A large French company, Atos, has announced (apparently for the second time) that its employees are forbidden from using email for communicating internally. Apparently email is too full of noise, so employees are required to use social media instead of email. This is such an odd idea that it makes you think it’s been misreported.

It does make me wonder, though, how much of the online world relies upon mailing lists as heavily as I do, and whether this is a generational difference.

I’m on about a dozen active mailing lists, I think, although it’s possible the number is much higher. I’d say about half of those are primary sources for my “professional” interests. There are fields in which most of what I’ve learned has come from mailing lists, some of which I’ve been on for well over ten years. They are how I keep up with news in the field and they are where I hear news interpreted and discussed. The knowledge they provide is far more current, in depth, and interestingly intersected with strong personal interests than any broadcast medium could provide.

But it’s my impression, based on nothing but some random data points, that the kids today don’t much care for mailing lists, just as email itself has become an old-fashioned medium for them. There are plenty of other ways of keeping up with developments in a field one cares about, but do any provide the peculiar mix of thematic consistency, a persistent cast of characters, characters one otherwise would not know, and the ability to thread a discussion over the course of multiple days?