New tool shows would-be e-mailers if you're swamped on Gmail
A Georgia Tech researcher is taking aim at e-mail overload with a new tool that shows people thinking about messaging you just how swamped your Gmail account is in real time.
"I think we're really good at the etiquette part when we have the cues that allow us to be polite," said assistant professor Eric Gilbert, creator of the free service Courteous.ly. “Courteous.ly helps manage expectations and lets people choose to send mail when it's best for you."
The service works by periodically checking a user's e-mail load based on parameters set by the user, such as unread messages in your inbox or how much mail you've sent recently. Courteous.ly comes up with a sense of what constitutes light, normal, and heavy load for the user after analyzing the user's mail system for 12 hours.
It then updates the status of your e-mail load, which can be accessed via a link in your e-mail signature. Gilbert is trying to figure out a way to avoid even the step of clicking on that link in the future. He's also pondering development of widgets that users can post on their blogs or Websites to show people how busy they are. Currently Courteous.ly only works with Google's Gmail.
The work at Georgia Tech complements separate efforts by Google itself to make e-mail more efficient for its Gmail customers. Last month, Google said it would start rolling out an interface module that displays contextual information about people involved in a message's thread.