Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Think before you e-mail

E-mail is a dangerous thing. It's impulsive, it's hard to get rid of, and when you get rid of it judges use nasty words like spoliation. It's exactly because it's so easy that it has quickly become the preferred mode of business communication. Often, it used for a lot of things it shouldn't be used for, like stealing trade secrets, disparaging the boss, and sexually harassing co-workers. And don't get me started on the dangers of "reply all." A good rule of thumb is before you send any e-mail that might be the least bit controversial or dangerous, save it in a draft folder for 24 hours and revisit the next day when you've cooled off and can decide whether you really want to send it.

Now, Google thinks it has the answer, "Mail Goggles":

Sometimes I send messages I shouldn't send. Like the time I told that girl I had a crush on her over text message. Or the time I sent that late night email to my ex-girlfriend that we should get back together. Gmail can't always prevent you from sending messages you might later regret, but today we're launching a new Labs feature I wrote called Mail Goggles which may help.

When you enable Mail Goggles, it will check that you're really sure you want to send that late night Friday email. And what better way to check than by making you solve a few simple math problems after you click send to verify you're in the right state of mind?

Is this tongue in cheek? I think it's a legitimate tool, but I'm not really sure. But the lesson in a good one to take to heart. E-mail is a powerful tool that I cannot imagine how I lived without (like my DVR and HDTV, but for very different reasons). With great power, though, comes the responsibility. Think before you email, always. Your company's risk manager will thank you for it.

[Hat tip: Lowering the Bar]