A Georgia Tech researcher is taking aim at email overload with a new tool that shows people thinking about messaging you just how swamped your Gmail account is in real time.
Assistant Professor of Computing Eric Gilbert’s research project, taking the form of the freely available “Courteous.ly” service that does require you to allow access to your email account (initially the service only works with Gmail).
“I think we’re really good at the etiquette part when we have the cues that allow us to be polite,” said the School of Interactive Computing's Gilbert, in a statement. “Courteous.ly helps manage expectations and lets people choose to send mail when it’s best for you.”
The service works by periodically checking a user’s email load based on parameters set by the user, such as unread messages in your inbox or how much mail you’ve sent recently. Courteous.ly comes up with a sense of what constitutes light, normal and heavy load for the user after analyzing the user’s mail system for 12 hours.
It then updates the status of your email load, which can be accessed via a link in your email signature. Gilbert is trying to figure out a way to avoid even the step of clicking on that link in the future. He’s also pondering development of widgets that users can post on their blogs or websites to show people how busy they are.
The work at Georgia Tech complements separate efforts by Google itself to make email more efficient for its Gmail customers. Last month, Google said it would start rolling out an interface module that displays contextual information about people involved in a message's thread.
Google competitors, such as Yahoo, aren't standing still either, continuing to upgrade their messaging services, too (also see our Tech Debate on Gmail vs. hosted Microsoft Exchange).
Of course managing incoming email is only part of the battle. Organizations flooded with email also need to figure out how to archive it once they get it, and we've recently tested a bunch of products that address that issue as well (See: Sorting through email archiving tools)