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START: MARK EVANS

Boomerang effect on managing e-mail Add to ...

Earlier this week, I wrote about the E-mail Charter, which offered up 10 recommendations on how to use e-mail in a smarter, more productive and civil way.

In addition to approaches and techniques to better use e-mail, there are also a wide variety of tools that can be used to take control of e-mail rather than have it control you.

For the growing number of users of Gmail, Google’s free online e-mail service, one of the most useful tools is an add-on called Boomerang. It lets Gmail users schedule e-mail, notify themselves of important e-mail messages, and get reminders about messages that haven’t generated a response.

These are features Gmail should, in theory, offer. For whatever reason, however, Google has decided not to provide them.

Into this void stepped a Mountain View, Calif-based startup called Baydin Inc., which launched Boomerang last year. Since its launch, there have been more than 300,000 downloads of the add-on.

Alex Moore, Baydin’s co-founder and chief executive, said Boomerang started as a different project. The original goal was to create a better way to offer e-mail search.

However, after every release, people would tell Mr. Moore that the service was “cool” but what they really wanted was a way to schedule e-mail messages.

It took a while but it eventually dawned on Mr. Moore that scheduling was a problem that offered much more potential.

“I wouldn’t say I have a super thick skull but it took more than once to get it beat into me that the path we were on wouldn’t do it, and there was an opportunity there we would take on,” Mr. Moore said during a recent interview.

One of the risks that developers face when they build upon the popular platform of another company such as Google or Facebook is that company can suddenly decide to tackle the problem itself.

Mr. Moore said that, while it is possible Google could offer a scheduling feature, he believes the company is more focused on evolving Gmail into a communications platform.

This is evident, he said, by the introduction of Google Voice, which lets people make phone calls within Gmail, and the recent launch of Google+, a new social networking service (about which I also recently wrote).

“They are not focused on filling in gaps in Gmail or really on e-mail productivity as [much] as they are on expanding that platform for themselves,” he said. “We think there is a great opportunity for a lot of starting work on enhancement to step and fill some of those gaps.”

While Boomerang continues to gain more traction, Baydin is also working on another e-mail related service called the E-mail Game, which adds games and rewards to the e-mail experience – a concept known as gamification.

Mr. Moore said users of the E-mail Game, currently in beta, will be encouraged to embrace many of the concepts espoused by the Email Charter to collect rewards.

“People earn points and achievement as they practice good e-mail habits,” he said. “We think it will help a lot of folks, particularly people who get more than 30 messages a day. It makes it liberating to deal with your e-mail, and makes you more focused while giving you constant feedback as you do good things.”

Mr. Moore said Baydin’s underlying theme is to help people be more disciplined and effective with e-mail.

“We think, in general, most people know how to manage their inboxes and be good e-mail citizens, but most people don’t have the discipline to do that,” he said. “We think we can help.”

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.

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