Email Microtasks

Imagine you’re doing that thing we all do where we rather mindlessly scroll through feeds. Twitter feeds, Instagram feeds, Facebook feeds. Only now, sprinkled in there, are little jobs to do. Clive Thompson for WIRED:

The researchers created an AI app that looked through documents you were writing in Microsoft Word. It extracted simple editing tasks, like making a sentence less wordy. Then, using a Chrome plug-in, the software would slot these jobs into an item in your feed, one every 2,000 pixels. The researchers gave the tool to a test group, who began duly doing the little work tasks, a few each day, when they saw them while scrolling through Facebook. Every time they finished one, the AI would automatically insert it back into the proper Word file.

“Microproductivity”, they say.

As I was reading the article, it seemed to me email would be the perfect fit for this kind of trickery. Low and behold:

Email is already “just a bunch of microtasks,” as Rob Howard, Microsoft’s general manager for Office 365, tells me. The company has just made it explicit and tethered those tasks to your macro work.

But they were kinda talking about how these Word documents that need work on them could generate emails (rather than be injected into a Facebook feed) that request the little job to be done instead. I was thinking about it the other way, what if you’re browsing Facebook and have to quick deal with an email in your inbox before you continue?

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