Smarter autoreply

Millions of us use these annoying robo-responses. Why? Because email is the primary communication channel for business, and because we want to appear attentive to customers and colleagues. We figure that it's better to hackily and immediately "respond" than to leave important people hanging. The makers of PIM tools (Outlook, IBM Notes, Entourage) obviously don't care why we use auto-replies; if they did care, we'd have tools that actually support what we want to do.

Let's end this little charade

Our primary business tools can do better than asynchronous notes telling us that we've failed. Many of us set a variety of statuses during the course of a day, and good tools bring critical contextual information to us.

Smarter autoreply - 1 Let's say that someone wants to send me email. (It happens from time to time).

Smarter autoreply - 1 Once the sender's PIM tool recognizes who I am, it could quickly ping the address.

Smarter autoreply - 1 Let's pretend at this point that I have told my PIM tool that I will be out of the office. This is immediately reflected in the sender's tool.

Smarter autoreply - 1 That's not good enough, though, because the sender needs to know that there is some kind of recourse. What if the tool could politely indicate where the message was going?

Smarter autoreply - 1 Even better, what if I could create a special VIP list who would immediately be forwarded to me?

Google Wave may make this argument irrelevant over the next few months, but until then, I offer the above, inspired in parts by Facebook, the real-time elements of the Google Wave demo, and a conversation with Jared Goralnick. Jared's service, AwayFind, provides a nice way to get around Outlook's blunt, siloed approach to business communication. Check it out.