2 Reasons I would never consider using this:
1. I don't want anyone to have any idea "how busy I am". Maybe I'm old fashioned, but the size of my inbox, like many other things, is no one's business but mine.
2. This effectively makes the sender the gatekeeper for deciding what's important. I want to be my own gatekeeper. I would much rather have everyone send everything when they would normally send it and let me decide when or whether to read it. I can't think of any good reason why losing control and losing data would be advantageous. I'd rather figure out ways to manage my time and my inbox than wonder what I'm not receiving because someone else made a decision "on my behalf".
I had exactly the same reaction: good hack, where's the problem?
The solution to the problem of too much email already exists, and that solution is ... email. Email is asynchronous, and you get to decide when and what to do with it.
These guys do a good job: http://emailcharter.org
We're trying to provide a framework around that first rule of respecting the recipient's time.
It's about sending only important e-mails/"not spamming". So, regardless of whether the guy I'm sending to has an empty or an overloaded inbox, I should always send the e-mail, because it's important.
If the sender is even thinking about the question "Does this particular individual have time to read this email?" then the chances are that this email is already far more important than average.
Also to your point, I'm not sure if this is a good product for workplace email exchanges. In that setting you're sort of forced to send things to people wether you want to or not.
Basically, if you're not getting a ton of email, you don't need this.
Anyway, as far as anyone is concerned my inbox is always swamped. It's usually true, but if it's not I might get away with reading a few extra articles on HN without anyone knowing my inbox is screaming for some action.
I'd never use it either, but I'd also wouldn't post nearly as much information on facebook as most of my friends do.
Ones own preferences might not always be a good indicator the public's preferences.
Having said that, unfortunately I'll join others in saying I won't use this. I'm one of hte "searchers" - my inbox is always full, but I search for right emails, instead of filing into folders and deleting.
A part of the problem here comes down not to the service you're providing, mtgentry, but what you're saying or not saying about it. So my feedback is about your customer-facing copy.
Although I love the clarity of the headline, I'd recommend you consider fleshing the headline out to address a key benefit or the single biggest point of value, possibly in a nicely sized subhead. Something like:
"Broadcast Your Inbox Health
When your team or family sees you're swamped, they'll only send you critical stuff."
A few other thoughts:
1. "Broadcast" is a scary word. It's clear and noticeable, but it's scary. Reconsider?
2. What's the pain you're eliminating? It's not making it so people are "less likely to email you", as you put it. We still need communication. It's just that, when we're busy, we don't want the emails we don't need. The pain you're eliminating is unnecessary emails. It seems obvious to me, but it's nowhere on the page. (Of course, I may be totally wrong!)
3. You write about what senders/recipients can see (i.e., "It allows anyone you email to see the size of your inbox"), but you don't write about what people can't see. That's important. The details that stay hidden from others - like subject lines and sender names - are even more important, in the sensitive world of personal and business comm, than what's shown to them. Tell potential customers exactly how private their inbox will remain.
4. People don't want others to know how jam-packed or empty their inboxes are because that says something about them. (Others have noted this already.) Assuming your product addresses this issue elegantly, you'll want to message this on your home page or in easy-to-read FAQs.
5. An 'ideal for' line would greatly help. People need to identify. Help them.
6. Why is Smoke Signal better than an auto-responder? Why is it better than IM statuses? Why is it more efficient or effective than the solutions the HN community is throwing out? A testimonial from a customer that covers off these sorts of things could do some serious heavy lifting here.
Sorry if that's going too far. It seems to me that there are a lot of great objections and anxieties rising to the surface in this thread. You can totally address them easily on the page.
The problem this introduces is that it's useless unless people only email you by replying. If they're replying to you it's probably important, and you don't want to tell someone not to reply or to reply later. And to expect someone to do that is unreasonable.
If someone emails you direct, they don't see your signature. So it doesn't fulfil its purpose then.
Finally, an overflowing inbox shouldn't be the responsibility of someone trying to contact you. Things like labels, filters and priority flags are all tools used by email clients to allow the user/recipient to establish a system to manage large amounts of email that is most suitable for them.
You can't expect the sender to help you manage your time better. And thus if this servie is useful to you, I'd be more inclined to think your email client isn't being worked hard enough.
You can probably also safely reduce the number of fonts you're using.
Now, within teams, I can definitely see the use - particularly if it also picked up tasks from bug trackers, tools like Remember the Milk, etc. But maybe as a Rapportive-style dashboard (and at-a-glance team page) rather than a signature - so when I email my colleague, it warns me that he's late on 3 tasks and has a lot of unread email.
If your inbox is overloaded, then you are unproductive, overwhelmed, unhelpful, flustered.
If you are in between, it says almost nothing about you and therefore would be pointless.
I think this was probably a fun little project, but I see absolutely no sense in it- at least not the way the author intended anyway.
Trust: a one page website is asking for access to my Gmail account. As far as I can tell, this means it gets access to everything 24/7. EVERYTHING. Holy crap. Because of the way that web security has evolved, my email inbox (not Gmail, but that's beside the point) is now the master key to my life. No way in hell am I handing a service like this the master key to my life.
Privacy: I'm assuming this is inserted into the email as an HTTP reference ("signature updates throughout the day"). If that's the case, then most correspondents won't see the image because modern email clients block 'beacon' image requests by default. If that's not the case and the image is embedded as a MIME object, then the tool is kinda useless, because who knows when a correspondent will read my reply?
If anything, the real solution is already described in the website header: "It's kinda like the AWAY setting on instant messenger, but for email". Most IM software, including Gmail, already has "online presence" notification. Perhaps that's where the real solution lies.
http://blog.getsmokesignal.com also shows laser focus, sparse and reflective pieces.
Their simple refocus on sender is refreshing and quite cunning.
Keep up the good work.
Your email has been received.
There are %N emails in my Inbox before yours.
Your email is important to me.
The estimated wait time for the response is %M days.
Thank you for your patience.
Seriously though, there's maybe a dozen ultra-important people in the world for whom I could tolerate a reply like that. But anyone that important really should have their secretary sorting through their email anyway.
A reply like that from someone of lower (or even equal) status would be incredibly rude.
How do you determine what are "healthy" and "unhealthy" amounts of email? If I ignore a bunch of mailing-list type email in my inbox by just glancing at the title, I may have hundreds of "unread" messages but that doesn't mean I'm totally flooded with email. Thoughts?
Having filters: Most users may use Inbox as the fall through location for emails. But a lot use filters as a way to move stuff out of the inbox to specific folders as a means to prioritize responses.
eg. My wife, business partner etc, might make it to folder important, my 2nd level priority emails go someplace else, mailing lists elsewhere and so on.
Inbox is whats left and is least priority. How do you account for whats important. What if I don't use priority inbox? What happens when I don't read the email in my inbox at all since it isn't critical to my day to day function.
This also doesn't account for a mail client use or mail forwarding from Google. Since Gmail provides a way to use a mail client or forward mail options, it means that I might read mail on my client but not report back to gmail or just read all the mail from another account.
Anyway, some thoughts to ponder over. May not be a mainstream problem since most users might not be doing what I suggested.
20 emails is far from "unbearable" in my mind.
Also, making it obvious that this is based on unread emails would be helpful. My immediate reaction was this was for zero-inbox-nazis, of which I know a few among friends, but the "unbearable mental weight" of seeing a list of read emails just doesn't impact me the way it does them I guess. ;-)
Other than that, yes, clever hack. But honestly I'd be afraid of the impression I'm making by broadcasting to everyone that I'm constantly swamped. "Unbearable" has some pretty overly dramatic connotations.
I understand that this is a temporary situation, but you probably shouldn't say "nothing else" and immediately deny it.
Otherwise, the idea is cute, and the site is nice. However, I have a feeling that people won't want to broadcast that much information to just anyone. It's a little like adding "my desk is really untidy (or tidy, or whatever) right now" as an email signature.
The most important points I can think of...
It's placed in the signature, it doesn't apply to anyone composing a new message, which is probably a large portion of mail.
It relies on the person sending the message to decide if their e-mail is urgent or not (everyone thinks THEIR message is urgent)
Anyone replying to your mail is probably someone you are waiting for a response from, so really you NEED them to e-mail you, so you can get work done.
It would probably lead to a lot of 'queue jumping', getting phone calls starting "I saw your mailbox is swamped so I thought I'd just call to ask XYZ..."
I do love that it auto updates so that you can see the current status even on an old mail.
Maybe it would be more useful to display an auto updating sig beacon that contains autoresponder info. Your frequent contacts can see what you're up to, if you're about, at a different site, on hol etc. That's closer to the "Away" button on messenger. It would save people typing out a whole e-mail to just get a bounceback message.
There might be a typographical error in the Privacy section:
"We use Oauth to look at the amount (of?) email in your inbox, nothing else."
(I don't mean to nitpick, but we want your site to be the best it can be!)
Jack wants to send Jill an email and using SmokeSignal can send it when there is the least noise in Jill's inbox. SmokeSignal is a utility for him not her. Devise a way to implement/market SmokeSignal to Jack, in which he persuades Jill to use it.
We think Jill would want to use it to decrease the number of cock pics in her inbox.
There's a little typo - "We use Oauth to look at the amount email in your inbox, nothing else." - missing OF after amount.
On the learn more page there's an extra apostrophe - "email signature that let's other"
It looks really neat. How do you deal with "out of office" situations, where people are likely to have full inboxes?
If someone gets a full inbox while on vacation, I'm guessing they would still want others to know their inbox is full, no?
I would only suggest allowing a user to set their own alert levels for each category-- my emails constantly go upwards of 100, 200, 300 unread at a time, but I still consider that manageable. Allow it to be customized and you have an interesting project that has some great potential.
Nice use of google/gmail api nevertheless.
I installed it to see if it works/because it looks fun but will probably uninstall it tomorrow when i start freaking out about the privacy/security/my-outgoing-emails-being-blocked implications.
Also it said my inbox is 'unbearable' straight off the bat so presumably you just check total unread or total inbox messages not the ratio - I have a massive inbox but no recent messages that are not read right now so I feel it's very 'bearable'.
1. A way to control which emails this gets attached to. If I'm emailing a client, I don't want them to ever feel I'm too busy to be contacted.
2. Allow for other measurements. In the same way most phones have a DND button, I would be great to have a manual override for days I'm busy. Also for me it would make more sense to measure how busy my calendar is vs my inbox.
Additional variation: It might be interesting to post an average response time to expect vs ples/tol/unb.
For now at least, I find it more useful embedded on my site than in email.
Buster Benson is doing cool things too with http://howsmyemail.com. He provided some encouragement early on.
Our core idea is that email interactions should be based on one's availability. More thoughts on that here: http://blog.getsmokesignal.com/post/10660730744
Is(n't) this 'bad'?
I avoid email in some circumstances because people don't seem to use it well (Admittedly what is meant by 'well' can be subjective). Most of them have hundreds/thousands of unread emails.
This is me, for years.
On the other end of this, there are definitely times where I've wondered how busy someone I'm emailing was. I'd enjoy being able to quickly gauge their status.