There's a new GMail Labs app: Mail Goggles, by GMail engineer Jon Perlow:
When you enable Mail Goggles, it will check that you're really sure you want to send that late night Friday email. And what better way to check than by making you solve a few simple math problems after you click send to verify you're in the right state of mind? ... Hopefully Mail Goggles will prevent many of you out there from sending messages you wish you hadn't. Like that late night memo -- I mean mission statement -- to the entire firm.
Jon's idea is lighthearted and fun, but when you look past the humor and consider it more broadly it's quite brilliant. The current climate of panic is not confined to the financial markets. Corporate legal departments are bombarded with articles and concerns about online corporate communications, liability and more liability. The tug-of-war between PR/communications professionals and in-house legal continues to escalate as it becomes idiotic (if not impossible) for companies to remain on the sidelines of the Live Web. How do you train people to address the IP, defamation, and other legal concerns involved in free-flowing Web dialogue? Must every blog post and wall entry be vetted by a team of lawyers?
Expanding on Jon Perlow's Mail Goggles idea sounds like a great solution. I like the notion of a straightforward and unburdensome series of questions as precursor to "publish." Instead of math problems, people could be asked to briefly confirm they've cleared rights on images, protected confidential information, and complied with policies on the quality of discourse and information provided. If uncertain on any of those fronts, they could be reminded what to do next. While a cookie-cutter approach couldn't possibly address every legal nuance and pitfall, it could at least act as a sort of triage, speeding innocuous items out the door and letting the moderation/review process hone in on more complicated situations.