This website covers knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

SNARF your email

A number of people are commenting on the extension of the email triage work that Lilia pointed to earlier this year.  I saw Stowe Boyd's reference to it at Visible Path's Centrality Journal: SNARF: Social Network and Relationship Finder

A group of researchers working at Microsoft Research have developed an email tool to help with email triage -- which email messages should you read first, and which can you safely ignore -- based on social network analysis:

[from Too Many Emails? SNARF Them Up!]

SNARF, the Social Network and Relationship Finder, developed by Microsoft Research and available for download, is designed to help computer users cope with precisely such scenarios. SNARF, a complement to e-mail programs such as Outlook, filters and sorts e-mail based on the type of message and the user's history with an e-mail correspondent. The result: a collection of alternative views of your e-mail that can help you make sense of the deluge.

When I saw the research back in June, I guessed that there would be additional work around interface design.  SNARF is exactly that: an Outlook plugin that helps triage email, plus a number of analysis and other features.  After a little testing, I could see how SNARF could become part of my regular toolbox in that it could help me gauge when to use a given tool.

SNARF installs easily enough from the SNARF community page.  The tool does some interesting things around helping decide how to deal with incoming mail.  Specifically, mail that is addressed directly to me (in the To or Cc fields) is listed in the first section of the e-mail triage tool.  A second panel shows all incoming mail where my name isn't in the To or Cc field, such as mailing list mail or mail where I might be a Bcc recipient.  The basic idea is that I would generally be more interested in mail coming directly to me than via mailing lists.  A third panel gives a last-seven-day view of read and unread mail. 

All three panels list a name and amount of mail.  A double click on any name in this window will pop up a list of messages associated with that name.  They use a bar across the name to indicate the relative amount of mail from that person.  And the names are listed based on some metric associated with how frequently I communicate with the person in question.  The help file says this is based on how much mail I send to the person in question, rather than how much they send me.

That last list does something else interesting as well: not only does it list senders, it lists everyone involved in the emails.  In other words, I can see that some message I received (or sent) was also sent to the CEO, or that some person I don't know was included in five messages recently. 

Also of interest is that discussions can be opened in a "thread view" window that is pretty basic but gives you a better overview of the thread than you get from Outlook's conversation view.  You get a quick view of the thread, and you can see the full text of any one item that interests you. 

I've already come up with a bunch of questions / comments, based on a few hours' toying with this, particularly around the ranking algorithm.  I guess I'll check out the SNARF community.

The Technorati tag search on snarf has a lot of entries on SNARF and the "slurp up a file" version of the term.

Jon Husband on process

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