Edo the Reliable ("Amin")

Gmail’s Flop Eliminator feature

In Develop This! on March 3, 2009 at 9:19 pm

The “Forgotten Attachment Detector”, a Gmail Lab feature by Jon Kotker, a 2008 summer intern at Gmail, prevents you from accidentally sending messages without the relevant attachments. It does this by prompting you if your email talks about attaching a file, but does not include any actual attachment.

Famous last words: I have attached the files

Famous last words: I have attached the charts

The dry Google copy understates the case – some horror stories on the Forgotten Attachment Google group and Twitter thank-yous provide real-life vignettes. In fact, the very mini-screenshot that illustrates the feature on Gmail’s settings page (see right) vividly paints a grim scenario using just¬† five famous last words: “I have attached the charts”. That’s enough to send a chill up Dilbert’s spine.

I installed the feature out of curiosity> A few weeks later it detected a missing attachment in an important email. I became forever grateful, and gave some thought to the object of my gratitude. I love enhancements that add value by curbing, rather than by augmenting, features. It’s interesting how much use value and quality is added by advising the user not to use the email application. Why stop at attachments?

Think of the “Forgotten Attachment Detector” as a “Flop Eliminator”. The next product question may be: what other email flops could be automatically prevented?

In one horror story that makes the rounds, a poor guy emailed a friend about plans to divorce his wife – then inadvertently sent it to his whole contact list, wife included. This could have been easily avoided by detecting the word divorce, as well as other sensitive words, and alerting the user if they try to send it to multiple contacts.

My friend, Elizabeth Lutfy (VenusRising.us – Breathwork, Healing) suggests an even more subtle feature: when using strong language late at night, alert the user that he or she may regret this the morning after.¬† This, perhaps, could be released as the “Friend Saver”, and fits in with my yet-to-be-announced line of futuristic NVC-related products which enhance your karma by intercepting language patterns with negative social significance in your in- and out- going communications.

Roadmap note: The Friend Saver should only work when the From: and To: domains are different, or both are Gmail. The next version to be rolled out (“Job Saver Enterprise Edition”) would support detecting corporate flops – when you send email to recipients on the same corporate domain.

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