Gmail Analytics: Gain Insights, Improve Your Productivity

It's not quite big data, but even a modest amount of data about the way you use Gmail has the potential to make you more productive.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

April 20, 2012

3 Min Read

Oracle v. Google: The Evidence

Oracle v. Google: The Evidence

Oracle v. Google: The Evidence (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Google's Gmail may be free, but consumers pay for the service with data, used to help serve up ads and to help Google optimize its offerings. But Google doesn't have to be the only entity to benefit from your data: You can exploit it too.

There's now a script called Gmail Meter that can gather data about your Gmail usage. Why bother? Data about your Gmail habit may help you manage your messages more effectively, thereby making you more productive.

Created by Romain Vialard, a Google Apps consultant, Gmail Meter relies on the Google Apps scripting system, Google Apps Script, to automate the collection of data about your Gmail usage and to send statistics to you via Gmail on a regular basis for review.

Gmail Meter can tell you about the volume and type of messages--important or starred--you receive, the number of people who sent email to you, and the number of people to whom you sent messages. It can show message volume, message label breakdowns, word counts, and the lengths of email discussion threads.

[ Learn more about the court battle between Oracle and Google. Read Oracle, Google Struggle To Explain APIs To Jury. ]

The installation process is more convoluted than it ought to be: To use Gmail Meter, you have to open up a Google Docs spreadsheet, open the Script Gallery from the Tools menu, select the Statistics category, and search for Gmail Meter.

You will then be confronted with a scary warning notice. It will probably deter a good number of potential users, despite the fact that Google itself is promoting this script on its blog.

"Google makes no representations about the performance, quality, or content of this script," the notice says. "You should only run the script if you trust the creator, as you are solely responsible for any compromise or loss of data that may result from using this script."

As if that's not enough, the warning message concludes: "This script is requesting permission to do potentially harmful operations. Only authorize the script if you truly trust the author!"

Can you really say you "truly trust" someone you know only from a Google+ page? If so, there's a tutorial to guide you through the installation process. If not, there's always the Chrome extension Graph Your Inbox, which has been available since 2010. But of course you still get a warning notice that the extension can access your Gmail data.

If you decide not to trust third-parties to crunch your Gmail data, you can still get your analytics fix straight from the source: Google recently introduced an Account Activity feature that includes a Gmail stats graph. Account Activity doesn't include as much detail as Gmail Meter or Graph Your Inbox, but it may be enough for you to get a sense for whether more information would be helpful.

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About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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