At a Glance
- Accurately measures your workload; Convenient
- Information delivered via hyperlink
Let others know if your email load is light, normal, or heavy with this cloud-based service.
If you work in an office, you can close your door to let others
know that you are too busy to be disturbed. Wouldn’t it be nice if
you could send the same signal via email? Now you can, with
Courteous.ly, a free cloud-based service that lets others know
where your email load stands so they can wait to contact you.
Courteous.ly is a research project headed by Associate Professor
Eric Gilbert of Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computin. It
is available for free to the public. It currently works only with
Gmail and Google Apps email, though support for other types of
email accounts may be added in the future.
Once you sign up for Courteous.ly and allow the service to
access your email, it analyzes your inbox to determine your current
email load. By default, it measures your email load based on how
many messages are in your inbox, but you can also tell it to
measure the number of unread messages and how many messages you
have recently sent. Once you sign up for the service, it takes
about 12 hours before it is up and running; Courteous.ly spends
that time analyzing your email patterns so that it can determine
what is normal for you. Once it determines your baseline activity,
Courteous.ly updates its rating every 10 minutes.
I found Courteous.ly’s rating scale, which uses “light,”
“normal,” or “heavy” to describe your email load, to be very
accurate. It rated my load as heavy when emails were flowing in
frequently and I had many messages unread. Once I had time to
respond to emails and file messages into folders, Courteous.ly
appropriately rated my email load as “normal.”
Courteous.ly delivers this information through a custom link for
your account; to share the information with your correspondents,
you have to send them the link. But getting people to click a link
that arrives either in your email signature or in an auto-response
that you set up could be a challenge, especially as we’ve all been
trained not to click on unfamiliar links that arrive by email. You
can share the link via Facebook and Twitter, too, if you’d like the
share the information with a wider circle of contacts.
Courteous.ly also lets you offer people two options for
corresponding with you: it tells them they can put “[whenever]” in
the subject line of their email, and their message will be held for
delivery until your email load is back to normal, or they can put a
one-sentence question in the subject of their message, and have it
delivered to the top of your inbox.
I can see where Courteous.ly could be convenient–if you can get
people to click on the link. As a journalist, I would appreciate
having PR pitches held back until my workload is lighter. But I’m
not sure I’d want to share my workload information with everyone.
After all, what if an editor decided not to offer me a potential
assignment because they’d been warned that my workload was too
Note: This link takes you to the vendor’s site,
where you can use this cloud-based software.