Google's Gmail Goggles: Goodbye to Web rage

Gmail's new feature may save you from those hasty/nasty/vindictive/drunk e-mails you really shouldn't send

Gmail, Google's free consumer e-mail, added a unique new feature to the service Monday: Mail Goggles, which gives you the ability to double-check whether you are really sure you want to send an e-mail message, particularly late at night. But the feature might also help business users of enterprise Gmail make better decisions about sending vindictive or hastily composed e-mails to co-workers.

The talk on the blogs and news sites that cover Google centered around the notion that Mail Goggles would prevent you from sending e-mails to ex-girlfriends or boyfriends while drunk on the weekends. In fact, the Google developer who made Mail Goggles used that as an example in his blog post announcing the new feature.

But his post, the name of the feature itself and the ensuing witty blog discourse might undersell another e-mail faux pas that Mail Goggles could prevent: Web rage, which often occurs late night and often not under the influence of eight shots of Patron.

Here's how Mail Goggles works: It allows you to preset what times you want Gmail to double-check if you're sure you want to send an e-mail. (You can add Mail Goggles by going to "Settings" in the right-hand corner of Gmail and then clicking on the "Labs" tab, where it is listed as a new feature.) If you enable the feature, it will default to double-checking with you that you want to send e-mails in the wee hours of Friday and Saturday by making you solve some simple math problems before you can send.

But in the Gmail settings, you can check off other days of the week. If you're a business user of Gmail who works late, you might want to consider employing Mail Goggles on those occasions as well.

In any profession where you're tethered to e-mail, the end of a long and strenuous day can give you a shorter fuse than normal, which might lead you to send e-mails to co-workers or even bosses venting frustrations with their work, or worse, with them personally. If you exercise discipline, you might "save as a draft" and re-read in the morning before sending. But occasionally the passion just overcomes you, and you send it anyway. This can leave you with that feeling of self-loathing in the morning you'd get after a hard night boozing and texting an ex.

For example, we chronicled the problems of Web rage by profiling the e-mail exchanges from passive aggressive engineers slamming each other in e-mail. Because they were working hard on a project, many of them likely sent these e-mails later in the day, and we can probably assume they all weren't all boozing on the job.

Because Gmail has an enterprise-worthy sister (part of the Google Apps software suite) that some organizations such as the Washington government has adopted, this new feature could clearly help quell business-based Web rage as well as the booze-fed variety.

For instance, a business user who frequently works late in the middle of the week to cover up for the incompetence of a few co-workers might want to set Mail Goggles to double-check that he wants to send an internal e-mail at 10 p.m. on a Wednesday. He'll be able to do the math, but just having to stop for a minute and regroup could bring him back to his senses.

Stopping drunk e-mails to formerly significant others is nice, but Mail Goggles may help to preserve a more cordial workplace, too.

This story, "Google's Gmail Goggles: Goodbye to Web rage" was originally published by CIO.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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