Gmail thinks my name is a distraction

If you  use Gmail, you might have noticed something different in the last few months: it has started to hide you name at the end of messages. It’s not permanently gone, but the message reader must click a “…” button to expand and show the name. I generally sign my messages with a simple “-Stan” at the end. Now these five characters are replaced with the ellipsis button, as you can see here.


Gmail has always tried to help minimize distractions,” explains former Gmail Community Manager Sarah Price. “For example, we hide quoted text that is already available in previous messages in the conversation, and in the past we grayed out signatures. We now put some signature information into the “more” area along with quoted text.”

This is a tiny example of a big shift in thinking. This is Google making an editorial decision about my message. They are deciding what is signal and what is noise, and my name is deemed to be noise. The deeper assumption here is that anything repeated is extraneous.

Imagine if the phone company made the same decision! Suppose you end each call to your spouse with “Love you!” If you do this every time, they could make the reasoned decision that this message is a waste of precious network bandwidth. Why send it?

Humans are good at reading meaning into the smallest of things. In the email case, I do derive meaning from the presence or lack of a sign-off name in an email. If it’s not there, it’s a sign of familiarity, a sign that we are friends. It’s also a sign that the message is short and informal. The presence of a name and a sign off word communicate a lot. Does the person end with “Sincerely” or “Best”? Do they capitalize their name? Did she just switch from “Angelica” to “Angie”? These are important!

It seems impossible to remove this feature, but it has me on the lookout for other places where our “communication pipes” decide to make editorial decisions on our behalf, changing our message whether we like it or not.



I have a Samung NX-2000 Camera, and this is a test of VigLink.

One thought on “Gmail thinks my name is a distraction”

  1. This is a very good point. I had noticed this but to be honest I didn’t realize that the recipient wouldn’t see my signature either — I thought it was just hidden in my own view of the sent message.

    To clarify though: “repeated” only means “repeated in the same conversation” right? So if I wrote you “[message 1] -peter” and you replied “[message 2] -stan” and then I replied “[message 3] -peter” then it’s only that third signature that would be hidden under the ellipsis button? And it would be hidden from both of us?

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