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E-mail Logs as Tell-All?

Researchers Say Logs Can Show Real Relationships,
Power Structure Within Organizations

Work Noted By Nature Science Update

March 2003

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E-mail exchanges within organizations can reveal patterns of collaboration and leadership that aren't part of any formal organizational structure, according to recent research at HP Labs.

The researchers --Joshua Tyler, Dennis Wilkinson and Bernardo Huberman, all of the Information Dynamics Lab --have developed a methodology for using e-mail logs to find out things like who's really working with whom, and who truly holds power within a group.

The researchers studied nearly one million messages collected over a two-month span.

Informal networks are typically quite difficult to identify, the researchers say, but e-mail interactions provide ample data, just by examining the names of the senders and recipients. It isn't necessary to read messages, which minimizes privacy concerns.

Their work is the subject of a recent paper, Email as Spectroscopy: Automated Discovery of Community Structure within Organizations.

It also drew note from Nature magazine's online Science Update.

- Jamie Beckett

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