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Visualizing your email as microbes.
August 31, 2007 10:44 AM   Subscribe

It's not a bug, it's a feature: Carolin Horn has designed Anymails, which represents your email messages and folders as micro-organisms. The morphology of the individual organisms and their behaviour within colonies imparts information about the state of your email. You can view QT movies of the application in action (1, 2), download her thesis, and download the Anymails code itself. See some of her other work here (predominantly in German). via Madame Martin, the "French Metafilter".
posted by Rumple (22 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also on YouTube if, like me, you can't seem to watch QT on Linux.
posted by DU at 10:52 AM on August 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is pretty neat, and yet while I'm watching it I'm thinking "you know what would be great? Is if I could corral them by species. And then if each one had a little textbox that said what the subject line was and who it was from. And..." and pretty soon I've reinvented Outlook.
posted by DU at 10:56 AM on August 31, 2007


I don't know how useful this application will be, but it's a hell of a lot cuter and more endearing than another new e-mail client I've seen recently.
posted by chrominance at 10:56 AM on August 31, 2007


Whoa, 3D mail looks awesome. If my spam can't inform me, at least it can parade around in bikinis.
posted by DU at 11:02 AM on August 31, 2007


which represents your email messages and folders as micro-organisms

mom=gnat
dad=fly
brother= drunk
sister= black widow
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:06 AM on August 31, 2007


lawyer=shark
posted by bruce at 11:20 AM on August 31, 2007


All we want to do is read email. Is "less is more" no longer taught in college or something?
posted by wfc123 at 11:28 AM on August 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


Processing is the shit.

Makes me finally want to move away from C++ and to Java.
posted by SweetJesus at 11:32 AM on August 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


These kinds of things never take off because, though fun at first, people always opt for efficiency over cleverness.
posted by vacapinta at 11:32 AM on August 31, 2007


All we want to do is read email. Is "less is more" no longer taught in college or something?

Yeah, I can tell you, I'm getting pretty darn sick of these "windows" that my email keeps appearing in. And those folders I keep organizing things in, what's up with those? Just give me a black screen with white text and show me the next message when I hit the right arrow.

My point, I guess, is that we're already using metaphors, it's just that we're really used to the ones we're using.
posted by gurple at 11:36 AM on August 31, 2007


Is "less is more" no longer taught in college or something?
These kinds of things never take off

Yeah, no one is going to sit down at home and read their email by watching a clever visualization. I don't think that claim is made anywhere on Carolin Horn's page. But visualizing everyday data and recontextualizing it is a huge field when it comes to spotting trends and shaping socialization patterns.

Can you imagine retooling your work reporting structure to more accurately reflect who you communicate with? Or using a different data set, like recording the cars that went by a specific location by time of day to set up commuting pools? Or even just throwing this up in a museum as a perspective piece? This sort of thing is huge!
posted by mikeh at 11:37 AM on August 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


These things work well when you want to browse information, but that's not really how I approach my email. All the visual information I need to understand my inbox is right there in front of me already. So, fun, but not very useful for actually efficient email sorting. Applied to something else, it could be pretty cool.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:37 AM on August 31, 2007


The one thing I noticed when grabbing Anymails a while ago is that there's the initial step of classifying different contacts so that the app knows which icon to use for their display. Ideally, a newer version could crunch on the data a bit to intelligently create its own groups based on correspondence patterns. One-way correspondence is likely a newsletter or notification, active conversations could be work or home contacts, ones that seem to occur on a schedule...
posted by mikeh at 11:42 AM on August 31, 2007


For anyone who's interested in some of the development and thought processes behind this sort of thing, here's a little blog post about the Arc Visual at Digg. (disclaimer: I know them.)
posted by oneirodynia at 11:43 AM on August 31, 2007


People are doing a lot of this sort of thing with Processing (and Wiring). It's a Java framework for visual artists that attempts to abstract away all the computer-specific stuff (double buffering, moving a camera in 3d space, kerning and tessellation) and allow someone with little programming experience to create some really cool stuff.
posted by SweetJesus at 11:47 AM on August 31, 2007


I stumbled across Nodebox for OS X this morning while searching for a fast text editor at versiontracker. It looks very tasty.

Someone needs to write a book--"low impact funky programming for humanities majors." I would buy five copies.
posted by craniac at 12:27 PM on August 31, 2007


represents your email messages and folders as micro-organisms

So shouldn't that be: It's not a bug, it's a creature ?
posted by Zinger at 12:38 PM on August 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Craniac, I also love nodebox! The dynamic spiderweb text is really awesome!
posted by Brainy at 1:51 PM on August 31, 2007


zing!
posted by oneirodynia at 1:52 PM on August 31, 2007


Yeah, I can tell you, I'm getting pretty darn sick of these "windows" that my email keeps appearing in. And those folders I keep organizing things in, what's up with those? Just give me a black screen with white text and show me the next message when I hit the right arrow.

I actually really enjoy Mutt/Pine/et al, which are as you describe more or less. If my work email was compatible with any of those clients, I'd be using that instead of a bloated email client, believe me.
posted by davejay at 3:03 PM on August 31, 2007


But visualizing everyday data and recontextualizing it is a huge field when it comes to spotting trends and shaping socialization patterns.

Absolutely. In an ideal setup, your mail is hosted somewhere in IMAP, and you can access it via whatever client floats your boat for a current need, be it quick and dirty reading or research purposes.
posted by davejay at 3:04 PM on August 31, 2007


Oh man, thanks for the link to Nodebox. This is awesome.
posted by revfitz at 5:09 PM on September 1, 2007


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