Mail Trends looks deep into your in-box

The project, from a Google developer, lets users analyze and visualize their e-mail in-box. It's useful, but what's really needed is a software agent that can perform e-mail triage.

Sorting out the overload of e-mail is one of the mostly unsolved problems of computing. The first step is analyzing your in-box, which is what Google developer Mihai Parparita has done with Mail Trends, a program that lets users analyze and visualize their inbox.

Mail Trends, which is similar to Google Reader Trends, extracts data from IMAP servers and displays statistics such as distribution of messages by year, month, day, day of week, and time of day; distribution by message size; a breakdown of top senders, recipients, and mailing lists; distribution of senders, recipients, and mailing lists over time; and distribution of thread lengths and the lists and people that result in the longest threads.

Via Googlified
An example of Mail Trends output running a small portion of the Enron Email Dataset, a corpus of about 500,000 messages that was made available by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during its investigation of the Enron. Google

Parparita notes that Mail Trends is at an early stage of development. It currently lacks support for non-Gmail servers and the capability to split out sent and starred e-mail. You can follow progress on the project on this Mail Trends page.

What's further missing is turning the analysis into proactive in-box management, a software agent that automatically sorts your in-box, makes calendar appointments, and routes messages.

Startup Xobni("inbox" spelled backwards) is attempting to manage e-mail overload for Microsoft Outlook users. It includes some data analysis, such as how users and their contacts use e-mail, as well as some more proactive features. For example, Xobni shows recent e-mail conversations and files exchanged with a contact, and a list of related contacts. It also predicts when you would be most likely to get a response from a contact.

Microsoft Research has been working for years to come up with what it calls "e-mail triage." Apparently, Microsoft hasn't been able to turn the research into product. TechCrunch has suggested that Microsoft is in negotiations to acquire Xobni.

While Mail Trends is interesting to look at, Mail Triage would be much more useful. With all those engineers at Google devoting 20 percent of their time to personal projects, solving the Mail Triage problem would be a good way to get promoted and improve Gmail.

Via Googlified
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