Google Gmail's 'Got the Wrong Bob' Seeks to Curb E-Mail Embarrassment

 
 
By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-10-13 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

In the tradition of Mail Goggles, Google's Gmail Labs team released "Got the wrong Bob?" to prevent Gmail users from e-mailing the wrong recipient in a group message. When a user composes a group e-mail and adds contacts, the feature will try to identify when users have accidentally included the wrong person on an e-mail and notify them before they hit "Send." Such features are designed to preserve users' Gmail etiquette, even when the user's original intentions were not so innocent, or even ethical.

Google's Gmail Labs team Oct. 13 released another feature designed to save people from the red-faced tinge of e-mail embarrassment.

"Got the wrong Bob?" helps prevent Gmail users from e-mailing the wrong recipient in a group message.

When users compose group e-mails and add contacts, the feature will try to identify when users have accidentally included the wrong person on an e-mail and notify them before they hit "Send."

So, if a user normally e-mails Bob Smith in a message to Tim and Angela but adds Bob Jones instead, Gmail will warn that it might be a mistake by asking: "Did you mean Bob Smith instead of Bob Jones?" Google engineers explain the rationale for this feature as such:

"When's the last time you got an email reply from a stranger asking, 'Are you sure you meant to send this to me?' and promptly realized that you didn't. And, be honest, when's the last time this little mistake was actually quite painful? Hate mail about your boss to your boss? Personal info to some random guy named Bob instead of Bob the HR rep? Doh!"  

There is one flaw with this feature: It won't save users from sending an e-mail to just two recipients. If users end up sending hate mail to their boss instead of their confidant with the same first name, the Gmail team will not accept blame. But that's what Gmail Labs' "Undo Send" feature is for. 

To turn the feature on, click on the Labs tab in Gmail, select the "Got the wrong Bob" option and click Save. To test it, Google invites users to try faking a mistake by composing a message to two of three people they want to e-mail. Start typing the third member of the group, but then auto-complete on the wrong name.

The Gmail Labs team today also changed the name of its "Suggest more recipients" feature to "Don't forget Bob," adding a mate to "Got the wrong Bob."

"Got the wrong Bob" comes more than a year after Gmail Labs launched Mail Goggles, which prompts users who send an e-mail between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. on a weekend night to answer math problems, ideally to tip them off. The idea is that if an e-mailer is too tired or too drunk to figure out basic math problems, Gmail helps save them from sending a potentially regrettable message.

Gmail Labs also offers the handy "New message" notification. Users on a group e-mail composing a reply will receive a notice if someone else responds to the thread in the meantime, pre-empting the user from redundancy or even an embarrassing difference of opinion.

Gmail chat, which saves users' instant messages, also offers an "Off the record" feature, which essentially erases instant messages from users' chat buddies' accounts so there are no potentially humiliating or incriminating messages.

In total, these features are designed to preserve users' Gmail etiquette, even when the user's original intentions were not so innocent, or even ethical.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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