupal to create change in India with leapfrog solutions that give Indians access to more digital services. For example, many villages don’t have access to products found in major cities due to lack of infrastructure. The village stores simply can’t scale to buy and hold large quantities of inventory.

Iksula, an Indian eRetail consulting agency,  created a headless Drupal solution for Big Bazaar, India’s largest hypermarket, which provides lightweight tablets for store owners throughout India. Using those tablets, villagers can go into their local store and buy their goods online. The products are delivered to the shop owner, who hand delivers products to the consumer, giving people easier access to goods that can improve their quality of life.

As another example, we can look at IIT Bombay, India’s top engineering university, which uses Drupal at the departmental level. Professors P Sunthar and Kannan are taking Drupal to the masses by creating a MOOC in conjunction with MIT’s EDx. The work is funded by a government initiative called FOSSEE (Free and Open Source Software for Education), and through it, Indian university students can watch videos on several open source technologies, including Drupal.

The initiative bridges learning divides by providing the trainings in several languages found throughout India and provides low cost tablets for students who do not have a personal computer. This well thought-out program can help students learn the tools faster to meet the needs of of future employers. 

India has clearly embraced Drupal. They are making innovative solutions with the software and they are learning to contribute that back to the Project. Its for these reasons we want to host DrupalCon Asia. It will be a chance to highlight India’s Drupal talent and accelerate their adoption of a contribution culture.

A huge thank you to Chakrapani R, Hussain Abbas, Rahul Dewal, Jacob Singh, Mayank Chadha, Parth Gohil, Ankur Gupta, Piyush Poddar, Karanjit Singh, Mahesh Bukka, Vishal Singhal, Ani Gupta, Rachit Gupta, Sunit Gala, Professor P Sunthar and all the other community members who helped organize our trip to India. I’m personally moved and professionally inspired by all that you do.

Image credit to DrupalCamp Delhi

Pinterest Search Is Now Customized By Gender

Search Engine LandFri, 01/23/2015 - 19:39

Categories:

Search
Aiming to attract more men to its social bookmarking network, the company is serving different search results for males and females. The post Pinterest Search Is Now Customized By Gender appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

DiRT Digital Research Tools

Another word for itFri, 01/23/2015 - 19:21

Categories:

Topic Maps

DiRT Digital Research Tools

From the post:

The DiRT Directory is a registry of digital research tools for scholarly use. DiRT makes it easy for digital humanists and others conducting digital research to find and compare resources ranging from content management systems to music OCR, statistical analysis packages to mindmapping software.

Interesting concept but the annotations are too brief to convey much information. Not to mention that within a category, say Conduct linguistic research or Transcribe handwritten or spoken texts, the entries have no apparent order, or should I say they are not arranged in alphabetical order by name. There may be some other order that is escaping me.

Some entries appear in the wrong categories, such as Xalan being found under Transcribe handwritten or spoken texts:

Xalan
Xalan is an XSLT processor for transforming XML documents into HTML, text, or other XML document types. It implements XSL Transformations (XSLT) Version 1.0 and XML Path Language (XPath) Version 1.0.

Not what I think of when I think about transcribing handwritten or spoken texts. You?

I didn’t see a process for submitting corrections/comments on resources. I will check and post on this again. It could be a useful tool.

I first saw this in a tweet by Christophe Lalanne.

Don't Text Me! Let's Revive The Lost Art Of Emailing

Read/Write WebFri, 01/23/2015 - 18:34

Categories:

Web

I, like so many people, spend an ungodly amount of time each day checking email. Every time my phone pings, I eagerly look at my inbox hoping to see the musings of a loved one. More likely, it's the latest sale that the GAP wants to make sure I absolutely don’t miss.

Sadly, nobody sends me real emails anymore. Not since the days of AOL CDs aplenty have I received an electronic missive from a real human being whom I know. And yet, the email keeps coming.

The Radicati Group, Inc. projects that email users worldwide will reach roughly 4.3 billion in 2015.  Who's sending all that email? It's not your wacky aunt forwarding racist cartoons, meaningless petitions and  urban legends easily debunked on Snopes.com. According to Radicati, 80% of content marketers use email to blast consumers with Wall-E style “Try blue, it’s the new red!” bulletins. 

Between all the advertising mailing lists we can't recall signing up for, entreaties from Nigerian princes, and of course, our wacky racist aunts, can you blame us? Most people have at least three email addresses, which we need for work, to sign up on social networks and what have you. But we've have abandoned using email for actual communication in favor of texting, Facebook, Twitter or SnapChat. 

It's not the same. A picture with some text that’s available for three seconds will never capture the same spirit of an email written to you by your best friend, especially when you may not be able to see that friend as often as you’d like. Social media offers are fast, quick communication and get the job done, but they detract from the very essence of why we communicate; to form and nurture a connection. 

 Let’s put a stop to the spam and reclaim our inboxes as spaces for personal communication.  

First, Face Your Mess

If your inbox looks like mine, an episode of Hoarders but with way less mummified cats, then you know the feeling of doom associated with wading through thousands of messages that are there lingering for that day you decide you’re eventually going to read them or file them.

Fortunately for all of us (mostly me) there are lots of ways to do this as efficiently and pain free as possible.

Unsubscribe from the lists. You can hit each one list by list or use a nifty and fast free service like unroll.me to do it for you. They’ll assist you in deleting (or keeping) the email lists that you’re currently subscribed to faster than the Grinch can steal the last can of Who Hash.

Make like a Brita and filter it. Depending on your email client of choice there should be options for filtering mail as it comes at you, thus keeping your inbox free of clutter and as organized as I wish my closets were. Make sure to check out the help section to see what’s available.

Consolidate it. With nearly everyone having multiple email addresses, it's  cumbersome to check each and every single account. Slingshot your mail  to one centralized account for easier organization and to save time. Check to see what type of POP settings your client of choice offers and whether or not it’s a free service.

Delete it. Do you really need to keep it? Will you refer back to it? Have you looked at it in the last eight months? Is it a receipt from 10 years ago? Sure, there are some emails that everyone keeps to reflect on in later years, but chances are you don’t really need it any longer. Make like Elsa and "let it go!"

Now, Think of Something Cool and Tell Him I Said It

Now that your email is completely organized, junk free and has that new inbox smell, it’s time to fill it with things you actually want to read. Here are some ideas to get you started. 

Start with conscious emailing. When in doubt, just email people pictures of your children or pets. (People LOVE to see other people’s children and pets, trust me.) Better yet, write an email. Maybe your grandmother is as tech savy and awesome as mine is. 

How about a significant other who would love to receive details about your life that you forget get to share at the dinner table? Perhaps your best friend lives on the other side of the country and going to get coffee and catching up just isn’t in the cards. Whomever you want to connect with, ditch WhatsApp and KiK and sit down at the keyboard.

Join an email subscription featuring content that you actually want to read. Websites like Dailylit.com provide  one chapter a day from a wide variety of book titles. They’ll give you something to look forward to everyday and cross that resolution off your list to read more all in one free swoop.

Whichever tools you use to bleach your inbox and however you decide to take back control, making any sort of positive change in communication style is a job well done. And now that you’ve sent out dazzling emails to everyone in your address book, it’s time to sit back, relax and wait for the soft ping to let you know ‘You’ve Got Mail!’

Lead image by Mike Licht

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