Civility check evolves

Nudge blog readers are a keen bunch. We woke up this morning, saw it, and smiled. But we weren’t alone. Other readers (hat tip to Brad Allan, Rory Sutherland, and Jeff Galak) saw it too. Don’t know if they smiled.

Google has unveiled a tool called Mail Goggles that requires its users to answer a few simple math questions in order to send a message. Brad Allen notices that while the famous Civility Check was intended to nudge people away from angry emails, Mail Goggles seems to be more concerned with late night drunken blunders. Maybe it’s just a generational difference. Boomers worry about insulting their co-workers after lunch. Gen Y Millennials worry about spilling incoherent mush to their ex-boyfriends and girlfriends after midnight.

The default rule sets Mail Goggles on late at night on the weekend. Once enabled, users can change the timing settings.

We let the developer, Jon Perlow, explain its origins.

Sometimes I send messages I shouldn’t send. Like 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.

Ok, so Perlow wasn’t reading Nudge.

He was putting Google’s employee incentive structure to good use, though. Perlow built the service during what is known as Google Labs time. Engineers are encouraged to spend 20 percent of their working week – one day – on personal projects, some of which are later developed into full products.

A question for readers: Are math questions – specifically, addition, subtraction, and multiplication – the right nudge to pose to a tired or inebriated user? One alternative might be a online game where a user has to move the mouse and hit a small moving target. Users might have to hit the target 3 times in a row before the message is sent.

Addendum: The GM of the Cleveland Browns needs a version of Civility Check.

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