7 Email Visualizations for Thunderbird


Now that I have all my old email in one place, my next project will be to create some visualizations to start analyzing it. What do I mean? I’m talking about graphs, charts, tables, heatmaps, grids, networks, etc that illustrate patterns in the email. For example – I have roughly 40,000 emails (closer to 20,000 or so were sent by an actual human, and fewer still were sent only to me – but I don’t know for sure and thats part of the problem). My goal is to have a set of Thunderbird plug ins that will allow me see patterns like these. These are 7 visualizations I think Thunderbird (or Gmail) needs. If I get a lot of interest, I might actually build them so let me know what you think in the comments (no registration needed but I do moderate so it might not show up right away).

  1. Report 1: social network – How many people are in my social network? – Unique names are pulled from the To, From, CC, and BCC fields – the total counts for each  are shown. A tag cloud is created showing all the names. Overall, the names are evenly spaced out – but when 2 names appear in the same email, they are more related and grouped closer together. The more often names appear, the more larger and bolder they get. The cloud can be filtered to show only data from the to, from, cc, or bcc feilds or to show activity for a given period of time. Lines with arrows can be turned on to show the origin, destination and direction of email.
  2. Report 2: A River of email – OK – so I know you are all familar with NameVoyager. No? Its a dynamic graph of Baby names (see screenshot below). Imagine the same thing for your email – years on the bottom, blue is received, pink is sent, you type a letter and the list is filtered (second screen)
    (All Email – with count per year, per person – you can zoom in to see by month, or filter to see a given name)

    This activity over time (a graph showing the peaks and valleys of overall emails sent and received). It will be interesting to see email drop off at the holidays, peak when I’m on  projects with large teams, and drop off when I am working with small teams or not on a project)
  3. Visual 3: Company wide graphs – Once I can do this, it is a small step to analyze not only mine, but a whole company’s email. This lets me build social networks. Who knows who? How well connected are they? Need to get introduced to someone – did you know your friend worked with him two years ago?
  4. Visual 4: Integrate with your contacts – zoom out to see all your contact at once with a color indicating your activity with that person.  Or just be able to sort by most popular.
  5. Visual 5: Build a tag cloud of words you use in all your messages (like manyeyes.com). Show topic popularity this way.
  6. Visual 6: Building on the data from visual 5, build a tool like google trends that uses words as they appear in email. This would show the topic trends.
  7. Visual 7: World map of email sources – using server source show the geographic location of people who have sent you mail.

Of course many other visuals are possible using other attributes over time (word count, attachment size, tags, etc).

Does anyone out there have something like this already? Working on it? What other plugins are needed? And most importantly, who wants to help :)

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