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Microsoft Outlook users can take advantage of an email outbox filter, ToneCheck, that “works as a sort of emotional spell-check” to prevent e-missive disasters. ToneCheck is a welcome update to Civility Check 1.0, aka. MoodWatch, which was only available on Eudora, an email program with a dwindling user base. It’s also different that Google’s Mail Goggles that requires users to complete some computational problems before they send questionable messages.

(With ToneCheck) if the content of a message exceeds a preset threshold for negative emotions like anger or sadness, the e-mailer is confronted with a warning and a chance to revise. Drawing on the opinions of thousands of people who have been paid to evaluate the emotional charge of various phrases, the software can also detect unseemly levels of positive emotions like affection or elation.

The company that makes it cites a psychology study claiming that half of all email messages are misinterpreted. What about blog posts?

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1) More overconfidence. Spotting drunk people.

2) More calories tomorrow. Calorie counts, that is.

3) More productive employees. Just say thank you to them. Hat tip: Simoleon Sense.

4) More mail. Gmail’s inbox gets smarter.

5) More bang for your buck. In Massachusetts, a 30 percent food stamp discount for buying fresh fruits and vegetables. But will the discount be visible enough?

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Is email snuffing out your productivity? Facebook? Twitter? You might consider this Mac application called SelfControl that blocks access to all three accounts (or just one) for a predetermined block of time of time. You can still surf the web though, since you might need that for some actual research. Most importantly, once you run the program, you can’t stop it – even by restarting your computer or deleting the application!

Hat tip: Magdalena Kala

Addendum: A new year’s resolution featuring SelfControl.

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Nudge blog readers are a keen bunch. We woke up this morning, saw it, and smiled. But we weren’t alone. Other readers (hat tip to Brad Allan, Rory Sutherland, and Jeff Galak) saw it too. Don’t know if they smiled.

Google has unveiled a tool called Mail Goggles that requires its users to answer a few simple math questions in order to send a message. Brad Allen notices that while the famous Civility Check was intended to nudge people away from angry emails, Mail Goggles seems to be more concerned with late night drunken blunders. Maybe it’s just a generational difference. Boomers worry about insulting their co-workers after lunch. Gen Y Millennials worry about spilling incoherent mush to their ex-boyfriends and girlfriends after midnight.

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By Richard Thaler

One of our favorite proposed nudges is the Civility Check, a software designed to prevent our hot-headed selves from causing unnecessary email disasters. The Civility Check is the absolute favorite nudge of my co-author Cass Sunstein, whose fondness for it led him to blog about its virtues at Open University last month.

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