Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mining for help

I am going to generalize Graham’s fourth UX element a little bit to make it a better topic for discussion.  He likes the way Gmail scans your email text for the word “attachment” and if you don’t attach anything it pops up a notification asking if you meant to.  As someone who forgets to attach files to emails all the time, I can really appreciate the value of this. And given that I know lots of other people who also do, I think the feature is a no-brainer on value.

But what about similar features?  What else could an email system search for and warn you about?  Here is one that I think might be valuable.  Semantic analysis systems are getting pretty good at judging blocks of text for their emotional valence.  I think the state of the art know is that they can tell if something is very or slightly positive, very or slightly negative, or neutral.  They miss some things like snarky sarcasm or culturally specific metaphors.  But overall they are not too bad and getting better.  So what if your Gmail account notices that you just wrote a critical email to your boss or your mother and pops up “Are you sure you want to send this?” kind of message?

I am sure many of you are more creative than I am – what other good search-based notifications can we come up with for Gmail?