If you're a Microsoft Outlook user at work, managing your in-box could be one of the most challenging things you have to wrestle with each day. Handling incoming e-mail and categorizing its importance is a skill, and a process people have to learn. There are several third-party apps to help you figure out what's important beyond the stock methods included with the Outlook (colored flagging, and urgency), but many are for the individual, rather than the entire company.
Likewise, as a sender, figuring out how to prioritize the e-mail you're sending to others is a balancing act, and without a real universal system besides writing "urgent," or noting deadlines, whoever's getting your mail might not know what your message is worth. To solve this, a new service called Attent has created a system for enterprise mail systems that assigns a level of importance on each message based on virtual currency. The company showed it off at this morning's Web 2.0 Summit pitch session.
Each user has his own bank of money and can assign a denomination of a virtual currency called Serios. The company says it got the idea after watching users successfully manage accounts of virtual currency in some of the popular socialized gaming MMORPGs like Second Life and World of Warcraft. The fact that you have a limited amount means that users must ration out their outgoing e-mails, and balance out their spending with that of their colleagues.
The real interesting aspect of this system, beyond its money exchange network, is the back end, which lets employees and managers alike monitor their Serios usage, and each other. There are built-in metrics to help you track what days you're spending the most, who you're giving more money to, and how heavily you're using the system. Part of this is represented in "badges," which are special indicators similar to medals, or the gold star system frequently employed in kindergarten and elementary schools. Attent breaks these medals down into multiple categories, ranging from how long you've used the system, all the way to how long you work without having to check or send e-mails. The badges go on your intra-network profile, along with your name (once included as an e-mail recipient) so others can get an idea of how much experience you have before sending you a message.
Attent seems to want to tackle the problem of prioritizing your own e-mail by putting that responsibility in the hands of others, which could be problematic with that guy in the office who always has the importance on his messages set to high. The one saving grace is that he'll be the first to run out of money, which might help him figure out how to manage his daily allotment of funds. The system reminds me a little bit of Chore Wars (review) for its social nature, although a little bit less motivational. For personal use, there's also Xobni (coverage), which is less about organizing your in-box as much as helping you figure more about the importance of an e-mail based on your past history with the sender.