Google helps avoid those e-mail regrets


POSTED: Monday, October 27, 2008

In the 1969 hit song “;My Way,”; the legendary Frank Sinatra admits he's had a few regrets, “;But then again, too few to mention.”;

No disrespect to the former Chairman of the Board, but that was easy for him to croon. Sinatra didn't live in the Digital Age.

In this era, regrets can't be so easily glossed over. Not when they persist forever in the form of sleep-deprived or alcohol-induced foot-in-mouth e-mails sent in the wee hours to “;guttersnipe”; ex-girlfriends and “;feckless”; soon-to-be-former bosses.

In the 21st century, computers are friendly enough to land our jets and remember to record “;Chuck”; for us in hi-def, yet for some reason they still sit idly by at 2 a.m. as we press “;send”; with one hand and hold that fifth glass of chardonnay in the other.

Offline, social safety nets like conscientious bartenders, designated drivers and the threat of forced intimacy in holding cells serve to help our drunken selves at least get home in one piece. But once home, there has been nothing to stop us from shooting ourselves in the foot by then stumbling online and “;sending all”; more than a piece of our inebriated minds.

That is, until Google stepped up this month to offer a new self-imposed e-mail-sending blocker for its Gmail service called “;Goggles.”;

  If you're one of Gmail's tens of millions of online e-mail users, you can now set up a new “;lab”; feature in your account by clicking on the “;settings”; link. Once you configure Goggles to turn on automatically day or night (night, who are we kidding?) it will then force you to complete a short, timed math test before permitting you to send self-destructive diatribes careening down the Information Superhighway during those sensitive, post-last-call periods.

You can configure Goggles to stay on for any length of time, but if you eventually discover you can send e-mails without a calculator only on Tuesdays between 10 and 11 a.m., you might have bigger problems than Goggles can address.

You can also preset the one-minute math tests to varying degrees of difficulty, depending on how hard a time you want to give yourself in a future altered state—as hard as third grade, as easy as “;I'm pretty sure I saw a terrier tap this out with its paw on 'Animal Planet.'”;

I'm ashamed to say that at the highest difficulty, it took me three tries to get a test e-mail through completely sober. I'll try the other extreme once I get permission to expense-account a case of Corona.

If successful, it's not far-fetched to imagine Google extending Goggles to protect us from ourselves beyond the keyboard.

Imagine a GPS-enabled pedometerlike device that monitors your adrenaline and blood-alcohol content. When your biochemistry is off the chart, it would give you a significant electric shock if you tried to get anywhere near Tijuana, an all-night Vegas wedding chapel or that diner that always makes your stomach sound like the soundtrack to a laser light show.

With apologies to Ol' Blue Eyes, Goggles might one day allow us all to sing, “;I reconfigured my apps to avoid most blows and stopped myself from doing it ... myyyyy waaaaay!”;


Reach Star-Bulletin columnist Curt Brandao and subscribe to the free “;digitalslobpod”; podcast at digitalslob.com.