Archive for October 9th, 2008

Mail Goggles: Using math to save you from yourself

October 9, 2008

Earlier this week, one of the Official Gmail Engineers (Jon Perlow) announced the launch of a new lab: Mail Goggles. This is an optional feature that requires you to solve math problems before you can send out email.

Here’s how it works: you preset certain days and times (e.g. weekend nights, the default) when you think you might be prone to sending out emails that you’ll later regret. You also select the difficulty of the math problems, on a scale of 1 to 5. If you try to send an email during a designated time, a window pops up with five math problems, which you have to solve in under a minute in order for your message to actually be sent.

Here’s a sample of the problem in Level 1, with the big red numbers counting down from 60 in order to let you know just how much (or little) time you have left to prove you’re thinking clearly:

Too easy to dissuade you when you really need stopping? Try Level 3.

And finally, here’s an example from Level 5 (which doesn’t seem so different from Level 3, and occasionally appears to be easier):

If you take too long to answer, you get the note, “Oops, looks like your reflexes are a little slow. Try again.” with five new problems. If you get any answers wrong, the program suggests water and bed. And if you do still manage to compose and deliver some news that you wish you hadn’t? At least you can say you really are too smart for your own good.

I initially learned about this from ars technica.