Tech trends and business ideas

All things that motivate entrepreneurs

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Buttress your email with some `serios’ dough, or risk a response….

Damn! This idea is worth more money than you and your ancestors altogether all the way up to Jesus...c'mon guys, be serios' [sic] – was the thought which crossed my mind when I first read about a cure for e-mail attention disorder [ Hat tip : John Murrel, GMSV ].

I am talking about Attent, an enterprise productivity application introduced by Seriosity, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based start-up that has come up with an e-mail management system that borrows heavily from the virtual economies and currencies found in WoW and other large-scale online games.

Under Attent, people would receive weekly allowances of Serios, most likely 100. That number would be the same for everyone, no matter who they are. But the idea is that managers and higher-level executives would accumulate more of the currency because they receive more messages. That means, in turn, that they have more Serios to spend on responses.

Further, people can sort messages by numbers of Serios attached, allowing them to sift through the hundreds of e-mails they may get every day and see which ones that senders have deemed the most important. In effect, you can quickly and easily sort the thousands of messages and read only the ones that they really care about -- the ones they put Serios on."

"The real value of the 21st century organization is in its people, and the organization only does what the people put their attention on," says Edward Castronova, a leading expert on virtual economies who is consulting for Seriosity. "Yet in the age of e-mail, pagers, IMs and cell phones, our attention is like roadkill. My argument was that if a synthetic currency gets people to trade gold pieces for (virtual items), it could get them to trade Serios for attention. When you pay for a (virtual item), you're just asking for attention: 'Cast this spell on me' is the same thing as 'Read my e-mail.'"

I exchange so many e-mail a day and if this signaling solution based on ROI ever worked, I would give an arm and a leg for that idea.

But my money will have to wait.

I already spend too much time trying to properly communicate with other people I work with and now I have to *buy* their attention? This is simply not the way to improve productivity. Just get rid of spam, if you can.

The number of office emails can be reduced by adding some intelligence into the message. We stream so many emails to clarify or to follow-up because the original message did not get a reply.

If an email while asking a question, builds in an automatic response widget such as `Yes / No’ or `will respond in x hours if I don’t have that info’, is useful enough.

Seriosity, which currently has 12 employees, is functioning off of a $6 million investment by Read's Alloy Ventures and is seeking a second round of funding. The trick for the company will be not only to prove that Attent works, but to manage its newly formed virtual economy.

Ultimately, for Castronova, the creation of a new economy for managing e-mail overload is no different than the creation of any new economy. And that's why he believes the system can work.

"Never again will you read the e-mail warning you to take your food out of the company refrigerator by Friday," Castronova says. "It will be forever relegated to the bottom of your inbox, because with the Serio, you can quickly and easily sort the thousands of messages and read only the ones that they really care about--the ones they put Serios on."

This whole thing beats me as I think “why send something that merits nobody’s attention ?!”

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