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Google Communications Technology

New Tool Shows Would-Be Emailers If You're Swamped 82

Posted by timothy
from the my-dad-has-400k-messages-in-his-inbox dept.
alphadogg writes "A Georgia Tech researcher is taking aim at email overload with a new tool that shows people thinking about messaging you just how swamped your Gmail account is, in real time. Assistant Professor of Computing Eric Gilbert's research project, taking the form of the freely available 'Courteous.ly' service, which does require you to allow access to your email account (initially the service only works with Gmail). 'Courteous.ly helps manage expectations and lets people choose to send mail when it's best for you,' he says." This sounds like an ugly thing to game, though -- it seems like a good way to keep score in a mailbombing.
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New Tool Shows Would-Be Emailers If You're Swamped

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  • In way that were unintended?

    I think not...

    • I though spamers would like this, but they have to either hack their way into the database or recieve a mail from you with your link.
    • by JMJimmy (2036122)

      Seriously, I'd rather have a comprehensive email stats system that could help me isolate exactly who's wasting my time with pointless emails.

    • by FatdogHaiku (978357) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @05:21AM (#36360444)
      Hey, you're only being asked to open your email account to a domain registered in Libya, it's not like anything bad could happen...
      crap, I think I broke my own sarcasm meter.
      • by felipekk (1007591)

        I'd propose v2 for this system:

        Instead of telling people how busy my inbox is, why not give them full access? This way maybe they will see how busy I am and may even help me by responding some of those annoying emails from David Thorne...

    • by xystren (522982)

      Have we come this far where we need a services to tell people that email us that we are being swamped with email? Have we becomes such an instant now society we just can't exercise some patience and god forbid, wait for it?

      Come on people, is this really necessary? Anyone considered the concerns with supplying a 3rd party with access to your email? I bet you spammer would love to get hold of that information.

      Not an option I would even considered, let alone supply a password for.

  • No, please. No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bloodwine77 (913355) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @01:18AM (#36359578)

    The beauty of email is you can determine when to reply to a message or send correspondence. Compared to talking on the phone, email is less stressful, especially if you are doing support.

    This tool would make it where people could say, "Why haven't you responded to me? You don't look like you have a lot of other emails coming in so I am sure you read my message".

    I do not know if I am alone, but I refuse to ever let my email client send those email-has-been-read notifiers to let the sender know I got the email. People do not know if you got their letter/bill/request/mailer in your postal mail box, and people do not know if you have listened to your voicemail or how full your voicemail box. Why the heck should I give them insight into my email inbox?!

    • Re:No, please. No. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tgl (462237) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @01:33AM (#36359654)

      Yup, my reaction exactly. Whoever wrote this tool completely failed to get email. It's not IM, and that is not a bug.

    • I'm inclined to agree. The key reason I want people to email me is it gives me a chance to craft a response. That's actually in their own best interests, too.

    • Sidenote: Voicemail can somewhat tell people how full your voicemail is, by whether it's ABSOLUTELY full or not (which is my preferred voicemail status, if I'm not able to set up call forwarding to my own LRN).

      But yes, Read-receipts are a pain, and I never let my mail client send them. Usually the people who want to know if I've read their message are the ones (in my experience) who are just wanting to be sure I've read their bullshit excuses for not doing their job, and want to continue not doing their
      • Where I work, read receipts are from grad students that think the world hinges on their research and expect immediate service (despite the fact that by policy, research requests are 5th priority). They expect as soon as someone has read their e-mail they should have a reply in minutes, and if they don't they'll come down and whine. As such, no returns ever.

        People, grad students in particular, are not very good at understanding the idea that you may have more than one thing to do and can't get to their thing

    • No kidding (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @04:02AM (#36360154)

      All this would do is lead to people expecting a response as soon as their e-mail was read and/or when your box showed no e-mails waiting and them getting angry when they don't get it.

      People tend to have an attitude of "My problem is the most important in the world," and "If you aren't doing something RIGHT NOW that looks really important you should be working on it." Something like this would only make that tendency worse. I'd have people coming down saying "Why haven't you responded to my e-mail, the thing shows you have no unread messages," as though when I click a message I am able to drop everything and immediately respond.

      As you say, the brilliance of e-mail is that it is non-realtime. You send a message, I send back a response when I can. All things like this would do is encourage people to think of e-mail as something that should demand a response at once.

      Also all this would really do is encourage me to not open e-mail until I think I am ready to deal with them. It would be in my interests to keep my backlog "full" so that people would leave me alone and allow me to solve problems. Fine, but that means I can't read what it coming in and prioritize. Right now I can see something and say "This is important, and easy to solve, so I should shelve what I'm doing and go take care of it." I wouldn't be able to do that if I had to keep messages unread just so people weren't harassing me to do things since I "wasn't busy."

      Personally I try to keep my inbox with no unread messages, because all unread messages means is I don't know about something. However that doesn't relate to my workload at all. Some days, 40 messages could come in all for areas I don't deal with so even if all 40 were unread I could very well be available for immediate action if needed. Others (like today) something critical is down and I'm spending all day working on it so even though I'm reading e-mail, I can't go and help with anything else.

      • by 1u3hr (530656)

        Also all this would really do is encourage me to not open e-mail until I think I am ready to deal with them.

        Or write a tool that would generate a few dozen emails to apparently fill up your mailbox when you wanted to get someone off your back. Or just subscribe to a bunch of mailing lists.

      • Fine, but that means I can't read what it coming in and prioritize. Right now I can see something and say "This is important, and easy to solve, so I should shelve what I'm doing and go take care of it."

        Perhaps you and your clients/customers/peers have e-mail confused with bug tracking or other CRM software. This is an altogether different problem.

        I wouldn't be able to do that if I had to keep messages unread just so people weren't harassing me to do things since I "wasn't busy."

        This is where you need to put people in their place. However, I can sympathize. More often than not people are starting to use e-mail as if it were tweets/ status posts, which amounts to an overflowing inbox. Every now and then they can use a good scolding for sending too much e-mail. If they are new web socialites using FB and Twitter, perhaps you can suggest to

        • Hmm, there isn't exactly too much email, it's about what people expect of different type of email.

          Gmail(&others) has "mark as read", so we have escaped read receipts because that isn't even correlated to if the email has even been read. I let people send me whatever they want. Half the time I crusade about not getting enough info since I am on lead for documenting stuff. So send me stuff! It's easy to just park it as "document later."

          As for the status, I will encourage people to use the Gmail (or other?

      • by sorak (246725)

        If you ever use this service, you may want to consider looking at the email, marking it unread if you don't have time for it, and only allowing the email to be marked "read" while you are working on it.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Exactly. But it seems people have got it in their little heads that store-and-forward mechanisms (basically anything non-IM) is immediate. Probably started around the time people got the idea that texting and twitter were another form of IM. Or facebook messaging.

        No, they aren't, and I don't respond immediately. Getting angry at me because you emailed/twittered/IM'd/texted me about an emergency isn't likely to make me respond any faster. If you really need me this instant, there's a phone, or walk over to m

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      The beauty of this tool is that I could probably somehow feed it bad data indicating I'm pretty much swamped with e-mails every single second of every single day of my life.

      • by TWX (665546)

        That's what it would do for me- I do not have good e-mail sorting or reading practices. I have about 1600 unread messages that I'll probably never, ever get to.

        Come to think of it, we use gmail at work too. If they ever start handing out work via email, maybe I should use a system like this...

    • by DarkOx (621550)

      I have felt this way about presence technology in general. There may be some applications for it for some people. Very few of us though are doing day to day stuff that is so urgent we can't be interrupted to take care of an emergency. If there is a problem with a major application, page me and I will come running out of my meeting. You don't need to be reading my calendar to find out exactly where I am.

      Want to converse, send an e-mail. I will see it pop up, if I feel I can be interrupted I'll reply if

      • +1 Insightful. There is just no need for anyone to know what I'm doing every minute of every day. What's important is that I'm available when needed, accountable, and the work gets done as scheduled.
        • . There is just no need for anyone to know what I'm doing every minute of every day.

          There is a clear need for this from the world marketing departments and sadly they are currently ruling the corporate world...

    • If I were actually fairly busy, I'd love to have this sort of thing available to the family members who forward me crap. Funny stuff, interesting stuff, but really just pointless, time-wasting stuff. I'm really tempted to make a policy that if you don't have anything useful to add to the forwarded message, it gets flagged as spam -- I care what you have to say, but I don't care about the funny cat video you found.

      I have to imagine that people would think twice before sending me People of Wall-Mart (with all

  • Fine print (Score:5, Informative)

    by aBaldrich (1692238) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @01:22AM (#36359592)
    http://courteous.ly/consent [courteous.ly]

    CONSENT DOCUMENT FOR ENROLLING ADULT PARTICIPANTS IN A RESEARCH STUDY Georgia Institute of Technology, Project Title: courteous.ly
    Investigators: Eric Gilbert, Ph.D.
    Protocol and Consent Title: H11133
    You are being asked to be a volunteer in a research study.
    Purpose

    The purpose of this study is to understand if exposing hidden aspects of social media makes the media better. We also want to investigate whether courteous.ly makes an impact on the overall amount of email participants receive. We will enroll as many people as come to our site in this study. In addition to providing a useful tool, we also may contact participants for future email studies. Whether you choose to participate in a future study is up to you at that time. By default, you will be opted out of future studies. Your future decision will not affect your use of courteous.ly now.

    Participants in this study must have a Gmail account and must be 18 years or older to participate.

    If you choose to give courteous.ly access to your Gmail account, the application will compute a measure of your email load. It does this by counting the number of messages in your email folders. The values for your email load can only be "light," "normal," or "high." courteous.ly will generate a unique url for you to put in your email signature. The intent of the custom url is for your email contacts to be able to see your real-time email load. The sign-up and configuration process should take you about 10 minutes.

    • by jhoegl (638955)
      Yeah, this is not the right concept for email.
      It actually takes away from what email was designed for. As someone else pointed out, it is not a phone call, but a faster way to received a message (instead of snail mail) and queued as such.

      Now that this is pointed out, it looks more like they are wanting hard facts of how many emails people get on a minute, hour, daily basis for some other reason.
    • Sounds like the sort of study I'd love to read about, later, but I'd hate to participate in.

  • this tool is enabler - any potential attacker would be easily able to establish patterns of one's behaviour and than use the opportunity when one is not e-present to impose and take time to work through all logins and whatnot one has.
  • This isn't the right thing for me, because I don't receive very much email. Yet I am tremendously pleased that they are looking for ways to prioritize email that puts the sender in the loop, because I've run into far too many situations where something gets lost because I'm not prepared to deal with it at the moment. (Example: I don't do personal email while at work and I don't deal with work email at home, so don't send ask for an appointment at 6 pm expecting a reply before you go to bed.)

    Yes there are

  • by slinches (1540051) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @01:43AM (#36359692)

    Do people expect immediate replies to emails? I've always understood it to be for time-insensitive matters and any time I need a quick answer I call or IM/text If I can't talk to them in person.

    I could see this service being useful in managing expectations of when a response will be sent. Although, I think it would only be good for when you're sending emails that need a timely reply to people you only communicate with through email. That situation doesn't seem to be all that common in my experience.

  • by farnsworth (558449) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @01:44AM (#36359698)
    I am kind of astounded at how easily people give away access to their email accounts, no matter how harmless the intent of the email is. I got swamped by invites from facebook when several of my friends gave it access to their address books. Now that's just annoying, but is this guy's security up to the same level as gmail's? I tend to doubt it...

    As an aside, what the hell happened to slashdot? A couple days ago it was its usual tolerable self, but now I have the most garish ads for Adobe authoring tools and groupon and nonsensical cloud virtualization things, and it's slow as hell. I am happy to co-exist with ads if they pay the bills, but these ads kind of ruin everything. Is slashdot on its last legs?

    • You're browsing the web without Adblock Plus? I'm nonplussed! You're nonplussed!

    • by Surt (22457)

      If you're browsing without adblock, you're encouraging that sort of ad-based-revenue driven escalation of advertising intrusiveness.

      • If you're browsing without adblock, you're encouraging that sort of ad-based-revenue driven escalation of advertising intrusiveness.

        I disagree. I don't mind ads, mostly. But am I ever going to buy Framemaker? Am I ever going to use Groupon? Am I ever going to deploy IBM's application virtualization infrastructure to my cloud? No. The problem is that this ad network sucks, in almost every dimension. I'm pretty sure that this is the worst ad network that I see on regular basis. (OK, maybe Conde Naste's "let's cover the entire page of our own content with an ad" is worse, but not by much. At least it's just one click to get rid of

    • I got swamped by invites from facebook when several of my friends gave it access to their address books.


      You think that's bad? I'm a member of a mailing list doing community support for my favorite Linux distro. Within the last month, two different twits signed up for some social networking site I'd never heard of (a different one each time, naturally) and without thinking gave the site complete access to their address book. How do I know? I know because each site sent an invite to the list using said

    • I noticed something else today. I used to be able to check a checkbox to disable ads for my worthwhile "contributions", that has now disappeared. On another note, I am also noticing that there apparently are a lot less mod points going around lately. A lot of useless comments never get moded down and worthwhile comments linger at 1 forever. I used to get mod points continuously, I haven't gotten any in months now. Not that I need to be a mod, but it seems like the system is not working as well well as it us
      • by snotclot (836055)
        l browse the site every day and read the comments for, on average, 1/10 of articles; l didn't get mod points for like 2 years but last week l suddenly did. weird!
        • by dargaud (518470)
          You need to post regularly in order to get modpoints. But there are plenty of weird behaviors (I posted for 2 years before I got my first ever modpoints, but that was way back). With one message a day, one reaching +5 every week or so on average, I get modpoints once or twice a month.
      • by IonOtter (629215)

        Yes, I'd noticed the lack of disabled adverts also.

        My only gripe about mod points is that the system always seems to give them to me on a FRIDAY! I don't read Slashdot on weekends, dammit! I only read it when I'm at work!

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Disabling adverts is (was?) a stupid feature. We can all do it with adblock, and I imagine most of us do. It still doesn't let you get rid of the sidebar, so you still need to use a user script for that, which will also conveniently block any ads there even if you aren't using adblock plus. The only place I am using such a script I am also using adblock plus — it is on a netbook where I simply have no room for it, and Slashdot's crap layout mangles on a narrow display.

          • I don't run AdBlock. Ads are annoying, but I feel bad if I disable them on an ad-supported site. It feels like a nice way to strangle sites I like if I do.
    • From the site's FAQ,

      We would love to work with every email account in the world. But we don't want to store passwords. That's what it comes down to. Gmail has an infrastructure that allows courteous.ly to work without ever knowing or storing anybody's password.

      I dunno how it works, but security may not be that big a deal.

  • by dlgeek (1065796)

    Your post advocates a

    ( ) technical ( ) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante (x) social

    approach to [controlling your inbox]. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work.

    (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may
    have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal
    law was passed.)

    ( ) Spammers can easily use it to harvest email addresses
    (x) Mailing lists and other legitimate email uses would be affected
    ( ) No one will be able to find the guy

    • by jhoegl (638955)
      HA!

      Nice
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      (x) Microsoft will not put up with it
      (x) Google will not put up with it

      Wanna bet they actually will? Most probable, implementing it on their own?

      Motivation: both of them want a chunk of "social media" (to the level of desperation of Google conditioning [slashdot.org] the employee bonuses on social media success) .
      After all, a "real friend" needs to now how busy you are to protect your time, Google will provide you with the service and allow you to control the list of real friends. I think they'll even go a step further and tell the "friend" how many of your unread emails are important or ju

    • Thank god I set my beer down before getting this far down in the comment thread, or my monitor would have required the attention of some Lysol wipes.
  • by dbIII (701233) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @02:30AM (#36359856)
    So do the busy messages go something like this?
    dbIII@email.address is with busy meeting HR 12/20 still employed 12%
  • The 'Dabangg' achievements have resulted in supplementary break and get together in her roles. In 'Kick' her subsequently with her mentor Salman, the good-looking lass will be like much more display space. Yeah, there's absolutely much supplementary scope for me in 'Kick' than 'Dabangg'. And I am disappearing to construct the best of it," says the ecstatic Sonakshi.
  • The only people with whom I would comfortably share the status of my inbox are people I know and like well enough to prioritize their messages over others, and are too few to swamp my inbox by themselves.

    And even then, I like controlling how soon an answer is expected from me. The whole point of email over IM, to me, is to have time to form a response or even get other stuff out of the way before reading it.

  • by adamofgreyskull (640712) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @02:38AM (#36359888)
    So anyone who is "courteous" will see that I have "high" number of unread emails and make the decision not to email me. People who aren't "courteous" either won't look, or won't care and just go ahead and send me email. Given that it's the "courteous" people with whom I most want to have contact, this is a sure-fire way to make email worse.

    The best thing about email is that it's possible to let it sit unread until such a time when you can deal with it. What does this guy think will happen? My parents see I have a lot of unread email and decide not to email me, they then periodically check over the next month, but my unread messages never drop below "high" because they only ever check at a certain time of day and I only ever clear out my unread messages at a certain time of day. He wants to create a bastard chimera that has the worst parts of instant messaging and email.
  • Here's my idea -- "A new tool that helps to bypass swamped email accounts, by immediately presenting the message to the recipient in a pop-up box. The service does require you to install a small local client which provides instant access to messages. Helps cut down on clogged email boxes; if you don't have time for the message, close the popup and it goes away forever."

    Sounds great!

  • Was I the only one who read the headline as:
    New Tool-Shows Would Be Emailers If You're Swamped
    and thought the submission was about Internet connected set-top boxes allowing Power-tool infomercials to detect if you're already buried under a ton of messages and then send you a few more emails hoping that you'll click them accidentally?

    (Kind of like how Google ads can be camouflaged to look like part of the site's content to snag a few accidental clicks...)

  • My inbox has a few peaks in traffic depending on who's awake in what timezone, but the average busy time is roughly 2am-7pm monday-friday in my local timezone. If you find a quiet time to email me the chances are it's when i'm asleep or otherwise not at the computer. When I get back to the computer again i'll have your email + half a day's worth of other email waiting for me.

    Just because you emailed me in a quiet time doesn't mean i'm attending to my email during that time (even if it happens to be in the m

  • Most people either keep clean inboxes or messy ones. So if you are one that always has hundreds of emails in your inbox it will perpetually show you are "swamped".
    • It would be a lot cleaner if google supported Hierarchical imap folders in gmail, but they don't. I guess it's the old you get what you pay for.
  • I don't think this algoritm would give a good insight in how I use email myself.
    I subscribe to quite a few newsletters, and as such, my email inbox is almost always filled. Most of them I directly archive (they get auto-tagged when appearing in my inbox; so they're easier to file), and some I leave in my inbox for later browsing/reference. Also other important emails I leave in my inbox (yes, I should be filing those too) when I read them, and mark them unread so I know I still have to do something with it
  • by 1u3hr (530656)
    "lets people choose to send mail when it's best for you,' he says."

    It's EMAIL, not IM, not a phone call. You send it when you want. The recipient reads it and replies when he gets around to it. How does "when it's best for you" make any sense in this context? The only vaguely sensible use I can think is if you suspect an email box has been bombed; or he just isn't checking his email at all. But if it's time sensitive, use the phone don't screw around with this.

  • If I'm busy, I still have to deal with all the issues.

    And people still have things they need me to do. The fact that I'm busy doesn't change that, and if people used this system it would just make it seem like I was less busy than I was, while the fires I needed to put out continued to smolder.

    Gmail has a "priority inbox" which seems like the rational answer: handle the important tasks first.

  • If your job is answering emails!!! If you are swamped with work, you might just have 1 unread email in your inbox. Then again, it just might be a spam that slipped past the spam filter (i hear it even happens with google).

    Still, I hope to God that my inbox stats are never used as the measure of my work load!

  • Anyone remember finger [wikipedia.org]? I never liked it, because I don't want anyone knowing the status of my email, not even way back then. "Georgia Tech researcher" my ass; this is a tech historian/preservationist.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @10:01AM (#36361912) Homepage

    I'm am not going to sign up to some service which monitors my email load for me ... I don't trust it, and I don't trust that it won't become a security risk.

    And, really, I've more or less decided I don't trust any URL ending in .ly -- between not having any idea of what's on the other end of most of those link shorteners (goatse anyone), and not really trusting Lybia in any way, I don't trust that some shenanigans aren't happening or couldn't be made to happen.

    I'm sure as hell not trusting some third party with access to my email. Do they really think a whole lot of people are going to do that? Or is everyone ready to do such things and trust this site?

    I realize I'm probably on the paranoid end of such things, but I just can't fathom signing up for something like this. You can't have my banking password, either.

  • Why would I want to use this, on either end of the equation? I send email for things that are not time-critical, or that I would like to have a documented record of. In the event of a somewhat time critical issue I will opt for IM, or if genuinely time critical, a phone call. We have different systems in place to serve different purposes.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have tons of unread email, most people might too, but I'm free.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...to display a static HTML page that says I'm swamped.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What an great idea how do we get it into the smtp protocol i dont want access to 3rd parties infecting my inbox thats not going to fly well with me however I would love to have the ability to turn on a busy signal until a later time

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