Gmail “updated” a week ago, but very little changed. Certainly they can use some of the data gathered on us and some snappy algorithms to do more than ensure that the people who sell gut-constricting shirts find the right audience. I want more than a warning that says “Your message mentions an attachment. Would you like to attach a document?” I want some real service. Here’s my wish list, Googlers.
1. Reply-all Warnings: Email groups are a trap. You’ll get flooded with bunches of frustrating threads and filled with the desire to comment to your friend about the stupidity contained in the messages. It becomes a virtual meeting at which no one knows exactly what’s going on, two people talk loudly, and seven mumble to themselves. Until multi-person emails are banned, I suggest the reply-all warning. Before sending an email you’ve hit “reply” to, it says “are you sure you want to leave the rest of the people out of this conversation? That’s probably a good idea, but just checking.” Before sending an email you’ve hit reply-all to, it says “Dude, are you sure you didn’t just make a sarcastic remark about one of the people in this group? It’s going to everyone.”
2. Personality-based auto-delay: Google knows who we are. They know if we rarely get enough sleep and spend most of our day watching cat videos and searching for a new job. They know who we hate and who we pretend to like. Using this personality profile, they can set-up an individualized auto-delay for our emails. If they know we have a tendency to write before thinking of the consequences, we get an eight-hour delay. Some of us get a full week. When we send a message pops up: “You know this is your boss, right? Don’t worry, you’re on auto-delay. We’ll talk to you about this tomorrow.”
3. Sarcasm Alert: “Your document contains five sarcastic comments and two passive-aggressive insults. Are you rich enough to send this?” I’m certain they can even pick out individual words to really get your attention. “Before you hit send, are you certain Karl won’t mind being referred to as a poop-eating homunculus? You know, Karl works in IT. He can read these.”
4. Bad Decision Indicator: Google knows where you are and what you’ve been doing. They don’t need a breathalyzer to figure out your blood alcohol. They should use behavior analytics to save us from ourselves. “Sorry, Sherie. We’re not going to send this right now. You’re probably drunk. You can thank us in the morning, when you see this in the un-sent drunk drafts folder we have just created for you.”
5. Smart Re-Write: Spell check and grammar check are weak. Why don’t they have a complete revision add-on that takes our message and automatically re-writes it to make us sound smart. Maybe they could have a number of choices, so we could choose to sound like “Cool Parent” or even write as our favorite celebrity. Scare your friends with the new Nigerian prince re-write tool!
6. Memify: Why write at all, when we’ve learned that memes and gifs can say everything we want in a more memorable way? We write our message and Google automatically translates it into a short clip from a popular movie or a picture of a particularly expressive cat.
The time has come for real improvements in email. Something has to make our flooded inboxes more palatable. We also need help to protect ourselves from poor decision making online. Think about it: every bit of technology you interface with requires you to say “yes” three or four times before any action is taken–with the exception of our email or texts, the places we can do ourselves the most damage.