Other than speed and dependability, one of the most useful things that I said goodbye to when I moved to an Exchange email address was Rapportive. Google apps and everything that goes with it is just not corporate way. Repportive as a great little extension to gmail that scans Linkedin, Twitter and public Facebook pages for details of the person that you were emailing (or who have just emailed you). It displays the info that it could find about the recipient or sender including an photo, their last tweet, their occupation and their position. Email can often be very impersonal, and knowing something as simple as what the other person looks like can help a lot.
Recently there has been a spate of apps and services that offer something similar and more. Charlie, for example, looks at your calendar and sees what it can find out about the people you are meeting. Just before the meeting it sends you an email with ideas for icebreakers, interests you share with the other invitees, their latest tweet and possibly their blog posts. The idea is that you are ‘surprisingly prepared’ for the meeting by knowing a little bit about everyone there.
Crystal helps you compose emails by first profiling the recipient into one of 64 personality groups, then advises you with how your email will make the most impact. It tells you things like how formal or informal you should be, the length of the email and the type of language they will resonate with. Hints like “Use ‘Hey’ instead of ‘Hello’ when starting your email” or “Get the the point as fast as possible, she doesn’t like waffle”. Even though it’s just looking at publicly available data, it does come across a little creepy. I did a test on myself to see what Crystal sees about me and it was reasonably correct. It did say that I like long emails, which couldn’t be further from the truth. But as far as my personality goes, it was pretty good.
Many of the people that I tested clearly did do not have that much data online. It either couldn’t find anything or it was unsure of the results it gave me (It gives you an accuracy percentage about how good it’s predictions are depending on how much data it could find). It also makes me wonder about the image that people publish on the internet versus their actual personality. Im sure that more often that not they are not the same.
So right now, I wouldn’t use a service like this every day and certainly wouldn’t rely on it. I’d just prefer the simplicity of something like Repportive. You almost forget it’s there, until it’s not. I’m giving Vibe a bash that does a simple search for a photo and tweet, no special matching or personality detection. But seeing as it’s not integrated into the mail client, I think that I will forget about it eventually. Let’s see what happens.