Tag Archives: Judith Bitterli

Heads-Up Displays: A Driving Solution or Another Distraction?

You may have seen recent reports about the “heads-up displays” (HUDs) technology for cars, where information is projected onto the windshield of the car as you drive. The transparent display provides navigational assistance, speed and other dashboard components, lane change alerts, etc.

The HUD technology was originally developed by the military for fighter pilots, who could see target data and other important information without looking down. But now the technology has entered into the automobile sector and is something we’re going to be hearing a lot more about…

Recently, a startup called Navdy unveiled a link to the auto display and your smartphone information. Other formidable players in this space are Continental and Garmin, among others. Most players have focused to-date on the display of navigational, safety, and instrument information. But it’s clear that with companies such as Navdy, HUD is headed into a more interactive territory.

According to a new market research report published by MarketsandMarkets, the heads-up display space is expected to reach $8.3 billion dollars in five years. (It should be noted this projection isn’t limited to automobiles but also to such other segments as aviation as well. See here.)

Proponents of HUDs believe they will make our roads safer by keeping drivers from fumbling with their smartphones while driving, or even having to look down at their instrument panel. With the projected image on your windshield, the theory goes, you’re able to keep your eyes on the road.

Indeed, on any given day, Distracted.gov estimates over 660,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone. This all too frequently, and often tragically, results in accidents.

A second part of the HUD business proposition may be a pragmatic one: people are going to be using their phones anyway, so this is a better alternative.

But the question is: is it?

Hands-free technology and voice-activation software have equally been touted as benefits for the same reason: users can keep their eyes on the road. Yet, both voice-activation software and hands-free are not panaceas.

In the case of VA technology, it still affects the cognitive part of your brain.  Many of the simple tasks that come with VA technology increase a driver’s cognitive workload. And, depending on the situation, that can be dangerous. Vehicle voice-activated “infotainment” systems that are more complicated or just take longer to navigate created the highest levels of driver distraction and safety risks, according to a recent AAA study.

Hands-free phone technologies also don’t solve the problem of having a conversation, especially an important or emotional one, while driving can be only a little less distracting than juggling a phone. It’s for the same reason: Cognitive distraction.  Many studies back this up, including a groundbreaking one from the National Safety Council.

It would appear that the same question of cognitive distractions applies to new HUD techs.

While we can all appreciate any tools that will make our roads safer— the question is whether turning your windshield into a computer screen is the way to go? For that, we’ll have to wait and see.


Image courtesy of PC Mag

Unicorns: Perhaps Not As Rare As We Thought

So what’s a Unicorn? Here’s the study’s definition: “Many entrepreneurs, and the venture investors who back them, seek to build big, impactful companies valued at a billion dollars or more. We called these companies ‘unicorns’ because what they had achieved seemed very difficult, rare, and relatively unstudied.”

The latest study, the second by the venerable tech startup news site, has some surprises, as well as corroborates what has become conventional wisdom in Silicon Valley.

There’s a lot of data to chew on in the study and you can read the full post here. But parsing through it, there is a lot to learn, whether you’re a start-up, an investor, or just curious about markets.

Here are some of the interesting takeaways that I gleaned.

First, the surprising:


Unicorns are not as rare as we thought

The latest study revels that there are more Unicorns than one might think. There were 84 companies profiled in this year’s study—more than a 100% increase from last year. Granted, a lot of the companies were “paper” Unicorns (companies valued on paper that have not had liquidity events.) But the total value of the companies was $327 Billion and 2.4x the last analysis (“excluding Facebook, which was almost half the value of our last list.”)


Old is the “New” New

As the study maintains, for every wunderkind out there, a seasoned leader or founder (and, perhaps more importantly, a co-founder) may be your best shot at becoming, or finding, a Unicorn.

The study found that companies with educated, tech-experienced, older co-founding teams with a history together have built the most successes in this rarified club. And the co-founding aspect was interesting as well. As the study noted, 86% of the companies had co-founders, or a “super-majority” according to its lingo.

While some of this may be counter-intuitive to the traditional Silicon Valley narrative, it makes sense to me on several levels. An experienced leader can gauge a market, and having a co-founder gives you a chance to bounce ideas off one another, whether it’s reigning in your partner or just having “green-light” time. (I’ve had co-founders in all three of my entrepreneurial ventures.)


In the not so surprising camp:


IoT is gaining impact

This year, the Unicorn study recognized the Consumer Electronics/Internet of Things as its own category. According to the study, five companies, which make up 6% of the list, have raised a combined $266 million on average and are valued at 18x the private capital raised. While it is the smallest of the categories (after E-Commerce, SaaS, Enterprise and “Audience” or ad-driven businesses– ranked by order of value from first to last), to me, this is just another sign that the Internet of Things is ripe for takeoff.


Diversity: Still too Little

This last survey statistic from the study that I’ll share is in diversity, where the numbers fall into the not-so-surprising camp.

While the study determined that 50% of founders or co-founders of Unicorns came from outside the U.S. (from India to Canada) it shows diversity among Unicorns diversity is trending up, but is still low. TechCrunch reports this year the list welcomed two companies with female leaders, compared to no female CEOs on its last list. As well 10% of the co-founders on this year’s list were female, double last year’s survey. Like its average startups counterparts in the valley, 70% of the companies surveyed had no gender diversity at the board level… Please note: the study was unable to track racial or ethnic diversity.

So in terms of diversity, this “rarest of the rare” breed of venture backed tech companies are doing about the same as run of the mill startups and tech companies in Silicon Valley.

Ultimately, when I look at this study, however, I am an encouraged to see that attributes like experience, collaboration, and inclusion, as well as innovation, are being called out as measures of success. These are all values worthy of attention, whether you aspire to be a Unicorn or not.


Title image courtesy of TechCrunch

Camp Google: Inspiring Kids to go Outside

Do you remember your mother or grandmother saying, “It’s a beautiful summer day…what are you doing inside?” Well, online giant Google has heard that message, and wants young children to get offline too, with the help of its Camp Google.

Are the young children in your life starting to act a little restless as we enter the dog days of summer? Although school seems to start earlier than ever, we all know that feeling when waning summer days seem to stretch out longer and longer…Just in time, Google has launched its online summer camp (on July 13), starting with a bevy of science and tech themed adventures. The first was called Ocean Week. This week at camp is Space Week.

I know we’ve written a lot on the topic of kids online, and most of us are worried about the next generation being too connected—and mobile devices turning them into bigger couch potatoes than the previous generation. While it may sound counter-intuitive, Camp Google seems like a great strategy to get that generation (ages 7-10) excited about life and get them out of doors.

The camp explores the outdoors, science, and technology. You don’t even need a Google account to sign up. As Google says, “Camp Google is designed to get kids outside exploring and experimenting with fun science activities.”

And did I mention the camp is free? Sign me up!

There are activities that even sound fun to me: Creating a magnifying glass to explore your backyard? Building crystals? Making a constellation for your bedroom? A levitation device for Space Week?

For budding chefs out there, the current Google Camp Space Week also allows them to participate in a cook off between two junior chefs competing to create a signature dish for astronauts in space. Kids will get a front row seat for all the fun and learn about how space food is made and what’s needed to survive in space.

Exploring a volcano? Google’s got that too, coming July 29t, and with an online escort by a National Park Ranger. Miss a week of camp for a real vacation? Content is there for you to experience the camp after the designated week.

The engineers at Google worked with prestigious educational organizations like Khan Academy and with content experts such as National Geographic Kids, NASA and the National Park Service to develop the excellent content that will get kids to see the potential science has.

The directions and lessons are fun, simple to understand and motivating.

All activities list supplies required (usually basic household items) and also specify when parental supervision that is required as well. With this camp, there are even completion badges too.

To me it seems like the perfect mix of technology and outside awareness with content and interactive engagement really designed to inspire the next generation to pursue science and technology.

I also would like to point out that it seems like a great way to encourage young girls to learn about and explore science and technology in a non-threatening and fun way.

Empowerment, engagement, and exercise…Good job Google!

San Jose Library Takes a Leading Role in Privacy Literacy

Online child safety issues are only getting more crucial as the average age for children online keeps dipping lower and lower.  In many ways this is a good thing: There are great educational possibilities and it connects young minds to a bigger, wider world. But we know there are many pitfalls.

As my colleague Tony Anscombe recently noted during the Child Internet Safety Summit 2015, all too often people don’t think about digital safety in the same terms as the overall safety of our kids – or begin their education about it as soon as we would, say, street safety. But the best time to start teaching children about Internet safety, literally, is as soon as you let them start using it.

In that vein, I was excited to hear about an online project developed by the Public Library in San Jose California that is designed to help people of all ages understand privacy issues: The Privacy Literacy project. The program is developing online tools that will help people understand digital privacy and make more informed decisions about their online activities.

What better place for families to learn and find tools about digital safety than your local library?

The program was awarded a $35,000 grant earlier this year by the prestigious Knight Foundation and it began prototype testing of its new privacy tool in June.

In an ingenious move, the San Jose library partnered with game developers at San Jose State University’s Game Development Club to create its working prototype.

The result of the collaboration between the gamers and the library is a simple video-game that might remind you (if you’re of a certain age) of Pac-Man. Users follow multiple levels and collect tools as they learn more about privacy and negotiating the online world. The prototype was featured this last June at the American Library Association’s annual conference, held in San Francisco.

“Security, privacy – it’s a scary topic for a lot of people,” project lead Erin Berman told San Jose’s Metro newspaper. “So what I wanted to do was create a way to make it fun.”

As we all know, a tool that makes this process fun is bound to have a greater chance of success!

I should mention that this tool would certainly not be limited to children. For example, many older people without digital access of their own increasingly use tablets and laptops at libraries (just look around at your local library sometime). And many of these people are applying for jobs or aid through these digital devices, often sharing sensitive information. This is a great way to educate these groups at literally the point of entry.

In everything we do, from our products to our Smart User program in support of the Clinton Global Initiative to our Magda and Mo series for children and the many articles we provide for families, AVG advocates online safety. And we applaud all efforts that help educate users about digital security. It is especially encouraging to see libraries become engaged in privacy literacy given their background and relationships to the community.

Hello, Alexa. Amazon Makes Bold Move Into IoT

Amazon is among the technology companies trying to seize the IoT space, and voice activation technology is a key part of the puzzle – as is artificial intelligence.

With its newly enhanced product, Amazon Echo (with Alexa), the company may do the trick, based on rave reviews amidst its recent (July 14) roll-out, which included going beyond beta phase and adding services. The device is now available to anyone, not just Amazon Prime members, who were the first to give it a try.

Basically, Echo is designed around the user’s voice, and is a hands-free speaker system that connects you to the outside world. It gradually adapts to the user’s voice and inflection.

It has seven microphones and the device connects to Alexa, a cloud-based voice service, to provide information, answer questions, play music, read the news, check sports scores or the weather, and more. So think of it as a smartphone service without the smartphone and you begin to get the picture…

Echo plays music from Amazon Music, Prime Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and other systems. If you want to wake up in the morning to Eye of the Tiger, just say “Alexa” and ask.

But there is more. For example, it’s compatible with Philips Hue connected-devices so that you can control lights and switches with your voice. As industry analyst Tim Bajarin wrote in his review on PC Magazine: “You can expect Amazon to get light switches, door locks, appliances, and more connected to the Echo so it becomes the central control point for an eventual home information and automation system.

Amazon is throwing serious money behind its voice recognition plans in hopes to become a key player. It has put $100 million dollars into The Alexa Fund to “fuel voice technology innovation.” So, the race is on.

It’s fascinating to me how IoT, voice commands, technology, convenience, and modern ideas are all converging. It’s an exciting time to be in tech, to be sure.

Finally, on a side note: I find intriguing that Alexa is again molded in a woman’s voice, soothing like Siri. Is this because all the programmers (or marketers) are trying to reach the key decision makers in the smart home – or were so frightened by HAL in Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey and his representation of an AI-based future? But I’ll save that as a topic for another day…

The Value of an Unplugged Vacation

In keeping with tradition, each year my husband Bob and I gather some of our 14 nieces and nephews and do an annual diving trip. Generally we provide diving lessons to each of the children as they come of age. This year, we did an “alumni” trip for all of the kids who have participated before.

It was truly awesome – and all about diving, eating and sleeping and, then… repeat.

We also had a no-devices-allowed policy. So each evening we had dinner at the big pagoda on the beach. Afterwards, all of us in hammocks. And every night we had amazing conversations!

I was most struck by my young nieces and nephews’ views on how nice it was to be unplugged… Thoughts on how intrusive the internet and smart devices have become in their young lives…I.e. If you don’t text back in real-time, you could lose a friend who thinks you are being unresponsive… (Sound familiar?)

But they really reveled in the opportunity to get away from it all. It wasn’t just me, but kids!

It started me thinking in general about the value of vacations, but especially unplugged ones.

The benefits of taking a vacation are well documented, and practical. Pluses include higher productivity, improved morale, better employee retention, and a better overall workplace culture. That’s just in the workplace. The health benefits for the individual are evident too and should concern all of us.

Numerous studies have shown that vacations lower blood pressure and ease depression…and that even looking forward to a vacation brings major dividends. In just one example, the widely regarded Framingham Heart Study, a long-term ongoing cardiovascular study that began in 1948 to analyze adult subjects who were at risk of heart disease, found a positive correlation between more frequent vacations and longer healthier lives.

But did you know that more than 40% of American workers who received paid time off did not take all of their allotted time in 2013—even despite the obvious personal benefits? This is according to the most recent study entitled “An Assessment of Paid Time Off in the U.S.” commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association, a trade group, and completed by Oxford Economics. The study found, among other things, that we as workers left an average of 3.2 paid time off days unused in 2013, which adds up to 429 million unused days off.

The fact is many people who don’t take vacations are not only hurting themselves and their own productivity. They’re also hurting our country’s economy. And in terms of the overall economy, the Oxford/USTA study found that if employees would take just one additional day of earned leave each year, the result would mean $73 billion in output for the U.S. economy and positive impacts for both employees and businesses.

It has lead to some innovative workplace policies. One of the most intriguing is a Denver-base tech company’s Paid Paid Vacation policy. Bart Lorang, co-founder and CEO of the Denver-based tech company FullContact introduced “Paid Paid Vacation” in 2012. In addition to the standard 15 days paid vacation plus federal holidays (allotted by many US companies), the company gives employees $7,500 to finance a trip. That’s cash on top of their full salaries. The concept is both generous and innovative by US standards!

There is a caveat, however. The employees have to agree to three rules:

  • No checking works emails, texts, or calls.
  • No working, period.
  • You have to actually go on vacation or you don’t get the money.


According to FullContact, the program has translated into real-life benefits.

For example, FullContact’s communications director Brad McCarty told the Washington Post, “The really big names in tech all focus on the same idea, that employee happiness has to come before everything else. While it’s really difficult to measure that return on investment from a dollar standpoint, it’s not difficult to measure what happens when someone returns from a Paid Paid Vacation: you see, without fail, people shining brighter, working harder and more excited to get back into the swing of things.” There also are other ancillary benefits, as Lorang told the Business Insider.

Of note: because the employee who is going on vacation is literally cut-off from work, it’s essential that other employees are cross-trained or up-to-speed on the vacationee’s projects. This means sharing information and avoiding the ‘hero’ trap – the “I’m the only one that can do this” mentality…

Perhaps best of all, and an inspiration for other small business owners, is that Lorang takes his own advice and has an unplugged vacation at least once a year.

I know that we are all very busy and engaged with our work and our daily lives. And our schedules are always overbooked. But please do take the time to have some fun, unplug, or have an adventure by yourself and/or with your loved ones. You’ll find yourself coming back to work with a smile on your face!

Here’s a shout out and “miss you” to all my nieces and nephews, who seem to be learning this at an early age! Inspiring.J

Tech’s Not So Free Lunch

On the macro level, for example, and in the “plus” column, is the transparency practice of many leading tech firms, revealing the diversity of their workforces. And on a more micro level, the big security industry RSA Conference this year essentially banned “booth babes” by stressing strict dress attire for its exhibitors.


Now we come to a step back. A new report by Forbes is that the hottest lunch spot for many SF male techies is, rather unbelievably, a strip club…

The lunch spot of the moment is apparently the Gold Club in San Francisco’s SoMa district, which is conveniently located within walking distance of top tech companies such as Yelp and Salesforce. (You can read the article about this here.

Supposedly the attraction is a cheap lunch: for a $5 cover charge, you get a free lunch buffet and …enjoy dancers. (Ironically, Silicon Valley tech companies have long been the providers of free and subsidized lunches for employees –all to attract the best talent, keep them on campus and at their desks…)

Is the new lunch fad simply a good deal on a buffet? Innocent fun? A way to escape the drudgery of staring at a screen all day?

To me, it’s inappropriate and more troublesome than that. It’s one more manifestation of the techbro culture that permeates our industry.

Worse, it seems to have gotten the wink and nod from many tech firms. For example, according to the Forbes article, one well-known tech firm’s hiring managers would take prospective hires to the Gold Club—which was referred to by the secret code name of “Conference Room G.”

But I don’t want to make light of this. Regardless of your take on strip clubs (whether they objectify or empower women), for the tech industry, which has always been exclusionary (both of women and minorities), it’s simply one more example of the way it can be careless and tone-deaf.

Another take-away from this is that corporate culture doesn’t just come from the top. These techbros are influencing their workplace just as much – arguably more so– as their managers are. Imagine being a woman or gay male programmer and hearing guys in the break room talking about their great lunch… How excluded would you feel?

On another cautionary note, this sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen, whether an unsuspecting worker is taken to a club by colleagues and feels uncomfortable, or overhearing the guys talk about their fun in the workplace…

On that note, we were reminded just this past week of the most famous sex discrimination lawsuit to date in the tech industry: the case of Ellen Pao against Kleiner Perkins. In March, the highly reported case ended with Ms. Pao losing her lawsuit, but tarnishing the reputation of her former employer, a gold standard Silicon Valley VC firm.

Fast forward and Ms. Pao was recently forced out of her interim CEO position at the Internet community site Reddit. (The New York Times headline read: “It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism is Out at Reddit.”)

Ms. Pao wrote an Op-Ed column about her ordeal at Reddit, which appeared this past weekend. In it she chronicled the work she and the company did to try to prevent and ban harassment on the Reddit site and the resulting “attempts to demean, shame and scare” her into silence that ultimately led to her resignation.

As Ms. Pao has noted, I couldn’t agree more: “It’s left to all of us to figure it out, to call out abuse when we see it.”

Sex discrimination and harassment –and resulting lawsuits— have been happening in other industries for years. No, the tech industry didn’t invent sexism or the wheel. But as they say… we’ve driven the car into the ditch all the same. These are glaring examples of the distance we have to travel.

Tech Tips to Stay Safe While Travelling Abroad

One in five of the 198 million Americans who have plans to take vacations this summer are planning to go abroad, with Europe being the most popular destination.

The attraction is not surprising given the strong US dollar, though uncertainty about the Greece debt crisis and default, and its impact (still an unknown), is a possible damper for some travel plans.

At this juncture, the UK Foreign Office has advised its travellers: “Visitors to Greece should be aware of the possibility that banking services – including credit card processing and servicing of ATMs – throughout Greece could potentially become limited at short notice.”

The Greek situation aside…If you are preparing to travel abroad, here are some tech-related tips on the basics to make sure you have a great, safe time.


Cash or credit cards?

It’s a simple but complex question. Many small proprietors in Europe only take cash. So, you will need to travel with a certain amount of cash.

Starting with currency basics, there are many apps that can show you instant conversion rates, no matter what country you are visiting. And now, ordering currency online can make your life easier. Order Euros online from your bank in advance and get delivery direct to your home or for pick up at your local bank branch in 1-3 business days.

If you need to find an ATM on the fly while abroad, try an app such as as ATM Locator available on the Android platform or iOS.

At the end of the day, most security experts advise against using your debit card for anything beyond cash withdrawals at ATMs. For other transactions, use cash or a credit card.


Using Your Mobile Abroad

Probably chief among the tech challenges for most of us when traveling abroad is using your cell and smartphones. Cell phones and other mobile devices from North America don’t automatically work in Europe. Europe uses the GSM network and much of North America primarily uses the CDMA network. Some US cell phone companies use GSM (T-Mobile, AT&T), but many do not.

To be able to use phones whether they are public phones, landlines or a mobile phone, please confirm the situation with your personal device manufacturer and service provider before you leave for your trip.

Among your options, is to rent a European cell phone. Telestial, for example, offers standard rental package which comes with a SIM with a UK number. That means that if you are calling to other countries, there are calling charges. For lowest calling charges rent the phone and then purchase a local SIM either in advance or when you arrive.

If you can use your own phone, get an international calling and data plan. Roaming charges have improved, but can still add up very quickly. Before you leave, contact your carrier for an international data and calling plans. Also check how to access your Cell phone voicemail when traveling abroad; it may be different than when you are at home.


Turn off the phone when not in use. Turn off 3G (or 4G), cellular data and data roaming when not in use. Another quick fix is turn your phone on “airplane mode.’ Disable automatic downloads and app updates, or restrict this feature to operate only when connected to Wi-Fi. Reset all your usage statistics (so you can keep track of how much you are using your phone, whether it’s texting, voicemail, etc.).

You might also want to pick up a local calling card, as old school and non-high-tech as that seems. J In many cases, these cards offer better rates to cellular networks in foreign countries than are available in the U.S.


“Free” Wi-Fi considerations

Wi-Fi is ubiquitous now and that’s a good thing. But you need to be careful. This is where a lot of data gets stolen. Whether it’s at a café or your hotel, you should ask staff to tell you the name of the network. Many scams simply say “Free Wi-Fi” and people innocently connect with them…

As another simple precaution, avoid disclosing any sensitive information online in a free Wi-Fi hotspot. This would include banking, credit card information, or other personal data.

I highly recommend using AVG’s Wi-Fi Assistant, a free app that allows you to encrypt your data when on the move and helps save battery by shutting off your smartphone’s Wi-Fi when not in use.

Oh, and finally, be sure to leave that selfie stick at home J. (They have been banned at many tourists sites!)

App developers still need to win the trust of older generations

It is, perhaps, natural to think about apps as a young person’s playground.

Though much research shows that 50+ are one of the fastest growing markets for mobile devices, there is a dearth of mobile apps for our generation.

This may soon change as the number of apps offering real value to the 50+ age group continues to grow. This was underscored by news from the recent AARP 50+ Live Pitch event, held in May in Miami Beach. Entrepreneurs were more focused than ever on mobile apps to help 50+ generations.

Not surprisingly, a key focus in mobile app development for Seniors was health. Nearly half of the 15 products presented at the AARP 50+ Live pitch were in the mobile health category.

In terms of physical health, most of us are aware there are a large array of mobile health apps that can help all of us (regardless of age) track our health – ranging from Fitbits to apps with more serious medical applications.

There is a growing number of apps are out there that can help Seniors stay mentally sharp. In fact, the winner of the audience award at the AARP 50+ Live Pitch entrepreneurs’ event was Constant Therapy, a brain game app for those suffering from strokes or dementia.

Constant Therapy


Most people have heard of apps like Lumosity that train your memory and attention with games, but this new class of apps like Constant Therapy and clevermind are aimed to help at those who have already begun experiencing medical problems.

Independent living is another important area that apps can add real value to seniors. I recently ran across Seniorly, a product of a San Francisco startup, which allows seniors to find affordable and like-minded independent or assisted living housing, when people aren’t able to live by themselves anymore.

(I also think this start-up is admirable because it was started by two Millennials, and it’s a great sign that the younger generation has its eye on our market.  After all, all of us are aging, and it’s nice to know that there will be apps to help us along the way!)


Seniors don’t download as many apps

All of this positivity and development is fantastic but there’s a major hurdle that the app industry needs to overcome – seniors are less likely to download apps than others.

There are many reasons for this, but research (including ours) points to concerns about privacy and security, as being chief among them.

Our own recent AVG surveys show that 50+ generations have concerns about

  • Security of data and files (70%)
  • Keeping data private (48%)


Boomers and Tech


In general, our AVG research also found nearly 50% of consumers surveyed say a lack of trust limits the amount of apps they download. More than one-in-seven mobile media users are uncomfortable sharing personal data, such as location or contact details…

Is it little wonder that Seniors are concerned? We’ve all seen the rise in security breaches in the news in the past year (impacting major brands we use like Target and Sony to name a few), where millions of people’s credit card info has been put risk… But this is particularly troubling with healthcare info breaches such as those experienced Anthem and several BlueCross providers.  Healthcare data is among our most sensitive information.

As I noted in my recent AVG blog on the topic, IT security has to be a priority for all businesses, but particularly when it comes healthcare, where the stakes are so high and the impact has the potential to go well beyond financial!

Undo Send: a Gift to Email and the Workplace

The Internet, email and mobile devices are the most essential connectors in today’s workplace.   Between meeting alerts, necessary attachments, and up-to-date correspondence, most of us depend heavily on email in our work-a-day world.

And most of us also have sent embarrassing or regrettable emails: whether in the heat of the moment, when tired, or with an inadvertent ‘Reply All’ – or even, in some cases, hitting send to the wrong person entirely.

These days, when we’re all on tablets and smartphones we’re even more apt to make a mistake with our emails, when writing on the go or “trying” to multitask…and the email autocorrect kicks in. You probably have your own favorite funny and cringing email mistakes due to the ‘helpful’ autocorrect feature in email.

Humor aside, misplaced or poorly worded emails are a major issue for the workplace. One study by an enterprise email provider in 2013, found that 64% of people blamed unintended email for causing anger or confusion in the workplace; 43% found that this communication tool also was the most likely (above phones, IM, and text, for example) to cause resentment between senders and receivers.

Just this past month, Google officially launched its “Undo Send” feature for users of its Gmail accounts. The delete-that-email feature had been available for the past year in beta, housed in its Google Labs section.

If you tried Undo Send via Gmail Labs, your Undo Send setting now will be on by default.

Otherwise, you will find that you can easily enable the Undo Send feature in your Gmail settings. You can even set your system to have up to thirty seconds to review your message before you send.  For details, go here.

For many years, users of Microsoft Exchange Server-based email systems have had the opportunity to recall and replace their emails. But most home and personal email users, and many small business accounts do not use Microsoft Exchange. And, in order, to recall your message, the recipient of the e-mail message that you want to recall also must be using an Exchange account. You can’t recall a message sent to an outside email system, such as someone’s POP3 e-mail account.

There are an estimated 900 million Gmail users, and almost 25% say they use the service during work hours. Some estimates place the number of mid-sized business users of Gmail at 60%. You can do the math and see that the new Undo Send feature of Gmail will be a valuable tool to the workplace.

Unsend? I’m all for it!  But, of course, we should all still review our emails before we hit send…