Saturday, December 03, 2005

SNARF (Social Network and Relationship Finder) from Microsoft Research

Cool free tool from Microsoft that I'm playing with now. It's an Outlook helper from Microsoft Research, and requires Outlook 2002 or 2003. Essentially instead of just sorting email by date or importance, you can further sort by how often you communicate with a given contact. The pages around SNARF bandy about a phrase I'd never heard before: email triage. I'll have to admit, between something like six or seven distinct email accounts, I'm usually swamped with mail within a few hours. I tend to keep opening my computer just to filter and sort. If I leave it for a few days— well let's just say I begin to see where the term triage is coming from. SNARF sounds like a very cool tool, and one that I hope will make it into Vista. Here's MS's description: The Social Relationship and Network Finder, or SNARF, is an application that uses the same database as a user's e-mail client to count the number of times users send and receive e-mails from people, said AJ Brush, a researcher in the community technologies group at Microsoft Research, who developed the tool. Calling this kind of e-mail triage process "social sorting," researchers worked with graduate students to come up with the tool so it will help users prioritise e-mails based on how often they send and receive mails from contacts, she said. "One of the core SNARF notions is that it’s about people," Brush said. "We’re really trying to remember information about the people in my e-mail rather than on a per-message basis. Then SNARF will know it’s that message from [for example] Julie, I talk to her all the time, so it will put that higher in order of importance." In an e-mail message, Bernie Hogan, a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Toronto who worked with Brush as an intern during SNARF's development, said that modern e-mail clients don't take into consideration aspects of face-to-face interpersonal contact that people use to organise their daily interaction with others. Tools like SNARF will help researchers develop more intelligent software that streamlines e-mail communication, he said. "I want to help interpret the complexities of e-mail, so that we can design tools to help individuals work smarter, not harder," he wrote. "This involves understanding communication in social context -- communication, is after all a social activity -- and discovering what social patterns in communication are meaningful to users and how we can present these patterns clearly, and effectively." SNARF is available as a free download. The software requires Microsoft Outlook 2002 or 2003 as a MAPI source, but also has been tested with Exchange and MAPI servers, Hotmail and e-mail clients using POP, IMAP and the OL Connector (for Lotus Notes).


  • Matt:

    My company, ClearContext, builds a tool that prioritizes the Outlook Inbox on several characteristics, including sender. You might be interested in our weblog post re:SNARF:


    If you have the time to check us out, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the product.

    Best Regards,
    Brad Meador

    By Blogger Brad Meador, at 12/05/2005 02:58:00 PM  

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