Email, which underpins everything we do online, hasn’t changed very much over the last decade or so. In fact, the ever-increasing number of messages to follow (estimated to be some 210 billion per day in 2008) means that email takes up way too much time and is nowhere near the productivity tool that many of us would like it to be. Cc:Betty, launching in open beta today at DEMO, hopes to change that by offering a “group email assistant” that helps you digest email conversations by presenting them in an easy-to-follow way and extracting useful stuff, like dates, contacts, files and links.
To use Cc:Betty, you simply cc: email@example.com into any email you’re sending (hence, “Cc:Betty”). She’ll take the email, add it to a private “Mailspace” and parse it for any useful items: dates, links, addresses, contact details, etc. These data then get added to the various tabs in the Mailspace: Messages, Events, Places, Video, Files, People and so on. Any further communication in the conversation thread is automatically added to the Mailspace. As conversations get longer and more involved, it’s much easier to navigate the content in a Mailspace than it is to use a typical email client, so it’s especially useful for emails conversations with many participants.
One thing to note is that when you copy Betty on an email, she automatically emails everyone else in the conversation, inviting them to the Mailspace, which could be considered to be a little spammy. Although there are unsubscribe links at the bottom of each email, it would be wise to consider this before copying Betty on every email that you send. On the other hand, this does mean that it is very easy to get everyone in the conversation using Cc:Betty. There’s no additional software to download, and you don’t even have to create an account to access the Mailspace, although you do need to sign up to gain access to full functionality.
How does Cc:Betty stack up against other email productivity tools?
It certainly does have some similarity to now-shuttered “email personal assistant,” I Want Sandy, (previously covered here on WebWorkerDaily), in that it is an app you interact with though email. But Cc:Betty works in a very different way: I Want Sandy was a reminder service, which you had to remember a certain syntax to use, whereas Cc:Betty is more of an email management tool.
Cc: Betty doesn’t currently have the amazing search, sort and grouping functionality of Xobni, a Microsoft Outlook plug-in that we’ve previously raved about. Xobni is a very useful tool, but it’s only available to people using Outlook on Windows. You’ll probably use Cc:Betty less frequently than a tool like Xobni. While Xobni is always present, helping to filter and organize all of your email, Cc:Betty is more useful for large group emails that generate a lot of discussion and data, like organizing an event or planning a project, for example.
For web workers, I can see Cc:Betty being a very useful way to manage communication across distributed teams: you could use it as a repository to keep track of email conversations relating to a project, for example, and to store project files and keep a track of key dates. And because you don’t need to install anything or sign up, it should be easier to get stubborn remote team members using the service.
Cc:Betty is free to try during the beta. The alpha version I saw last week was a little rough around the edges looks-wise (although some improvements are being made prior to launch today, and I do like Betty’s retro persona), but the functionality worked well.
I really like the concept, and one of the great things about Cc:Betty is that it’s a useful platform to build upon, with all kinds of potential uses. More sophisticated parsing, for example, could automatically build to-do lists and set reminders. Tighter integration with third-party APIs would mean that it could interact with calendering apps and CRM software. Xobni-like sophisticated search and grouping functionality would make it easier to navigate the information. Cc:Betty is useful now, but I am looking forward to seeing what it will do in the future.
What do you think of the Cc:Betty concept? Have you tried it? Share your thoughts in the comments.