Behind the Scenes: Timeline-based Emails for Improving Internal Communication

A few days ago, the Facebook Engineering Team wrote an article about how Facebook is using Open Graph internally. Inspired by this, we did a brainstorming session at our “annual” Summercamp which is taking place right now in a luxurious mansion near Lake Balaton. At Summercamp, all Socialists build super exciting and awesome projects. In addition to a gazilion of core projects we wanted to play with Open Graph as well. So 1 barbecue, 10 software developers & 100 ideas later we settled on a side-project: Open Graph enabled Email.

Our idea: Every single mail we send triggers an Open Graph action, enabling every team member to always know what their colleagues are working on and which mails have been sent or answered. Because, you know, answering emails is fun!

die.socialisten.at OMGmail (based on Gmail)

At Die Socialisten we are using Gmail (via Google Apps) as our email service. Some research revealed that you can access almost every piece of data in any Google product by using Google Apps Script. This includes every email you have ever written. Look ma, no IMAP/SMTP! Awesome!

 

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After a discussion over tea in the pool the project team (Fabian, Patrick and me) had finished the first working prototype in only a few hours. Our main goal was to make our solution independent of the mail client used. Since OMGmail is completely server based, it does not matter whether you are using the Gmail web interface, your smartphone or a mail client like Thunderbird.

After installing OMGmail, your sent mails are analyzed every minute and every time you send a new mail, a “send” Open Graph action is published (Disclaimer: Privacy is very important to us, so the Facebook app that is linked to OMGmail is running in the so-called “Sandbox mode”. This means that only internal members of the company can see the published actions).

On Facebook the sent mails are displayed as Ticker stories. The story includes the subject and all recipients of the mail and also their avatars (which we are loading from gravatar.com).

Quick reminder

From the idea to the product in less than two days? This is not out of the ordinary for us. Proofs of concept and smallish productivity tools (Graph InspectorRandomjam, …) are our daily fare. If you want to stay up to date with our shananigans or also have extraordinary ideas, you should immediately become our fan! Stay in touch with us! I recommend liking our Facebook fan page, our Twitter account and our Google+ page.

For the technical details, scroll below the super social screenshots!

 

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Attention: Nerdiness ahead!

The Google part:

Google Apps Script is based on JavaScript and provides an extensive API, allowing developers to access Google products such as Gmail, Calendar, Contacts and many more. Our script is called from a simple Google Spreadsheet. From this spreadsheet, you can call the script’s functions either manually, or automatically (e.g. when the spreadsheet is changed or time based).

This means that if you want to use OMGmail, you have to create a simple spreadsheet, based on a template provided by us. The only input needed is your Facebook user ID.

The Middleware:

We have a simple PHP middleware, which is called directly from within the Google Apps Script using the “UrlFetcher”. All it does is creating Open Graph objects and triggering the “send” action.

Since we need an access token to be able to trigger the Open Graph action, you have to call our middleware at least once every 60 days, because Facebook access tokens expire after that.

The Facebook part:

The OMGmail Facebook app consists of:

  • two objects: Emails and Recipients (which are interconnected),
  • one action: “People can send an email”,
  • two aggregations: “Top recipients”, “Sent mails”

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No Responses

  1. […] und auch viele kleinere Projekte, wie einen Twitterbot auf NodeJS-Basis oder ein Tool, das geschriebene Mails als Open Graph-Objekt auf Facebook die Timeline postet. HOLY SHIT!!!! RT @i_am_fabs: Erste Open Graph gepublishte E-Mail am #camp404 versendet! […]

  2. […] anläuft, wenn wieder vermehrt Mails geschrieben werden. Einzelheiten zu diesem Projekt gibt es hier im offiziellen Blog-Post […]

  3. […] remember our annual summercamp, where we built lots of crazy stuff? 4 weeks ago I wrote about a mechanism to automatically share your e-mails in your facebook stream. That was not our only spreadsheet-based project: One nightly coding session, Tweetsheets […]

  4. […] does not stay there, but gets shouted out to the Interwebs! We blogged about our fun projects OMGMail and Tweetsheets and also released the more serious product “Uberch.at” for free. Feel […]

  5. […] remember our annual summercamp, where we built lots of crazy stuff? 4 weeks ago I wrote about a mechanism to automatically share your e-mails in your facebook stream. That was not our only spreadsheet-based project: One nightly coding session, Tweetsheets […]

  6. […] – Connecting your Mailbox to Facebook Open Graph – Link […]

  7. […] – Connecting your Mailbox to Facebook Open Graph – Link […]

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