February 21st, 2008 | Published in Gmail (Google Mail)
Even though I've worked on the Gmail team for about six months and have been a fan for years, I continue to notice new things in the product all the time. Like the other day, when out of curiosity, I checked out my spam folder to see what kind of bank scams or enlargement pills were being filtered from my innocent eyes, and I noticed something below the search box. Was that really a recipe for spicy SPAM kabobs?
It sure was -- and it didn't end there. I found all sorts of SPAM recipes including savory SPAM crescents, SPAM primavera, and for the health conscious, a gingered SPAM salad. I figured this was either the result of savvy ad targeting or a few Gmail engineers had a soft spot for the canned meat (which wouldn't be entirely surprising given the team's copious consumption of canned energy drinks). I decided to do some reconnaissance.
At first I was told that these recipes "were placed there by elves when we weren't looking" (real cute), but Keith, one of Gmail's Product Managers, eventually divulged the real story. Turns out that when they came up with the idea for Web Clips, they didn't think it made sense to show these RSS feeds and ads in the spam folder. After all, these clips should be useful and fun, but spam (of the email variety) is neither of these things. Not knowing what to put here, Keith searched for "spam recipes" and decided to make a feed out of the results. As he said, "it was just one of those late night ideas" -- probably a consequence of too many said energy drinks.
After relentlessly scouring recipes for the most delicious sounding concoctions, they came to the conclusion that spam -- a painful phenomenon plaguing email inboxes -- can actually lead you to a delightful Sunday brunch. Who's up for breakfast burritos this weekend?