Who Do You Gossip About?

I so should be doing other things. Like reviewing CHI papers. But I’m making fun little apps. I’ve always been fascinated with gossip. “Gossip” has a negative connotation, but it’s essential to social life. In a few bored hours last night, I wrote a little gossip app, and you can download it.

Before we go any further, there’s two pretty tight requirements: you need to use Mail.app on a Mac and you need to use IMAP. The app is called “Bit of Gossip.” It crawls through your sent mail looking for people you mention in the message body but don’t include on the recipient list. Don’t worry, we all do it. And don’t worry, the app does everything locally; your mail never leaves your machine.

This isn’t a research project. Just a fun little hack. It’s also pretty bare bones. A little dialog just pops up as it processes, then TextEdit shows you the results. Like I said, not a research project, not a finished project. But I found it pretty fun and enlightening. And, the name extraction stage can take a while. Oh, and it also handles nicknames (e.g., Tom is short for Thomas, etc. … I couldn’t get anything good without it.) The source is in there if you want it. Do with it what you will.

(drag to Applications)

Couldn’t have done it without the distinguished Stanford Named Entity Recognizer and Platypus. And of course Perl. Where would I be without you, darling?

This was posted Oct 26th, 2009 at 2:19 pm and is filed under social, nlp, fun. You can comment on this post or trackback from your own site.


  1. Ben Stiglitz

    A bit of advice for downloaders: you’ll need to copy the application from the disk image onto a local volume before running it.

  2. Eric

    Thanks for giving it a try. I may make it write to /tmp so that you can run it from from the image.

  3. Beki

    There’s a paper called News from Behind My Hand which is a study of gossip in corporations. Gossip is fascinating stuff, I think one of those essential human traits. Your application also illustrates how complicated a medium like email can be, little snippets of gossip woven into or tacked onto a message about work or so forth.

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