SNARFing your email

Er, according to MIT’s Technology Review, Microsoft Research has released a program which prioritises the contents of your inbox depending on how close you are to the sender. The (free) download is called SNARF, for Social Network and Relationship Finder. It runs alongside Microsoft Outlook (2002 and newer versions), poring through e-mail histories and following chains of communications to ferret out the unread messages it deems most important.

SNARF measures a sender’s importance based on two key factors: the number and frequency of messages sent and received. The program then sorts unread e-mails into three fields: messages where the user is listed in the To or CC fields, group e-mails, and all messages received in the last week. SNARF lists messages by senders, rather than subject lines, and puts a user’s most important correspondents on top.

“We’re just counting e-mails,” one member of the development team said. “Some people might call it a brain-dead algorithm, but the messages you send someone is a pretty good proxy for how well you know people,” he says. “It can be very detailed.”