Home Will Gmail Get Google Reader-Like Trends?

Will Gmail Get Google Reader-Like Trends?

If you’re a Google Reader user, no doubt you’ve taken a look at your Google Reader trends. The trends feature of Reader is an invaluable service that shows you which feeds you read, share, star, and email. It also provides stats on your subscriptions themselves, showing which ones are frequently updated, inactive, or the most obscure. Bar charts show items read by day, time of day, and time of week, and a tag cloud lets you find items by keyword. With all this data within easy reach, Google Reader Trends provides insight into your feed reading habits which you can then use help you to improve your feeding reading activities as well as the way you categorize your feeds and more.

But Google Reader isn’t the only web app that could use a feature like this. If we could pick any other Google service to provide an analysis of our habits, it would certainly be Gmail. But could it be that Trends for Gmail is already underway?

Mail Trends

A recent post by Ed Kohler pointed us to a project under development for this very purpose. The project, called simply “Mail Trends,” was mentioned on Mihai Parparita‘s personal blog back in March. (Parparita is a Google employee who had helped to build Google Reader itself.) Since Gmail doesn’t have an official API, Mail Trends instead uses Gmail’s IMAP support to pull the message headers and analyze them in order to extrapolate the data. Mail Trends can generate tables, graphs and distributions based on time of day, senders, recipients, mailing lists, etc. You can see an example of what it can output here where Parparita ran it on a piece of the Enron Email Dataset.

The project, currently hosted at Google Code, offers the code available for download, but, unfortunately to run it over your own email, you have to do geeky programmer things like downloading something called Cheetah and mess around with a command prompt. There is not an executable file for either Mac or PC. (Lifehacker has a step-by-step guide to installation if you want to go this route, though).

We Need Mail Trends!

Outlook users already have an add-in called Xobni (our coverage) which provides a look at email trends among other things, so why not Gmail?

Although Mail Trends is clearly a personal project, we wonder if there’s any chance of seeing it show up one day in Gmail’s Labs section. Labs, the area under Gmail’s Settings that introduces experimental features seems the ideal place to debut the trends technology…at least until it’s perfected.

We contacted Parparita to see if there was any chance of that ever happening, but he never responded.

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