SNARFing Up Email

December 2, 2005


The folks at Microsoft Research are starting to take a page from the Google play book. Rather than wait for a product to be “fully cooked” before being released, we’re starting to see Microsoft Research release things in “Google-beta” mode. For example, Microsoft Research has just relased an experimental email management tool called SNARF. SNARF is advertised as a social networking tool for email. It certainly is that. But it reminds me of some of the thread management features that I once saw in Lotus Agenda and more recently in Symantec products like Act!

So what’s the verdict on SNARF? I’m still playing with it. But a couple of things come to mind:

  • The tool acts as a standalone add-on to Outlook. As such, it can be turned on or off. This has some drawbacks, but I much prefer that for any tool under active development (or testing on my desktop).
  • The tools does a very good job assembling email threads together.
  • The tool highlights the obvious feature of placeing the threads with the most interaction at the top of the list. And there appears to be some good methods of “favoring” threads from certain folks – like the boss.
  • The tool does take up a lot of desktop real estate. I don’t know if that’s good or not. I’ll have to play with it some more.

For now, I am optimistic that this could be a very intersting method of adding real “importance” (not just a flag) to message threads. If this could be combined with other social networking tools like content tagging, I think we’d have a big winner. But for now, I’m cautiously impressed. If you want to read more on the subject, check out the guides written by Microsoft Research. I wish they use a wiki so people could assist in writing the guides, but maybe that will come later…




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