Mail Goggles a lot of $(@)!# fun, but safety net has holes

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It's not April Fools Day, but if you're online at odd hours and perhaps a bit inebriated, Google's got a plan to keep you from making a fool of yourself.

Straight from the Gmail Labs (and, one might imagine, at least one in-house episode of tipsy oversharing), Google on Tuesday unveiled Mail Goggles, an e-mail option designed to keep you from doing online what a good wingman keeps you from doing if you're wearing beer goggles after too much fun at the club. (Technically, in that case, the function should be called Mail Wingman. Not that we'd know anything about that.)

The function can be set to operate at any time of day or night, though it defaults to Friday and Saturday nights. If the user tries to send an e-mail during the questionable time period, a pop-up will present an assortment of arithmetic problems and a timer. If the sender's too far in the bag to complete the math in the time provided, there'll be no more Gmailing until the cautionary period ends -- giving the would-be correspondent time to think it over in daylight, perhaps with aspirin handy.

In our preliminary tests, we noticed that (aside from finding even the level-5 math problems pretty simple, and that was without our calculator handy) Goggles makes one critically wrong assumption: Sobriety increases as the night progresses.

Once we solved the first set of problems during our scheduled lockdown time, Goggles didn't halt us at any point after. That's fine if you're someone who gets all the bile out of her or his system with the first message, or if that first message is sent before the evening gets really rolling, but it won't stop the sort of cranky drunk who works up a head of steam as the night goes on. Not that we'd know anything about that.

Users discussing the new function on Google Groups had a welter of suggestions for improvements, including a proposed "clawback" feature that would delay e-mail transmissions for a few seconds for those with a tendency to fat-finger responses to exactly the wrong recipients. Other commenters thought that history or non-arithmetic questions might be more effective, and one wag noted it might be easier to simply to put a straight line on-screen and require the e-mail user to 'walk' along it via mouse.

Mail Goggles can be activated in Gmail by going to the Labs function and selecting the option; the configuration is then tweakable in the standard settings menu. Beer goggles can be activated later in the day. Not that we'd know anything about that.

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