It’s time to turn the daily fight with spam on its head. Mail services should try to identify the mail I should pay attention to, instead of trying to just identify the junk.
One way to do this is to implement picture e-mail ID. When you log into your email, you’d see a strip of pictures of people you know who have sent you new mail.
On my cell phone, I have pictures associated with my most frequent contacts. A friend once asked me, “Why do you bother with pictures of your friends on your phone? Do you need help remembering what we look like?”
The answer is that people process pictures much faster than text. It takes me less time to determine who is calling from a picture than from just the name. Reading my newsfeeds, it’s very quick to get through Engadget – I can get the gist of a post and make a read/no read decision based on the picture.
Gmail has picture support built in to its Contacts, but you can see the pictures only by clicking on a contact record or rolling over the name. This is useful in case I forget what someone looks like, but it doesn’t help in filtering or prioritizing which messages I should read.
Buddy icons could be used in place of pictures. AOL’s new Cayman email beta uses people’s buddy icons, in a similar way to Gmail. If you rollover a name in the contact list, it will show the buddy icon. The buddy icon is also shown at the top of a message once you click on it. Again, this isn’t helpful in choosing what I want to read.