See your top friends on Twitter


I released Mailana running on public Twitter data today! Tim O'Reilly kindly retweeted a link to it, so it's had a good load test. Fingers-crossed it's handling it so far.

If you're a new reader, here's a bit of background. My names's Pete Warden, I'm the founder of Mailana, and up until 6 months ago I was an engineer at Apple. I can't imagine a more impressive corporation to work for, but I knew there had to be better ways to collaborate within big companies. I spent a lot of time tracking down internal experts and the right people to talk to at external organizations by word of mouth. There was a lot of wasted work simply because employees in one department had no way of telling that their problem had already been solved by another team.

One day, I realized that just by analyzing my inbox, I could create a pretty decent profile of what projects and areas I was involved in, by looking for how often keywords show up, and who I talk to both within the company and at external customers and suppliers. Being able to easily build these expertise and contact profiles would let companies build directories to allow employees to easily find the resources they need. The biggest problem is ensuring that the privacy of people's email is respected, so the system I designed only publishes profiles after each employee has reviewed and edited their own.

You can see an example of how the system works here:

To build these applications, I designed a cloud-based system that imports from Exchange, Gmail accounts via IMAP, Outlook PST files and Twitter, offers a simple REST API to the stored data, and allows you to build apps as web widgets that can be deployed through the browser, on Sharepoint and as native menu entries and windows within Outlook.

Since there's not much public email out there, I decided to demonstrate what it's capable of using the massive number of public messages available on Twitter. My system internally processes a standard XML format, so I just wrote an importer that converted tweets into the right form, the rest of the system is identical to the Exchange version. I tidied up the web app that displays your immediate contacts, and had a Twitter social graph viewer up and running.

I'm hopeful that will demonstrate how much interesting information there is sitting unused in your personal communication data. I think there's some amazing opportunities to build really useful tools, as long as we can design systems that preserve privacy. Imagine a version of LinkedIn that knew how close you were to all your contacts! Let me know what you think, and if your organization is interested in giving Mailana a try.

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