Email message management – No more drowning in email

You open up your email account and you’re absolutely flooded with messages. Many of them need your attention. Many more are spam. But you need to examine them one by one and decide what you need to do in each case. It takes an age to trawl through them all, and you just don’t have the time to spare. Real work has to take priority… or you’ll sink without a trace.

What to do? Thankfully some clever techie bod has come up with a canny idea that might just take the email world by storm, an affordable human email assistant at a cost of around £1 a day.

Crowd sourced email message management

The idea harnesses crowd-sourced workers to manage your email overload. It’s called Gmail Valet and it’s been developed by Nicolas Kokkalis and colleagues at the University of California. It works by connecting your email account with Odesk, which is itself a crowd-labour platform that, unlike many such systems, harnesses a bunch of people who are relatively skilled.

Once your assistant has access to your account they can look at your emails, decide which need your attention and extract a ‘to do’ item as necessary, which pops up in a neat list next to your inbox in the Gmail Valet site, just like magic.

You can provide feedback on the service, which is used to improve and fine-tune the offering. And because one assistant can monitor dozens of inboxes at the same time, the cost has been driven right down to around $1.80 a day, not much more an £1.

By all accounts customers love it. The to-do lists help them complete 60% of email-driven tasks whereas without Gmail Valet, they only clocked up 30%.

What about privacy? No problem. It’s apparently easy to exclude friends’ and family emails, for example, from the system. As such Gmail Valet is being hailed as an important step in letting crowd sourced workers deal with private and sensitive information.

Gmail Valet is being presented to the world at large in February 2013 at the Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing conference in San Antonio, Texas. In the meantime you can hit the cutting edge running and trial the system free at gmailvalet.com.