Think Before You Drink and Draft

Google's new program aims to stop you from e-mailing under the influence.

ByABC News
October 7, 2008, 6:04 PM

Oct. 9, 2008 — -- Does this sound familiar?

After an evening sipping cocktails or gulping down beer, your fingers find their way to a keyboard.

You know you shouldn't do it, but that liquid courage convinces you otherwise and, soon enough, you've fired off a hasty e-mail to an ex, a co-worker or, worst of all, a boss.

Many a relationship has been prolonged -- and perhaps many a career has been cut short -- by the dreaded drunken e-mail.

But now, Google's new motto seems to be "think before you drink and draft."

And to help keep e-casualties to a minimum, it has launched a new program to stop users from e-mailing under the influence.

Launched Monday, Mail Goggles (a playful riff on Beer Goggles) asks you to complete a few simple math problems within 60 seconds before you're allowed to send off your late-night missives.

If you can make it through the math, your message goes on its merry way and you can continue to e-mail without further checks, although there's no stopping your text messages.

But if you have difficulty solving "five times two" or "94 minus 33," you're gently chastised by your e-mail: "Water and bed for you" or "Oops. Looks like your reflexes are a little slow," if the time runs out.

Regardless of why you fail the test, a sympathetic Gmail feels your pain and offers you the chance to try again.

By default, Mail Goggles only "breathalyzes" you on the weekends between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. But, once the program is enabled, users can adjust when it's active and the level of difficulty. The program won't reach math of Pythagorean proportions, but it does let math whizzes raise the bar to keep themselves out of trouble.

In announcing the feature on the Gmail blog, Gmail engineer Jon Perlow wrote, "Sometimes I send messages I shouldn't send. Like the time I told that girl I had a crush on her over text message. Or the time I sent that late night e-mail to my ex-girlfriend that we should get back together."

"Hopefully, Mail Goggles will prevent many of you out there from sending messages you wish you hadn't."

For some people still licking their self-inflicted e-mail wounds, Google's new sobriety test is certainly a welcome addition.