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Do you need a pair of Google’s Goggles?

Saturday October 11, 2008

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Reading Time: 9 minutes


Yesterday my associate posted about Google Goggles. He explained how to enable the tool. I actually prepared my thoughts for this post on Thursday and then Keith beat me to it, but since it is Saturday morning, I thought I would weigh in on this subject anyway.

Wednesday evening I was up late and to tell the truth I don’t know if I learned of Google’s Goggles on a television ad or on a cable news story. Based on this admission I probably need a pair of Google’s Goggles. Here is the scoop: Google operates what they refer to as Gmail labs. Google has a number of techies that come up with interesting ideas and if the idea has some merit they throw it out there for their Gmail customers to “try out” in a Beta version. According to Goggles’ developer, Jon Perlow, “When you enable Mail Goggles, it will check that you are 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 are in the right state of mind?”

OK, we have probably all sent out emails late at night when we are tired, overworked, enraged about life, but at the same time we have probably all been recipients of these types of emails. These late night communications provide interesting entertainment, not to mention insight into our emailing buddies.

Why do people send emails late at night or in the wee hours of the morning? Certainly it is not always a case of too many drinks as some commentators have stated. My experience is that many people do tend to work late at night. It is the quietest time with children safely in bed, co-workers hopefully not chatting incessantly, the pets not running wild, and the phone is quiet. When I worked as a business analyst and project manager for Mercury Insurance Services, we were expected to work from home after-hours. Yes, we were paid for 40 hours, but were told in no uncertain terms that if we had a deliverable deadline we must work at home. Most nights I would arrive home from the office around 6:00PM, dutifully make the family dinner, clean up the kitchen, throw a load of laundry in the washing machine, and then quietly go into my home office and fire-up the laptop. It was not unusual for me to work until 1:00am or even 2:00am writing technical documents. Very often I would email these documents to my fellow team members in the middle of the night. Why? Well, emailing the document gave me a sense of completing a task, as well as a feeling of starting the next work day 5 hours later with a cleaner slate. But imagine my shock when after sending the late night email many of my co-workers would respond immediately with an email that usually contained this phrase: “You’re still up, too?” As a by-product, this practice allowed us the opportunity to document the number of hours we were really spending on a project! Just for the record, this project began in January 2003 and was to be completed in three years. It is now October 2008 and the project is still going strong. So much for project management.

While Google’s Goggles is very clever, doesn’t it really imply that we are not mature enough to reasonably manage our email etiquette? People’s entire careers and companies have imploded because of email records. So why aren’t we more careful about the content of our emails? Who the heck knows, but here is rule I try to follow. Years ago I reported directly to the president of a bank, Willard (Bill) Bromage. Our means of communicating with peers, subordinates and superiors was to write a memo. One day I handed him a copy of a memo I proposed to send to the struggling IT department. He read the memo and advised: “Save this document for three days. Keep it here on your desk. In three days re-read your document. If, at that time, you still feel committed to your written word, then by all means mail it.”

Good advice, don’t you think? The difference between Bill Bromage’s advice and Google’s Jon Perlow’s “math test” is that Bill wanted you to consider the content of your communication, Perlow is assuming that if you can solve in 45 seconds three or four simple math equations (and I do mean simple) then you must be of sound enough mind to communicate in wee hours of the morning. In fact, Jon Perlow states in the Gmail “settings” for Google Goggles: “Google strives to make the world’s information useful. Mail you send late night on the weekends may be useful but you may regret it the next morning. Solve some simple math problems and you’re good to go. Otherwise, get a good night’s sleep and try again in the morning. After enabling this feature, you can adjust the schedule in the “General” settings page.” Interestingly Bromage had a three day rule, while Perlow has a three math problem solving rule.

A word of caution: try never to ASSUME. Happy Saturday!


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