I recently reread a great article over at Gizmodo by Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan: “Google Can’t Fix What’s Really Wrong With Email: Us”. The article is specifically about Google’s launch last fall of their email management tool, Inbox. However, I think the article is also useful as a broad reminder of what we really mean when we talk about the problem of email.
Here’s the author’s description of Gmail Inbox:
“It ‘bundles’ related emails into single-topic threads, and even adds relevant info. It gives you the ability to ‘snooze’ emails…it pulls out important info from certain emails so you don’t have to open them at all. Doesn’t that sound great?”
Her question is rhetorical, but I’ll go ahead and try to answer it: I don’t know if it sounds great, but it does sound Google.
Allow me to unveil what as far as I can tell is Google’s Recipe for Problem Solving:
1. Identify a problem.
2. Throw an algorithm at it.
3. Repeat as needed.
And because Google is veeerrrrrryyyy good at algorithms, this solution works pretty well in a ton of situations—so well, in fact, that it’s changed the way we live. Ours is a world in which you can instantly track down the name of an obscure album by typing some half-remembered lyrics into a search engine, and it’s Google’s algorithm-intense approach to search that makes this—and, obviously, a whole lot more—possible.
But ultimately, as Campbell-Dollaghan writes, Google’s approach to email “won’t stop humans from being dumb about abusing it, ignoring it, relying on it, and letting it distract us while we work. That, sadly, is a problem no algorithm can fix.”
“A problem no algorithm can fix.” That, to me, is the key point: the problem with email is ultimately a human problem, and a human problem requires a human solution. No amount of technological wizardry will stop people from being people—much better to ask them to slightly change their behavior and then give them easy, stress-free ways to do that.
For Timyo, that means asking senders to quickly and easily set their expectations when they send an email. This allows for clear communication and avoids the meaningless clutter of rushed responses. Not only does the sender gain the peace of mind of knowing that recipients know exactly what is expected of them, but the recipients can tell what a sender wants at the first glance of their inbox.
By helping senders set clear expectations, Timyo aims to help senders and recipients alike…which is a good thing, because, in the end, we are all both senders and recipients.
Google Inbox’s slogan is “The inbox that works for you.” That’s pretty good. But at Timyo, we are going for the inbox that works for all of us.