from the neat dept
Here's an interesting study. Apparently, looking at the email patterns (not the content) of organizations may enable one to "predict impending doom."
The researchers looked at Enron emails, and found that about a month before everything went bad, there was a sudden and rapid increase in the number of "active email cliques, defined as groups in which every member has had direct email contact with every other member." The number of such groups increased by a factor of eight
. Not surprisingly, the messages between these cliques increased in frequency as well, and those message were rarely shared with people outside the clique. In other words, a bunch of rapid task groups came together about a month before everything got screwed up.
Of course, the data is only on one particular company, and there's nothing to indicate whether this pattern is really that common elsewhere. It wouldn't surprise
me, but it would be nice if there were more data to back it up. Of course, that's difficult, because there aren't that many companies willing to share such data. Still, it's always neat to see attempts to pick out interesting predictive behavior from areas where you wouldn't necessarily expect it.