Yesterday Mike Arrington noted the stories that both Yahoo and Google are planning to build social networks around their email services. This is based on the premise that you already ‘socially network’ with people via email, so why not put a social graph wrapper around that? Yahoo’s plans look pretty uninspiring so far, with widgets, profile pages, yada yada. Google appears to be heading down a more interesting track by displaying messages more prominently from people who are more important to you. But so far the plans seem to lack a certain ambition. Maybe they need a little startup juice for inspiration?
Last week UK-based Techlightenment wowed the Berlin Web 2 Expo audience with their demo of Socialistics, currently a Facebook app designed to make your personal social graph more explicit. Put it this way, it was interesting enough to win them an hour’s audience with Tim O’Reilly. To date, the startup – a brand of D.sruptive Limited and co-founded by Ankur Shah and Gi Fernando – is best known for developing the witty Bob Dylan facebook app.
But now they are developing the technology behind Socialistics to act as the basis on which to build other applications, and not just Facebook or OpenSocial versions. They started off with FriendVox recently, a VOIP client for Facebook, and are now working in stealth mode on an application to analyse your Gmail, Outlook, Thunderbird email, in fact any POP3 or IMAP email account.
So far they have tested the app on about 1000 Gmail emails spanning a year and got it to start to understand the context and themes of those emails. The interface is pretty interesting. A slider allows you to visually morph these themes over time, so you could literally see how births, deaths, partying, work, marriage and divorce filled your inbox. Click on a word like “important” and you get a tag cloud of people most associated with that word.
Plus, the word and the individual selected are mapped out on a graph, showing a correlation between you, your theme and the individual. A pie chart shows an integration between people in your life and a social network you are a member of, like Facebook. The words are even all drag and drop. What this means is that by analysing your email you can get to the underlying trends and data about your personal or business relations and a host of other trends that are normally buried under a pile of emails.
The implications of this are far reaching and the kind of thing a lot of people have been crying out for for some time. There are corporate systems for analysing email but very few of any worth in the consumer space and none I know of which take the data about your contacts on social networks and then map that against email interaction. Ironically, if Socialists and other apps like it take off, then large corporates, which are busily banning access to social networks because they ‘waste employees time’ will stupidly miss out on an opportunity for their staff to actually be more productive.
Eventually Techlightenment is planning for Socialists to be extended from analysing your email and social networks to gathering information about your daily workflow, IM and even phone conversations. Think a tag-cloud of your life, complete with graphs and sliders.
As Ankur Shah says to me: “It’s basically taking Inbox 2.0, and saying fuck that, what about Life 2.0.”