Monday, August 24, 2009

Newssift: Take No Surprises

In my professional estimation the leading cause of long walks off short search piers is a direct but elusive info-quest:

I speak not of panning for gold but dishing for dirt.

After all, the impulse being served here sits at the table of avoidance. And that dining guest we're trying to scratch off the guest list goes by the name of "surprise." We do not wish for surprise to be seated at our tables. If they arrive despite our best efforts we need to be sure we can respond to the dining conversation that surprise may throw our way.

Enter -- Newssift.

Newssift is a media coverage engine delivered on Nstein data mining technology and fueled and branded by the Financial Times. The sentiment analysis capabilities aren't new. It's been around now for about a decade and I date my own exposure back to extraction tools like Xerox Parc-bred Inxight and SRA's NetOwl.

Full disclosure: I consulted to Cymfony back in 2001 when the sentiment teams to beat were Biz360 and Intelliseek. All were search solutions seeking a business problem they could partner into a growth segment. All came with hefty price tags and too much tinkering to package them as standard fare business intelligence applications. Also, customers don't buy growth segments unless they're pre-IPO shareholders. The fact my contract came up for renewal on 9/11 closes that loop.

What's new here is that pricey is now free and this baby hums along without much help. In fact you could be out in some elliptical trance orbiting an obtuse subject and still hit pay dirt -- lots to dish and even a score quantifying the negativity that sparks that take-no-surprises impulse. For example I key in one choice four letter word:


I find out that corn is not a place -- imagine that, no Corn, IA zip code to be had. I also scoop up a 'Cornelius' and a 'Cornwall' in the first and last name mappings and there are no business topics. But then I eye the themes tab and pause to slurp on the corn syrup oozing from the media pile-on for HFCS ("high fructose corn syrup"). Now my contextual moorings are chomping down on the correlated clusters of people, organizations, places, and related themes that wash out in the buzz (Cousin Michael leads the HFCS people hit parade with 7 mentions).

The most gluttonous outcome for a big corn hunter though is a click-through on the 21% of the media pie carved out to be negative coverage. A quick inventory of the body counts show slackening demand for the product, lawsuits on the horizon, and bent out-of-shape nutritionists planting doubtful stories like "Are grape jelly and chocolate milk bad for kids' brains?" In the movie version this is where the camera pans to the left and right of newspapers falling on doorsteps. Calendar pages become unhinged like the crumbling fortunes of corn empires near and far.

Newssift summation: I'm impressed with the narrative one can tell with little forethought or background knowledge on moving and complex search targets -- especially the ones we don't want to be dining on or with anytime soon.

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About attentionSpin

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attentionSpin is a consulting practice formed in 1990 to create, automate and apply a universal scoring system (“The Biggest Picture”) to brands, celebrities, events and policy issues in the public eye. In the Biggest Picture, attentionSpin applies the principles of market research to the process of media analytics to score the volume and nature of media coverage. The explanatory power of this research model: 1. Allows practitioners to understand the requirements for managing the quality of attention they receive 2. Shows influencers the level of authority they hold in forums where companies, office-seekers, celebrities and experts sell their visions, opinions and skills 3. Creates meaningful standards for measuring the success and failure of campaigns and their connection to marketable assets.