From: Ian Andrew Bell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Wed Sep 20 2000 - 18:40:09 PDT
>From: Ian Andrew Bell <email@example.com>
>Date: Wed, 20 Sep 2000 18:36:05 -0700
>Subject: @F: Flame Mails Redux...
>This will probably also serve to reduce overall internet traffic by 10-20%.
>New email software can help you bite your tongue
>By Stephen Shankland
>Staff Writer, CNET News.com
>September 15, 2000, 1:30 p.m. PT
>Qualcomm wants to help you avoid calling your boss a moron in that next
>hastily written email.
>The company's Eudora email software now has a flame-proofing feature called
>Moodwatch that alerts you when it thinks email you're about to send is
>inflammatory. The warnings display one, two or three chili peppers
>depending on the spiciness of your words.
>The feature is based on a dictionary of worrisome words that Carnegie
>Mellon English professor David Kaufer culled for Qualcomm from hundreds of
>flame mails--the angry, abusive or aggressive messages so infamous in
>Internet interchanges. Qualcomm then helped Kaufer refine and expand the
>Moodwatch dictionary, which now includes 2.7 million hostile words and
>phrases, company spokesman Jeremy James said today.
>Qualcomm and Kaufer acknowledge that the feature isn't foolproof, but the
>English language is complex. Sending the message "You are a moron and
>complete idiot" will rank three chilies. But "You are a tiresome buffoon"
>doesn't raise Moodwatch's hackles one bit, James said.
>Moodwatch also ranks incoming email, allowing readers to brace themselves
>for piquant prose. Moodwatch is optional and doesn't discard or filter email.
>The feature comes with Eudora 5.0, released Monday. The new version of
>Eudora also comes with a basic file-sharing feature that allows people to
>automatically share designated files over the Internet, with Eudora
>automatically distributing the file to all the members of a group each time
>Eudora, which runs on Windows, Mac OS and Palm OS, has about 10 percent of
>the email market, James said. Competition with Microsoft's Outlook and
>Outlook Express led Qualcomm to bring all the features of its high-end
>version to the free and basic one, which now is different only in that it
>displays advertisements. The ad-free version costs $49.95.
>Companies like Qualcomm and Microsoft have been racing to make their
>products more competitive. Qualcomm last month added a new feature to
>enable live spoken conversation over the Internet.
>Qualcomm is investigating writing a Linux version of Eudora, James said.
>"We want to do one. We have a lot of users asking for it. It's mainly a
>resource issue right now," he said.
>Currently, Moodwatch works only with Qualcomm's dictionary of predefined
>words and phrases, James said, though the company hopes a future version
>will allow Eudora users to flag their own words.
>It's difficult to add that feature because it would slow down performance,
>James said. The current Moodwatch dictionary is highly compressed and adds
>"an essentially unnoticeable" performance drag to downloading email, he said.
>Qualcomm decided against making the dictionary easily read, James said. "We
>don't want kids learning things from the Moodwatch dictionaries," he
>But Moodwatch's reasoning can cause problems, Kaufman said. For example,
>spell-checking programs these days typically underline suspected
>misspellings, and it's very easy for readers to decide quickly whether the
>word is misspelled or just unusual enough that the computer doesn't
>Moodwatch doesn't flag which words or phrases it's worried about, though,
>so in some cases people might have a hard time trying to figure out which
>words spurred the chilies, Kaufman said. Consequently, Moodwatch had to be
>tuned to cut down on the number of "false positives"--flagged email that
>was in fact inoffensive.
>"If we err in one direction, it would be not to flag things," he said. For
>example, one tester of the feature was annoyed when sending email to a
>person whose name was Mick. Moodwatch flagged the mail because "Mick" is a
>derogatory name for an Irish person. Such borderline words were removed
>from the Moodwatch dictionary.
>Moodwatch also isn't aware of other subtleties the human brain can handle,
>such as locker-room jocularity or biting words later toned down with a
>But the human brain isn't always so good at that either. It's easy to
>misinterpret the mood behind email messages that lack the inflection of
>speech. Kaufman, for one, still remembers the advice he received when he
>took a job as an administrator: "Never handle serious issues on email."
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