My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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NOTICE: Email sabbatical will start December 9

If you don’t know me, you probably don’t know that I work obscene hours for most of the year and then take a proper vacation. As in no internet, no work, no geeking out on research. For me to continue doing the work that I do, I have to refresh. In order to refresh, I go offline. No email, no Twitter, no blogging. And only pre-downloaded Wikipedia-ing (because how can you tour foreign countries without wanting to know weird information about the universe?).

More importantly, I have learned that vacation isn’t vacation if you come home to thousands of pending emails. Cuz then you spend most of vacation worrying about the work that’s piling up. So, over six years ago, I started instituting “email sabbaticals” in my life. While I’m away, my lovely procmail file (aka “filtering software”) will direct all of my email to /dev/null (aka “the permanent trash”). I will not be reachable. The only person that I stay in contact with while I’m gone is my mother because it’s just too cruel to my mom to disappear entirely. Twitter and my blog will also loudly proclaim my MIA-ness. But the bigger issue is that I will return to a zero-inbox. Nothing sent to me during my email sabbatical will survive. All senders will receive a lovely bounce message saying that their message will never get through. In this way, no one can put things in my to-do queue while I’m trying to take a break. I need to recharge and there’s no way to recharge when the pile-up grows ever unmanageable.

From December 9-January 12, you will not be able to reach me. More importantly, you won’t be able to put things in my to-do queue. So, if you need something from me, holler now. Or wait until I come back. But please recognize that I need a break.

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10 comments to NOTICE: Email sabbatical will start December 9

  • This is a great idea which I am now going to steal for my very own use. Have a great vacation.

  • Peg

    I’m sad to say I don’t know you, but certainly know your work. Enjoy vacation – and I think you should also post this to Facebook so it gets shared even more widely. It might also include – the geekiness of setting up ones mail to dump things into the trash automatically :).
    We all need to do this more.
    Thanks!

  • Kathy Collings

    What a great idea. Now, can you point me to where I can find out how to make all that happen? The email to permenant trash, twitter sending I am not here for the proscribed/needed time period? I thought I was doing well by choosing to leave my cell phone at home on purpose and on accasion. Thanks for the blog.

  • Debbie

    I don’t know you personally, danah, but I have great respect for the work that you do. As a privacy professional, I understand the need to take a break from the data. We spent eight days camping in the middle of a national forest this summer–and I enjoyed each and every data-free day of it! Wishing you peace and refreshment during your time away.

  • Have a plan to beat Costa Rica for cool-factor this year?

  • Rutger Hauer

    A good idea but not feasible in a large corporate environment for those who frequently collaborate across a wide range of contacts. How do you become informed about one time communications? (results meetings, holiday party invitations, etc.) I agree with your post and that it is a problem – just not sure what the impact if everyone in a large corporate environment had to remember to resend communications according to thousands of recipient vacation schedules.

    To cut down on e-mail volume – I create an inbox rule that sends all e-mail where I am cc’d to its own special folder (that I only read if/when I have the time).

  • Great idea and people ‘rejected’ during your absence should understand – perhaps a new aspect to add to digital etiquette. This reminds me about a book I must check – ‘Stillness’ must try this myself.

  • Chris Kelty

    Actually, I have no sympathy. For those of us who work obscene hours, have a family, don’t get to take much vacation, work while we are on vacation, and still manage to respond to those people who deserve to be responded to, I think this is flat out offensive. It’s a big Fuck You to everyone who has to deal with the same problems. Sorry to be blunt, but it makes my blood boil to be treated this way. I’m supposed to send you a letter of recommendation for a student, but I guess I shouldn’t bother. Obviously, I will, since that would be offensive to you, to the student and to me, but I wish I could do as you do and just say fuck off.

  • Well, I read the messages above and it seems that you really deserve this vacation. I am here because of an indication of Dra. Ana Maria Albuquerque of the UNB-Brasilia/Brazil and I am interested in your work, but we will talk in 12th of January.
    For now have a nice trip and happy new year.
    And Peter, I recommend Eckhart Tolle for everyone here, he is a great teacher and writer. Read New Earth too
    Thanks and bye

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