Visualizing Mail “Events” with SIMILE Timeline

There are numerous ways to visualize mail data. You could bucket messages by time and present the data as a bar chart to inspect the time of day that the most mail transactions are happening, create a graph of connections among senders and recipients and filter by the discussion thread, load query results onto a time line, or use any number of other techniques. This section demonstrates out-of-the-box usage of the SIMILE Timeline, an easy to use (yet extremely powerful) tool for visualizing event-centric data. The SIMILE Timeline is particularly useful for exploring mail data because it allows us to view the transmission of each individual message as a unique event while also visualizing the larger discussion thread as an extended event that transpires over a longer period of time. We can also easily specify a link for each individual message so that when we click on a message in Timeline, it brings up the full text of the message in Futon.

We’ll stick to pragmatic analysis approaches and avoid building a full-blown web app to visualize the mail data, but given very little additional effort, it wouldn’t be difficult to construct something more robust. We’ll opt to simply modify the output format from Example 3-18 so that it emits JSON that’s compatible with the Timeline. From there, all that’s required is pointing a simple web page to the SIMILE Event Source JSON output on your local filesystem to load up the Timeline. Sample target ...

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