I listen to a few podcasts related to technology, one of them being “Note To Self” (formerly called New Tech City). The last episode I listened to, it talked about a service called Crystal Knows. When you go to email someone, Crystal analyzes things they have written online and generates a sort of personality profile for them.

So I decided to start the free trial. I installed it within Gmail. During this trial period, I’ve gotten a new client (someone I have never met) and also have dealt with a few touchy customer service situations. You know, the kind of thing where it would be nice to have an email coach for.

Crystal: Confirming What I Already Knew

Of course naturally, the first thing you do when you get a piece of software like this is test it with people you know. In fairness to others, I’ll use myself as the example here:


First of all, I’ve done this analysis with about ten people and each summary sentence was pretty different. (Not one of those online quizzes that has one of five outcomes.)

My accuracy level is 85%. As someone who has been blogging for seven years, this is higher than most people I tested for. Still, even when someone had a 45% accuracy rate, it was better than having 0% knowledge (ie going in cold with the new client.)

The thing I think is funny with this is how it thinks I like conversation. My tone on our blog is quite conversational but if it was socially acceptable, all my emails would be like. “Can you send me this file? Thanks.” I have cultivated this friendly, approachable personality online so that… well, I seem friendly and approachable. I am very much so in real life but in terms of online/texting interactions, I prefer to be really utilitarian. Ask my husband about our texting relationship.

Now this isn’t the only thing it gives you. Scrolling leads to deeper:



It’s true, I do seek consensus. If I am working in groups, I want to agree then move forward. Nothing drives me more nuts than having to redo work because all the stakeholders weren’t consulted before I proceeded. I also appreciate feedback but it needs to be given to me in a certain way (again, ask my poor husband.) Crystal Knows, indeed.

Now, I keep scrolling and this is where it for some people may get creepy. It tells you how you can sell to me and what NOT to say to me. If you have a paid account, it will help you write an email to me:


Understanding My Relationships Better

While Crystal couldn’t find my husband (he’s difficult to find on the internet, you should have seen how panicked I was before our first date when I saw his lack of public record online) but it did find my coworkers. It is interesting how I subconsciously write differently to the different people I work with. Crystal confirmed my style with each.

It was also nice to put in my new client’s name and have it say “If your email is over 250 words he won’t read it, try to be concise.” I would have rambled on, as I tend to do. With a new colleague, it urged me to be specific and break things down into steps, something I wouldn’t have normally done in that case but seemed to please him. Hmph.

I found this lovely blog (which has more about Crystal) but also has this compelling animation showing how Crystal coaches you as you write an email:


Please appreciate that at first, as Crystal was saying ‘Good job’, I thought I was supposed to give the person I was writing to a pat on the back. Apparently it just meant keep going. So if you got a compliment from me via email in the last two weeks that seemed odd, that may have been it.

There is a relationship analysis feature in Crystal available to premium (paying members)… but Crystal will let you try it for 2 weeks. Then you can decide for yourself if this tool is creepy or helpful.

Is it creepy?

I’m still on the fence personally but I did ask to extend my trial another two weeks. In a world where he who has the most information wins, it seems like this tool may be good, especially if we are in contact with someone who has done a fair bit of online writing (so Crystal has data on them).

I guess I’m on my own with my husband. But maybe some relationships shouldn’t be coached by an algorithm anyway. But for those people who I don’t know well, I thank Crystal for making me at least feel like I am not going in blind.