Thoughts / Let people make mistakes / October 7, 2008

I was pointed today to a new gmail feature called Mail Googles. The feature in discussion shows some mathematical calculations to be solved whenever you’re sending email late at night, in order to save you from ending those emails you did not want to send.

That is so wrong in so many ways.

First, the underlying idea is to save you from sending those emails you did not want to send (which according to them happen usually in the dead of night). I work at night and I send emails at night, mostly to clients. Usually I’m very tired finishing some deliverable or mock-up when I hit the new email button and start writing the blessed “here’s it” email, carefully remembering to attach the deliverables and press send… and now I have to fill some idiotic astronomy math tests whilst I just want to get done with this email and go to bed? Ludicrous.

And then, how many stupid emails do you send a day? A month? A year? Do we need to math quiz all the nightly emails in order to save us from that stupid “late night email to my ex-girlfriend” telling her “that we should get back together”? Yes, the answer is to annoy yourself to boredom every night until you don’t want to send emails anymore after 9:00 pm, thus avoiding telling your girlfriend you should hook up again.

Funnily, one of the cases they mention to support the new feature is sending a text message, which does not have anything to do with email. And both cases involve girls, thus making me think that guy has issues with the fair gender.

Perhaps Google got the idea that Microsoft’s patronizing model of we know better is the model to follow? Or is it just the Microsoft model of over-saturate products with smartass yet unuseful features? Or is it the Microsoft model of yet another productivity assistant that sucks production time out of you? I could continue ad nausea, but I’m sure you got the idea.

Why not instead show you a preview of the email? That way you can proof-read the email and decide to send it (like when printing). That way it gives you a minute of pause without the overhead of stupid math quizzes at 3:00am.

I can make an ass of myself, like any other person and I can tell you, most of the times, I’m drunk, not under-slept. Give me a mobile that blocks audio when the sensor in the microphone detects a high level of alcohol, or a T9 system that can count misspellings and ask you if you really want to send that many mistakes in a text (whether it being because you’re drunk or because you don’t know how to spell anymore, like many of the people I read on the internetz) and I’ll give you a million kudos for a great idea.

Give me a gmail account that asks me smart-arse math questions when I only want to go to bed and I’ll start reading gmail on Apple Mail.

Or, better: let people make mistakes, that’s how people learn.

UPDATE: xkcd shows us a better version of Mail Googles that really fulfills the purpose:

Mail Boggles

Mail Boggles

(Update: some people pointed out this is a feature you can opt-in to. I wrote this because Google opted me in, so for me it was an active feature. At 3am in the morning. Upon the delivering of a client’s email. So my thoughts stand).