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11:27:59 PM

Ben just suggested that we replace email with smoke signals, due to the lack of reliability of email delivery in this age of aggressive spam filters. I sympathize. More than that, I see Ben's post as a product name in search of an actual product.

Imagine a software tool very much like an RSS reader, but let's call it a Smoke Signal Reader. Rather than subscribing to a site, the Smoke Signal Reader subscribes to individual messages -- messages that have not yet been sent, but will be. A service called Smoke Signals Central acts as a clearinghouse for messages, and the Smoke Signal Reader polls for those messages. Here's the use case: A user visits a company's web site to request a quote (or something) and clicks a button to submit his information. The response page includes a button that says "Get A Smoke SignalTM when your response has been emailed. Behind the scenes, the web server that generated the button has requested a unique message id from the Smoke Signals Central server The code behind the button adds a feed URL containing this unique message id to the subscription list in the user's Smoke Signal Reader. If the user doesn't have a copy of Smoke Signal Reader, the button offers to let him download it for free. When the company has prepared their response, they email it to the requestor, with a cc going to The cc'd message is held on Smoke Signals Central until the next time the recipient's Smoke Signal Reader polls with the appropriate unique message id.. Ideally, the Smoke Signals Reader would be integrated with common mail clients, so that if it sees that the actual email message to the requestor has already been received it will suppress the display of the Smoke Signal; but if the email message hasn't been received, the Smoke Signals Reader will pop up an alert, allow the user to retrieve the message, and maybe even drop it into the user's email Inbox. In either case, the url for the message is removed from the subscription list.

The revenue model, if any exists, is this: the company pays a small per-message fee to Smoke Signals Central in return for an increase in confidence that their message will be received by the person who solicited it.

What do you think? Does this idea have any merit?

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Comments :v

1. Ben Langhinrichs05/03/2007 08:48:02 AM

I'm going to have to think about that one. It doesn't solve the marshmallow problem, but it is interesting. I guess the hardest part would be explaining the concept.

2. Jerry Glover05/03/2007 04:05:57 PM

Interesting idea; but why build YAMC (Yet Another Messaging Client)? You could do this via RSS today. Upon submitting whatever request the feedback page for the user contains a feed URL containing a unique key (similar to how many blogs already provide additional feeds for categories) for that user. Give them the buttons to add to the most popular readers (Google, etc) and a short blurb to copy the URL to their reader if a button for it is not provided. The request form could contain an option Respond to me via: Email, RSS

3. Philip Storry05/08/2007 10:05:48 AM

I thought that Andrew Pollack's Second Signal ( software would probably be a suitable base platform for this...

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