You may have a sense of who you routinely ignore when they send email or a meeting request, versus whose messages you usually pay close attention to, but a company called Cataphora wants to give you an even more close-up view of the external face you show to people, via a new program it calls Digital Mirror. The software pulls in your email and calendar info (Outlook only, for now, although the company says it is planning to add support for other email clients) and then gives you a dashboard with a variety of filters through which you can view your communications with the outside world.
Elizabeth Charnock, the CEO of Cataphora — a mathematician who worked at Hewlett-Packard (hpq) and Sun Microsystems before starting the company in 2002 — says that the Digital Mirror software creates a picture of “The Digital You,” and that this can often be different from the way you perceive yourself:
The Digital You is a complex mosaic of habit, subconscious acts of both omission and commission, and premeditated presentations. [It] can behave quite differently from the real you. The Digital You may be more aggressive or sneakier or funnier, for example.
The software, which you can download and install, has a pane that shows you your “quality time” — a pie-chart graph that illustrates when you tend to write longer messages in response to others, and how much time you spend in meetings with various contacts — and one that looks at who you contact the most in a variety of ways and illustrates it as a “social you-niverse,” with different people in your social circle represented as planets in different orbits around you. There’s a box chart that shows who you’ve talked to recently about what topics, and there are some interesting graphs that use semantic analysis of your emails to show you the topics that caused you to respond negatively, including the people who sent you the emails in question.
But the features in the Digital Mirror dashboard that look like the most fun are the ones that look at things like “buck passing” behavior — examining your emails to see who regularly asks you for advice on things that may not be your area of responsibility — as well as the “pecking order” chart, which ranks the people in your social circle based on the priority you attach to their emails and in what order you respond to them (users are portrayed as chickens in this one). There’s also a view called the “blow off scoreboard,” which shows users you routinely ignore, or send to someone else when they make a request.
The Digital Mirror software is a bit of a departure for Cataphora. The company’s speciality is analyzing email content as part of the forensic analysis done in court cases that involve an email trail. But it has been branching out recently into analyzing individual employees within organizations to determine who is the most productive, who are the slackers, and so on — which suggests that the rankings and suggestions made by its software are likely to be pretty close to the mark (I don’t use Outlook, so I can’t test it on my own correspondence). We may all instinctively know who we ignore at work, and who is located where in the corporate pecking order, but sometimes it’s useful to check those assumptions out, and Digital Mirror might be one way to accomplish that.
The software is part of a broader category of apps and services such as Rapportive (which works with Gmail), Xobni (an Outlook plugin that Cisco has invested in) and Xoopit (which Yahoo acquired), all of which look at your email contacts and pull dynamic info about them, as well as show you data about how many times you send messages to them, what attachments you included, etc. — and even how long it has been since you contacted someone, in the case of Etacts. What’s interesting about Cataphora’s software is that it goes a step further and tries to show your actual behavior towards people in your circle, with a view to revealing patterns you might not realize are even there.
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