Monday, December 15, 2008

Mail Goggles Trump Beer Goggles

Ever written and sent off a text message you later regretted, mainly because you were too drunk or just too tired to think straight? The folks at Google have now come up with a solution, which is the equivalent of the numerical keypads on some cars: an interface that requires you to perform some simple mathematical operations before it will allow you to launch your little Gmail missive into cyberspace:

Reporting on the new service in October, software engineer Jon Perlow included among examples of "sending messages you wish you hadn't": "the time I told that girl I had a crush on her over text message. Or the time I sent that late night email to my ex-girlfriend that we should get back together" and "that late night memo -- I mean mission statement -- to the entire firm."

He adds, "By default, Mail Goggles is only active late night on the weekend as that is the time you're most likely to need it."

Although the new system may reduce the number of embarrassing incidents, it does raise other questions:

• What implications does this have for journalists such as conservative "Vodkapundit" (aka Stephen Green), who "drunkblogged" the political debates this past season?

• And as a historian, I of course have to ask: Would the past have turned out differently, if our forebears had had this technology to force them to pause before dipping the quill in the inkwell or rushing off to the telegraph office? I tend to think first of the winestained eighteenth-century police informants' reports that Robert Darnton discovered in the Parisian archive. But what of the world-historical: Could Mail Goggles have prevented, say, the "Zimmermann Telegram"? The Austrian ultimatum to Serbia in 1914?

• And most important: what can you do about people who show no good judgment, day or night, drunk or sober?


Kathy Thiel said...

Re: Goggles. My brother and I rely on the Stupid Meter, a mythical device that was supposed to beep loudly when one of us was about to make a blunder. I can think of several instances throughout my life where the Stupid Meter was out of batteries and no beep alerted me to my impending lack of poor judgment. But the results of those errors are, in part, side-splitting stories to be told and retold, and they have all contributed to an interesting life. The best of all would be to have my brother, who is most like me than any other person in the world (but who possesses objectivity when it comes to my behavior), standing beside me to judge and advise. Though that brings to mind the time many years ago when we were walking through a very icy Prescott quad and I started to slip on the ice and he stood by, saying, "wait, wait, wait!" which did not help in the least.

Citizen Wald said...

Cool! At first I thought the stupid meter could be used to measure the faults of those around us. There would be a market for that, too.

In any case, thanks to you and your brother, as well, for the regular tips on silly subjects.