"Moodwatch" now in Eudora 5.0
September 12, 2000 9:24 AM   Subscribe

"Moodwatch" now in Eudora 5.0 "Moodwatch" is, apparantly, something that "watches" for offensive language in your e-mail and then rates your mail accordingly.

According to Eudora, "MoodWatch can detect aggressive, demeaning or rude language in the email you send and receive by looking at both individual words and complete phrases."

I find this to be pretty disturbing. Okay, so right now it can't be used to censor, and right now it can be turned off. But suppose, at some point in the future, it can be used to censor, it's on all the time, and your employer is monitoring the content of everyone's mail to ensure that no one's offending anyone else?

And who decided on the standard for offensiveness to begin with? If you look in their example, use of the phrase "what are you thinking?" was enough to get the highest "offensiveness" rating. What the fuck??!!

Oh, damn. There's those three chillis.
posted by metrocake (13 comments total)
I'm sure that Peacefire will have fun with this. Today's bit of fun will be tomorrow's snooping engine.
posted by holgate at 9:31 AM on September 12, 2000

Anybody who would care enough to turn the function on, probably is not gonna sending out fastballs. If you are that mad, are a couple of chili peppers gonna stop you from hitting send. I don't get how this will help anyone.
Self censoring e-mail is scary, less scary than if it did not show you the rating and bcc:'d your boss bad rated letters tho.
posted by thirteen at 9:44 AM on September 12, 2000

thirteen: I think the scary part comes in when your corporation (or your FBI!) starts monitoring your emails for chili pepper-ness based on some computer algorithm that probably doesn't do that good of a job.

Of course, the fact that this technology is in Eudora isn't so bad, but the fact that it exists might be. Sure it could be useful as a personal tool to alert an individual to incendiary language they may have missed, but it probably would only be a bad thing in the hands of corporations or governmental agencies.
posted by daveadams at 10:06 AM on September 12, 2000

Here's a screenshot from yesterday, when I noticed the chili peppers first going off. It's easy enough to turn off, but I left it on for shits and giggles. I like eudora, and the new stats feature is nice, but this is a really dumb idea. V-chip for email? Who's running Qualcomm? Tipper Gore?
posted by mathowie at 10:43 AM on September 12, 2000

I've been playing with it a little, and while "you are stupid" gets the highest offensivness rating, "you are dumb" gets none at all. "Eat me" gets two chilis, yet "bite me" gets none.

And of course, it doesn't recognize sarcasm.
posted by modge at 10:49 AM on September 12, 2000

I don't see a problem with this feature; it's well known that people send off email with little thought, sometimes when they're hot under the collar, sometimes when they're just in a hurry. it's easy to offend in email, and for someone who is prone to this, I think this would be a very useful tool.

I can hope that they will add a feature to rate the overuse of emoticons, too.

the problems everyone in this thread are opining are due to other things, not the software itself. it seems to me that the problem of one's employer using this feature is a separate problem of its own, and extendable far beyond this piece of software.

the problem of employer-monitored email stands on its own; it doesn't matter what means they use.

posted by rebeccablood at 11:40 AM on September 12, 2000

That screenshot is great! An email about registering to vote, and how great a concept that is, got 3 chili peppers.

posted by kristin at 12:12 PM on September 12, 2000

The conspiracy nuts need to calm down. Self control is what we WANT isn't it.. While I don't find much use for it personally someone else might. (Which you'll find with different program features.) And what Eudora is shipping as a new feature is what I imagine anyone could do with the filter features in Outlook.
posted by thirdball at 12:32 PM on September 12, 2000

What I'd like to see is the application of this technology toward something really useful, like screening out Web economy bullshit. Imagining the icon used in place of the chili pepper is left as an exercise for the reader.

(Also, for the intellectually inclined, this 30K PDF provides an overview of the linguistic analysis techniques behind this feature.)
posted by jjg at 1:48 PM on September 12, 2000

Chilies are FUN FUN FUN! I've been using them for a while and I laugh when an email comes in from TidBits or something as resolutely inoffensive as that with a chili or two.

Personally I like my email hot and spicy. But you can turn the "feature" off if you want, and anyhow it doesn't really *do* anything.
posted by mikel at 2:00 PM on September 12, 2000

Let me clarify my earlier comments. I think the chili-pepper feature is something fun. Too bad it's implemented so poorly. Hopefully users will see how bad a job it does and not rely on automated filters at higher levels of the email chain.
posted by daveadams at 3:10 PM on September 12, 2000

But suppose, ... your employer is monitoring the content of everyone's mail to ensure that no one's offending anyone else?
If you're in a large company, you employer probably already is. The technology already exists to do so. My company, for instance, wrote a little program that would do nasty thing like decrypt e-mails/attachments, read them, look for buzzwords, encrypt again and send on their way. It's nothing new. It's probably happening to you.
So watch what you say. Not that the censor-detector is needed; I've heard enough horror stories about people getting forwarded/cc'd sick e-mail to know it's already a time-bomb for the foul of mouth. Like me.

posted by Neale at 8:10 PM on September 12, 2000

I'm a long time Eudora user. The second I had a chance to get 5.0, I upgraded and paid, no questions asked. It's a wonderful product and so I support it every chance I get.

I love the new features, including moodwatch. I will use it for the mailing lists I'm on; since sometimes conversations spiral out of control and turn into flame wars.

As far as statistics go, Eudora has been keeping usage statistics since at least 4.0.0, only now they are presented in a nice chart.

posted by perplexed at 3:44 PM on September 13, 2000

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