October 27, 2008

Mail Goggles: Making the World a Better Place

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When we think of making the world a better place, we often think of large-scale accomplishments, for instance, donating millions of dollars to research or helping end hunger in third-world countries. And while those are absolutely important, we shouldn’t forget to recognize the small-scale accomplishments–the ideas that make our lives easier and more trouble-free.

It’s in that spirit that this blog post honors Google engineer Jon Perlow, who has created a feature called Mail Goggles for GMail users. It is intended to prevent people from “drunk emailing”, or sending embarrassing emails while under the influence of alcohol.

[img_assist|nid=33009|title=Are you drunk? These math problems serve as a screen to prevent “drunk emailing.”|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Mail Goggles activates during the night and during weekend hours when you’re bound to be drunk. If you try to send an email while it is active, you will be asked to solve five simple math problems in under a minute. If you cannot, the email won’t send. The difficulty of the problems can be adjusted in case you’re still very good at simple math while under in the influence. And if you find yourself getting drunk on weekdays or abnormal times, Mail Goggles allows you to configure the days of the week and the hours it will activate.

I do not know how effective this feature will be. But if it works, it’s a concrete step towards preventing the common problem of drunk dialing. It’s not hard to imagine a future feature on cell phones that would activate during set hours, asking you to complete a task requiring full mental capacities before allowing you to call someone. (Though I hope the task would be something less scientific than solving math problems and that it would still allow you to call for help in the case of an emergency.)

If you are a GMail user and you decide to use this experimental feature, please send me your thoughts on how it works for you. You can activate Mail Goggles now by first clicking on Settings in the upper right corner and then clicking on the page’s Lab tab. Scroll towards the bottom and you will find Mail Goggles. Enable it, and then click the Save Changes tab at the bottom of the page.To edit the times Mail Goggles is active and the difficulty of the problems, click on Settings and go to the Mail Goggles section in the General tab.