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How to make a good idea unusable

In the category of good-ideas-but-dopey-implementations this morning we have BigString. The premise? There are lots of emails that you send that you simply don't want to hang around — time sensitive information that you would like to see auto-destruct, mails that you would like to recall, and the like. BigString solves that problem.

The way they've solved it, unfortunately, is a prime example of an engineering solution that doesn't take into account real world usage.  Messages are encoded as images, stored on a central server, and then links are emailed to the reader.  At a later time, the image can be removed, and presto… message contents gone. But:

  • It leaves the message itself in the recipients mailbox. Recipients will know that you mailed the message, but won't know what it was about.  Highly annoying
  • It renders the emails unsearchable.  That's a complete non-starter for me, especially since migrating to Outlook 2007 which indexes EVERYTHING. Even more annoying. 
  • Many modern email systems either don't allow mail with embedded images to be delivered, flag them as unsafe, or automatically drop them into the spam filter. Yup… send me your time sensitive, self destructing email full of valuable information and… it's gonna go to the spam bucket.  Searching the spam filter for your important mail is Grossly annoying.

BigString's premise is a good one. It needs a different implementation to be useful.

via Ars Technica

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • engtech @ IDT July 24, 2007, 6:30 am

    What's equally funny is how this completely breaks with things like Gmail's search function. We've all gotten used to Outlook search being useless, but could you imagine having a bunch of correspondence that doesn't show up in your Gmail search results?

  • Alec July 24, 2007, 6:33 am

    Agreed. Like I said, someone was asleep at the "customer experience" switch.

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