Stealth-mode app turns InBox 2.0 into Life 2.0

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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.”

  • Who needs InBox 2.0 when you can get Life 2.0?

    […] social networks around their email services. But so far the plans seem to lack a certain ambition. TechCrunch UK has the scoop today on a new stealth-mode app which aims to map any social network against your email, be it Facebook, […]

  • Dan Field

    All looks very interesting… but why do we need it?

    Why would I want a tag cloud of my life? Is it technology for technologies sake, or do they have some good productive ideas to come off the back of this?

  • I Am Not Posting To Spam My Blog

    Well, this certainly proves that you can make graphs to illustrate anything. Corollary: just because data is in a graph does not make it useful.

    It’s a cool idea but I think that most people would use it once, think ‘that’s nice’, then never use it again. I don’t see how you could make money out of it.

  • dave

    Isn’t a cloud tag for your life an interesting representation of who you are and what you care about? I had my delicious cloud tags on my page for a long time to help demonstrate what I care about. That was like making a cloud tag out of my junk drawer and this seems to dig much deeper IMHO.

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  • Amit

    There may be some correlation between what they’re trying to do, and what Xobni is doing. Either way, that answers the question above about how it’s useful.

  • PaulSweeney

    Nice review. I went and downloaded their facebook app straight away, very very smooth. AND they built the nestoria app? one of my favourite facebook apps (along with Plazes and Jaiku). This stuff is going to become important because we are all caught up in email, and what’s in our email, and we need some way to gather the structured and unstructured data and relationships and put them into a “useful” perspective.

  • Paul M. Watson

    Maybe it is just me but tag clouds don’t work. They seem useful but quickly degenerate into an overload of info. And a pie chart of my relationship with my friends based on our emails seems useless at best.

    Nice technology but it needs a user experience kick in the pants.

  • Vince

    Check out this interview of Ankur of Techlightenment talking about social analytics

  • Tom

    This is a really interesting idea, ok so the first few applications that make use of it aren’t the most useful, but understanding the history and context of messages over time is something that could help us deal with future email we receive.

  • James Governor’s Monkchips » links for 2007-11-15

    […] TechCrunch UK » Blog Archive » Stealth-mode app turns InBox 2.0 into Life 2.0 emergent semantics from email. lots of interesting possibilities. (tags: email socialgraph) […]

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  • Neil

    Mike, this is completely unrelated, so I apologise for being a spanner up-front (I didn’t want to fill out a company profile application just to leave this note), but have you thought about a TCUK forum?

    I really think you’d build a great community, because I don’t think there’s one definitive place for UK startup entrepreneurs & app focused developers to go to, and I can really see a need for it. The main TC forum feels a little swamped. You, however, have THE brand, but you don’t suffer from the trolling that the main TC site does, so I know it’s a combo that could work well. I could even suggest a good topic structure for the sub-forums. You could tie in all the, OCC, facebook, and BarCamp meetups in one foul swoop, too!

    Just a suggestion!

  • Sam Michel

    Hi Mike…interesting developments, but it’s really adding a Web 2.0 twist to technologies that have been around for sometime now. There was an Outlook tool that came out of MS labs a couple of years back which did something similar, although seemed very unstable when I was testing it out.

    There’s also a firm called Clear Context that has an Outlook plugin, which prioritises email from contacts based on your previous behaviour towards them. I’m just testing it out now, but first impressions (3 weeks in) are very favourable.

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