Threads ENRON Database

What better way to test the power of Threads than with some real corporate emails – and scandalous ones at that.

The Threads ENRON Database (TED) is the World’s first on-line searchable resource for ALL the public-domain ENRON data.

Its a great way to see what Threads could do for your organisation and how mind-numbingly simple Threads is to use.

Watch an introduction to TED. Quentin Cooper, science broadcaster and writer, talks about the Threads Enron Database.

See how to use TED. Logging into TED and how to access the emails and phone calls and perform searches.

Access Threads Now!

The TED Story

The story of TED started 10 years ago in the offices of UK software company JPY.

Sick of the chore of Carbon Copying (CC) email, JPY’s founder, John Yardley decided it was time for a CC Culture Change (CCCC!). What was the problem with CCs? Well, CCing had just become a form of absolution. Staff mailboxes were becoming swamped by mail of limited interest, making it more difficult to deal with the relevant stuff.

The culture change was to share mail by default, and let users decide what they wanted to keep private. This is what became Threads. At first, it was a bit like carrying a donor card. Not very comfortable, but once you see the benefit to the community, you never look back.

The initial temptation was to design Threads to work with one mail system. But the decision to make Threads mail-system independent, soon yielded massive benefits – Threads could not just handle any email, it could handle any digital message. That included VoIP phone calls too.

This is where it got really exciting. John did his PhD in Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) while working at the National Physical Laboratory. The future implications for applying ASR and other speech processing to Threads messages were – well, simply mind boggling. Earlier this year, JPY applied for its second patent – and although Threads contains much of the IP already, many of the ideas are yet to be incorporated.

Most people who saw Threads loved it, but it was very difficult to demonstrate outside the company. Why? Because, it was full of JPY company confidential messages – so a full demonstration required an NDA. JPY set about finding some other source of messages that was totally credible, yet not confidential. That was the difficult bit.

Threads saviour was The US Department of Justice, who in 2006 declared a corpus of over a quarter of a million Enron emails public domain. The icing on the cake was 100 recordings of telephone calls used in evidence in the court case.

JPY realised that this would make a perfect demonstration database for Threads, and so set about the task of ingesting it.

This was far from trivial. First of all, the emails were no longer stored in a form where messages could be simply read. They were held in a single 16 GB file which was difficult enough just to download, let alone reconstitute into discrete email messages.

The phone calls presented even more of a challenge, since they were in many cases unattributed to individual staff. But here, Threads came to its own rescue. It was possible to work out the call participants in the context of 250,000 email messages – many involving the same people.

As the process of ingesting email and phone call messages unfolded, it soon be apparent that nobody had done anything quite like this before. And the insight it gave on the scandal was fascinating. The ingestion process involved every member of the JPY staff, and so the whole Enron story was the main topic of office conversation for weeks. JPY staff read as much published material they could find on the Enron case, watched the films and documentaries and spent many hours pouring over the messages.

What makes TED different from the Threads service that an active customer might use? Well, very little in fact. The major difference between TED and Threads for a subscriber is that the TED data is static. The last message was processed on 19th April 2004. So no data can be added. TED is essentially a snapshot of Enron up until 19th April 2004.

So that, in a nutshell, is the story of TED. Have a play with it and let us know what you think.