At a time when people are receiving massive volumes of email every day, it can be hard to keep tabs on all the important messages that require attention. Even just a single day’s worth of emails can be enough to bury a key invitation or request.
InboxVudu helps people solve the problem of losing track of their email by sending users a daily digest that offers a summary of every message they received that requires a response. Using a natural language processing engine, the app will find the relevant sentences in an email that need a response, and highlight them in the digest so it’s easy for people to respond.
It’s the product of Parakweet, a company started by Ramesh Haridas and Kiam Choo in 2010. Haridas also founded Chintano, an ad-tech company that had an office in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, and was an investor in Founder’s Co-Op. BookVibe, Parakweet’s first project, used the company’s artificial intelligence tools to offer users personalized book recommendations based on what people in their Twitter feeds are talking about.
Haridas said that the company’s move from tweets to emails for its new product made sense because of the way email is used these days.
“Our email streams are beginning to look more and more like social streams,” Haridas said in an interview with GeekWire. “With over a hundred emails, you have to work really hard to keep up with that. You have to check in constantly to make sure that something actionable, something that requires your attention, is not lost in that stream. So we began to experiment with extending our tech to capture actionable requests in emails and that’s what InboxVudu does.”
I’ve had a chance to try out InboxVudu for a couple weeks, and it has proven to be a powerful tool in my email arsenal. When I’m on top of my email, it doesn’t bother me, and its reminders have been a helpful way for me to tackle important messages that get lost in the shuffle on days that I’ve lost control of my inbox.
Each digest, which arrives around 4 p.m., includes links to inform InboxVudu when I’ve already responded to something, or to mute senders who I don’t want to appear in the summary email. In the event the InboxVudu algorithm surfaces an email I don’t have to act on, there’s also a “false positive” link to click and teach the system about its mistake.
From what I recall, I’ve had to click that link once, which squares with Haridas’s data about the product’s accuracy.
“Right now, our accuracy is very, very high,” he said. “It’s almost 90 percent. So if there’s a request in your digest, there’s a 90 percent chance that it’s an accurate request.”
It’s certainly a product that affects users’ behavior: I’ve come to expect the digest email in the afternoons to make sure that I’m on top of everything. William Pearce, Parakweet’s head of product, said that he unsubscribed from the digest as a part of testing the product, and really missed it.
“Suddenly, at about 4 p.m., I was like, ‘hang on, where’s my digest? What do I do now?’” he said. “And it actually was such a part of my routine, that the only option was to look through my inbox and figure out which emails I needed to reply to.”
InboxVudu is limited to Gmail and Google Apps users for right now, though Haridas said that the company plans to expand to Outlook.com and Yahoo Mail “in the next few months.”
InboxVudu is free to use, and Haridas said that the company won’t ever sell its insights into users’ inboxes. Instead, he said that Parakweet is investigating ways to create a premium product that users can pay for with a subscription fee.
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