Feb 28, 2007

[Software] Email Economy

Flickr: pindec - devilled email These days, work tends to be run more and more by email. A lot of office workers must be familiar with this phenomenon by now - email has blended with chat in a way when people would rather create 10-30 message email threads as opposed to picking up the phone of just walking over to that person's desk.

Given our email-driven office lives, a company called Seriosity has come out with a product called Attent, a program which works with Microsoft Exchange Servers to help users identify more important emails. Initial reviews likens the system to that of currency systems within MMORPGs like World of Warcraft since you assign a "Serios" value to email you send out with your limited pool of Serios. The more important the message, the more Serios you spend. In the same way when you receive email, the more Serios attached to the email, the more likely you need to read it. You can spend the Serios you receive for future messages but of course ultimately a user can run out of Serios if he tags everything as important, which is precisely what the system wants to condition people against.

The theory seems sound but I'm not sure if businesses are going to jump on the new model right away. It'll take a significant paradigm shift for workers to really think about the value of each message beyond the basic controls we have on email now, namely Importance: High (Exclamation Point) or Importance: Low (downward arrow) within the Microsoft Exchange environment. If you're not familiar with what I'm referring to, just look at all your office email in Outlook and count the number of red exclamation points versus the total number of messages. Do you see the abuse of the current system now?

It's a refreshingly new idea, in a way, and I'm curious to see how early adopters will fare in implementing the system within their networks. It could increase productivity altogether or it could just result in stranger practices and Serios black markets.

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Photo linked from Flickr user pindec's photostream.

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