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Mirror, Mirror, on the Screen

NEW YORK – Suppose a group of workers frequently communicate among themselves, and then suddenly one of them gets left off all the “copy-tos.”  “It could be that they’re planning a surprise birthday party,” says Elizabeth Charnock, whose company, Cataphora, analyzes e-mail traffic and content as well as other documents, primarily for clients involved in litigation and crime detection. “It’s more likely that they’re planning to engage in fraud and they know this one person won't go along with it.”

“All abnormal behavior may not be bad,” says Charnock, “but virtually all really bad behavior is abnormal. From years of analyzing the abnormal, I’ve developed a keen appreciation for the myriad peccadilloes that are quite normal: the dull co-worker whom others scheme to avoid, the eleventh-hour passing of the buck, the ex you promised to ‘stay friends’ with but never wrote to again, the small but telling things that really get under your skin.”

Now she, and Cataphora, are applying those same analytics to a different market: people who want to analyze their own e-mail correspondence (and eventually other content) to see a reflection of their interactions with others. Call it a visualization of your social graph in action.

With Cataphora’s new software tool called Digital Mirror, you can see the top asymmetries in your own relationships: whom you respond to before others versus whom you postpone, reschedule, or otherwise delay – and who does the same to you. To the extent that you are cc’ed, you can also see patterns among your friends or colleagues: Which topics provoke huge amounts of stress or argument? Which are dismissed with little comment?