The Realistically Smart Product
Email could be a lot smarter than it is. But it’s dangerous to try to make it too smart.
That’s the message from Alexander Moore, CEO of Baydin, which has a relatively new email-based calendaring assistant, Boomerang Calendar. It will help you schedule meetings without the usual, painful back-and-forth that this task usually requires. Like other scheduling assistants that have come before it (see TimeTrade, TimeBridge, and the former Tungle), Boomerang Calendar reaches into your Outlook or GMail schedule and lets you see your availability, and then quickly select open time slots when you’re proposing a meeting. It creates a nice email with the proposed options.
The recipient can then reply in English, like “Ok, 3pm tomorrow looks good.” They don’t have to go to a Web page or fill in a form; Boomerang Calendar is invisible to them. The product is smart enough to parse the reply text, but Moore realized it’s not smart enough to get it right all the time. It won’t set up a meeting without manual confirmation. Moore told me, “We know that 10% of the time we’ll be wrong,” and, “if it’s wrong just 5% it’s not good enough.”
It’s a skill to make a product as smart as possible and to not pretend it’s smarter than it is. If you do, people won’t trust it at all. It’s not worth undoing the value of a 95% solution by claiming it’s 100%. Software can add a lot of value by recommending or proposing, sometimes without actually doing.
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