I'm sure many of you find yourself in the same position, and maybe there are even tools out there that do this (if so, share!)

I'm finding myself triaging e-mails again. The e-mails that arrive in my inbox are usually the ones that are important, and I tend to do these twice daily. But then I also have some rules set-up to immediatly send e-mail to their designated folders. Those rules mostly apply to the so called 'distribution lists'. A lot of traffic is happening and being stored in these folders. So a few times a week, I triage these to find the interesting ones. Usually the process is as follows:

  1. Run 'Outlook Thread Compressor' on it.
    This is a MS internal tool, written by Ewan Dalton but there is a Office Developer Sample that seems similar in function (not tested)
  2. Then I sort out the useless replies
    usually the one-liners: 'Thanks", "Taking off-line", etc.
  3. Then I tend to quickly read the more interesting replies to find out if they contain any usefull information
    The presence of links to other sites is usually a good giveaway that something is interesting. Bulletpoints also make a clear point.
    If there is nothing of value, I delete the mail.

Now it struck me that this process must look somewhat like how a spam-filter works. It also need to filter the contents of the e-mail to look for suspicious patterns. Now what if that sort of technology could do that for an e-mail thread.

I'd even like a tool that would mold the random info from the e-mail thread into semi-structured info, people that were involved in the e-mail thread, external links, bullet points, ... In that form it would make it easier to build up your 'e-mail knowledge database'.