But can a business recuperate and use this information while respecting the privacy of its users?
Few weeks ago, the famous annual web conference was held in Lyon, France: WWW2012. Not only was the panel of speakers incredibly impressive (Neelie Kroes, Tim Berners-Lee, Bernard Stielger, and Chris Welty as the key note speakers!), but the entire conference itself was quite fascinating.
I arrived on April 16th for the Email2012 Workshop organized by Romain Vuillemot, INRIA, Paris, France (email@example.com), Michal Laclavik, IISAS, Slovakia (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Vitor R. Carvalho, Intelius, USA (email@example.com), starting with an invited talk given by Uwe Riss, Senior Researcher at SAP AG.
We had a very interesting discussion about the evolution of email and its usage, highlighting the value of the data that is transferred through this tool, the need to respect the privacy of the users and possible “industrial” software solutions that may emerge to use and leverage this data.
The world of email is evidently central to Kwaga, but it is also so central to the lives of millions of professionals that I thought you might be interested in some of our thoughts and conclusions.
Email Workshop 2012: A place where academic and corporate brains meet.
…but first things first, the object of the workshop was summarized as:
- How to preserve privacy in the context strictly private messages (Email, Direct Messages) and public data (such as open linked data) by minimizing information disclosure.
- The integration of social media (Twitter, Facebook) with conventional messaging systems (Email, forums) in an everyday use, and its impact on data acquisition and organization.
One of the greatest strengths of these workshops is that it brings academic researchers from around the world together with corporate minds (i.e. industrialists) who know the technical analysis, research and treatment of the data exchanged in email. These workshops are privileged spaces to compare our visions, exploring both sides, developing and selling applications for this area.
Email in Business: a bona fide gold mine!
During our discussions, we came to an impressive conclusion: it is estimated that 75% of corporate knowledge can be found in the emails of its employees!
As you can see, this gold mine deserves research and reflection in order to improve the efficiency of organizations while securing this asset! But one of the problems that arose in the scientific community was of how to access the database of information, naturally safe-guarded by the companies. The collapse of Enron brought the first breakthrough in this protective barrier. During this scandal, the court made a corpus of emails from the organization available to researchers all over the world.
Since 2003, the international scientific community has been working on this dataset of a half million emails exchanged between 150 key Enron executives. Focusing mainly on text mining, data extraction, and categorization, the main areas of application are e-discovery, knowledge, management and personal productivity.
What are the markets for email applications?
The systems tested on the Enron corpus by researchers seem promising; however, our discussion did lead to another question – can these systems give rise to corporate solutions marketable worldwide? In other terms, is there a single international market for emerging applications, or are there several distinct markets instead?
One of the principal concepts that I took away from our discussions is that the market for email solutions is not defined by technological constraints, but limited legally and culturally.
The international panel of the speakers of the workshop allowed us to concentrate on three markets (US, Greman, and French) and the differences we identified were significant.
In fact, in France, we tend to consider our email as our private property, whether it be professional or personal. And this is reinforced by legislation: an employee’s email is considered his private property and a manager can only access the messages under specific circumstances and after warning the employee that they will be accessed. Hence, it is not possible – or only with extreme difficulty – can there be a common archive of company emails. Therefore, the majority of email applications in France focus on the individual’s mailbox, providing solutions that not only enhance the user experience, but also increase productivity.
In contrast, in the United States, professional email addresses are considered the property of the company, even by the users themselves, thus alleviating the restriction of collecting the emails in a “shared archive”. Secondly, the US market is putting legal pressure on employees and companies alike to prevent leaking, whether voluntarily or not, sensitive data. In this market, we see a growing demand for eDiscovery applications.
Lastly, in examining the situation in Germany, we found that professional email tends to be owned by the company and it is free to capitalize on the knowledge shared by its collaborators. This situation has lead to the development of data extraction tools in order to structure the unstructured set of data to produce dynamic knowledge management applications.
This is just a quick summary of the reflections and discussions we had at the workshop. I hope this scientific view of the current research around email was interesting to you. And perhaps we will have a future post on the integration of social networks….
If there are any other topics that interest you or anything that you want me to expand upon, don’t hesitate to let me know in a comment below. I am pleased to share this information with you!