May 2008 Archives

links for 2008-05-31

Have you watched a movie in the last 15 minutes? Have you reviewed it yet? On Twitter? For an increasing number of Twitter users, the answer to that question (which question?) is yes, and a free site now summarizes their instant movie reviews for us.

At last night's Triangle Tweetup, Chad Etzel (@jazzychad) showed his new project, Twitter Movie Reviews. The utterly descriptive name—how non-2.0!—tells it all. TMR pulls tweets mentioning current movies from the public timeline and graphs the balance of sentiment.

The main page summarizes all of the reviews in the system. A more detailed view for each movie lists all of the tweets, grouped into good, bad and indifferent categories. RSS feeds abound, making it easy to monitor the rated tweets for any given movie.

Human analysis, increasing automation
The primary method of categorizing the reviews is human analysis. Volunteer moderators read the individual tweets and rate them as good, bad or indifferent (Chad's looking for more volunteers, if you want to help). From the demo, the process appeared quick and easy. Considering the subject matter, finding volunteers shouldn't be too hard, at least as long as the site is free.

An automated prescreening system eliminates non-review mentions of movies (going to see, waiting in line, want to see), and some keywords trigger automated ratings. More automation is planned.

My first reaction to this is that I'll probably use it to look up movies I'm considering. There's an apparent positive bias in review tweets, but a quick glance at the full text can provide useful hints as to why people like a movie (or don't). Naturally, if you have a business interest in movies, this is another site to monitor. If you have an entertainment site, you might want to talk with Chad before someone else does.

Opinions are everywhere; tools are democratizing
It's interesting that this isn't a product or feature from a company in a social media or data mining business. It's a project from a software developer who likes making things. So, besides a new place to look up movies, here's what I got from the demo:

  1. Opinions are everywhere. Anywhere that people can express themselves online, they will eventually start talking about things they buy. It doesn't matter if you want to care about Twitter (for example); if your customers are using it, you need to pay attention. Monitoring social media is a task that will grow as long as new social applications are being created.

  2. For someone with programming skills, barriers to entry for creating new sites are nonexistent. Human coding of the reviews eliminates the hard part of building an analytical site and gets the ball rolling (but will be hard to sustain if the service becomes commercial). The initial version proves the concept and supports further development.

  3. Free tools for analyzing content and trends mean that the forest is no longer hidden in the trees. If the public has access to sentiment metrics and begins to consider them in their purchase decisions, is it possible for companies not to care?

  4. New sites that provide open APIs will eventually be mined for useful information, which will be available to the public. If your product is interesting to software developers, it will happen sooner.

  5. Has anyone considered a consumer-oriented social media analysis site? One that explains itself to a non-technical, non-business audience?
Something tells me this will be one of those posts with no comments. That last point is either stupid, obvious or something you're going to think about this weekend. Let me know which—offline, if necessary.

Update: The site now has a name and domain: FlixPulse.

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services

  • 28 May - Visible Technologies launched TruCast 2.0, along with a sample of their corporate client list.

  • 29 May - Dow Jones & Company introduced alert widgets, incorporating news items from Dow Jones Factiva into internal or external websites.
  • Brian Cavoli joined Digital Influence Group as VP Agency Marketing. Cavoli was previously Director of Marketing at Cymfony.
New research and papers
Current posts on the job board


links for 2008-05-29

I just watched Clay Shirky's presentation from Web 2.0. Jake calls it the most significant thing you’ll read/watch this year, and I'm inclined to agree. If you do just one thing with this post, watch the video. Afterward, I'll toss Clay's thoughts up in the air with the attention crash to see what happens.

Crash, or gear shift?
It's interesting to consider Clay's view in light of the attention crash/attention economy conversations that pop up so much these days. Information overload is easy to find (the chocolate factory), but when you consider how much time goes into television consumption, is it really fair to say that we're running low on attention?

Desperate Housewives essentially functioned as a kind of cognitive heat sink, dissipating thinking that might otherwise have built up and caused society to overheat.

And it's only now, as we're waking up from that collective bender, that we're starting to see the cognitive surplus as an asset rather than as a crisis. We're seeing things being designed to take advantage of that surplus, to deploy it in ways more engaging than just having a TV in everybody's basement.

Dad always used to say that watching television would "rot your brain." Clay's suggesting that, on a societal level, it was really keeping our brains out of trouble. If we collectively were to get serious about getting our brains out of the TV and into gear, I wonder what we would accomplish?

Attention and media companies
Economics is about allocating scarce resources, and of course we're all individually limited in the amount of attention we have. The challenge is for the businesses that are built on the cognitive heat sink. As the attention economy reallocates resources in the media market from consumption to production and sharing, is your company selling buggy whips or transportation?

links for 2008-05-23

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services

  • 10 May - Biz360 raised $10 million in additional financing. Foundation Capital led the round, which included current investors Granite Ventures and Scale Venture Partners. via paidContent
New research and papers
  • 5 May - Cogent Research released survey results describing the role of social media in individual investors' decision-making process. PDF, via David Wilson
  • 16–17 June (Boston) - 4th annual Text Analytics Summit. Social media analysis is prominent in the agenda, which also covers other applications of data mining and text analytics in business.
Current posts on the job board

links for 2008-05-22

links for 2008-05-19

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links for 2008-05-17

This is not tweetworthy


This is not tweetworthyThis is my new unconference shirt. During my session at BlogCarolinas, a participant who wasn't getting much out of the session tweeted that it was not tweetworthy. Actually, he said more than that, but that's not my point. The point is: next time, I'll have this shirt, and it's going to make a difference.

(For those unfamiliar with Twitter jargon, tweetworthy simply means worth mentioning on Twitter. Much of BlogCarolinas was tweeted—written about on Twitter.)

How the shirt works
If my session isn't tweetworthy, the shirt will provide fair warning. If it is tweetworthy, it may be because the shirt reminded me to stay in touch with the people in the room to make sure what I'm saying is relevant to them. I'm counting on the latter outcome.

No need to look it up. Here's the tweet that inspired the shirt:

Session on metrics @blogcarolinas boring me. Not tweetworthy. Bureaucratic theoretic marketing goblydegook. Irrelevant to practical actions.
Kevin and I have since had a friendly exchange of email and tweets. I wasn't offended, anyway. Feedback is good, even when the message is that I missed part of my audience. We're planning a follow-up discussion at BarCampRDU this summer. For BarCamp, though, I think I'll skip the bureaucratic, theoretical marketing gobbledygook and do a geeky session on cool RSS tricks, instead. That should fit right in with the BarCamp vibe.

I'm just hoping it will be tweetworthy this time. :-)

Disclosure: I used this episode to explore the retail side of CaféPress. If you buy the shirt, I'll get a small markup.

Update: Proof it's friendly now.

News from the companies of social media analysis.


  • 8 May - Chris Lohman joins Visible Technologies as Director of Client Strategies. Lohman was previously managing director, Northwest Region, for JWT INSIDE. press release
New research and papers
Current posts on the job board


There's a difference between "we don't have any money" and "we don't have a budget for that (yet)." The usual advice about monitoring social media for comments about your company ends with pointers to free tools and a few of the commercial options. But if you're a manager trying to make the case that your company should listen to social media, these free services from social media analysis vendors will help you justify the budget to keep going.

Free tools from social media analysis companies:

Companies who offer free, limited accounts on commercial tools ("Freemium" model):
Commercial tools with free trials (length of trial):
The distinction between "no money" and "no budget yet" is important for free trials. The limited time may be all you need to collect enough information to support your request. If you're making the case for the budget, I'm sure the vendors will be happy for you to use them that way. If you already have a budget, of course, everyone will offer you a demo.

If you already have a budget and need to explore your options, my report on social media analysis platforms for workgroups (March 2010) is for you. I reviewed 21 vendors to see what makes them different and which are appropriate for which uses. The report has an overview of the market, tables for quick comparisons across all 21 companies, and individual reviews of the products.

I went through everybody's web sites, but I might have missed some. Mention yours in the comments if I did, and I'll add it to the list.

links for 2008-05-12

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services

  • 1 May - Nielsen Online launched its Digital Strategic Services group, led by EVP Pete Blackshaw. The new group will provide consulting services built on Nielsen's online research capabilities.

  • 5 May - While Microsoft was busy not buying Yahoo, TNS and GfK confirmed rumors of a proposed merger of equals. Following the announcement, TNS rejected an unsolicited $1.9 billion offer from WPP Group, and GfK announced that merger discussions remain on track.
Current posts on the job board


links for 2008-05-08

It's Twitter's fault. No, it's Facebook, or email, or—wait, social media is about people, so it's our fault. There's just too much to keep up with these days, and more people are pointing it out. Rubel crashed. Scoble cried uncle. Calcanis went bankrupt. And everyone is talking about signal-to-noise ratio. As in, if you want to get the good stuff (the signal) in social media, you have to pick it out of a lot of junk (the noise). They're right, but that's just the start.

Yes, words are useless. Gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble! Too much of it, darling. Too much! That is why I show you my work. That is why you are here.
Edna Mode, The Incredibles
I had an idea of reframing the increasing burden of information sources using thrust-to-weight ratio and exploding rockets, leading to thoughts about how to scale efforts to keep up, when—out of the blue—I realized that it's more like Lucy in the chocolate factory.

(RSS subscribers, click through for the video.)

The signal-to-noise metaphor is all about source selection and filtering—finding the information you care about amid all the other stuff. The chocolate factory is about scaling processing capabilities—what you do with the signal once you've separated it from the noise.

Bodies or tools
Improving S/N is crucial, but it's only the first step. As the total volume of relevant, useful information increases, you have to increase your capabilities to keep up. Your options are the usual suspects: bodies and tools. Adding bodies is easy to understand, if a bit unworkable on an individual level. Even the most diligent worker can't work more than about 28 hours a day.

Which leaves tools. On an individual level, that includes email automation and using RSS to bring information to you. The new lifestream aggregators, such as FriendFeed may fit this description, though honestly, I've been too busy to try them.

In organizations, you get to choose between bodies and tools, but you're still limited by that 28-hour day thing. Do you add people or invest in better tools to know what's going on (or do you declare market intelligence bankruptcy in the face of the overwhelming riches of available data)? Do you hire an outside company to track it for you? How do they answer the bodies vs. tools question, and what does that mean to you?

(If it's all too much, these questions go to the heart of the research and consulting that I offer.)

What do you do?
This topic is perilously close to the human vs. computer analysis question, which we'll come back to soon. For now, what tools do you use to keep up with the growing flood (at the individual or organizational level)? Is it still about improving signal-to-noise for you, or have you reached the point where the signal itself is too much to handle with your current methods?

I have too many feeds in my RSS reader. Every once in a while, I clear some of them out, but more often, I add new ones. It's crazy, but at this moment, I'm subscribed to over 700 feeds. RSS is my preferred power tool for keeping up with too many sources, and I've found a lot of ways to put it to work.

Here's what's in my feed reader now:

  • My own blogs
    How else would I know when I need to fix a problem?

  • Alerts
    From blog and other service providers. Mostly quiet, but it's good to know if one of them is having problems.

  • Blogs
    A mix of friends, professional acquaintances, and interests, both personal and professional. OK, I have too many of these—the downside of trying to know everything.

  • PR feeds
    For the companies I follow. Their feed if they have one, Page2RSS monitoring if they don't. 60 feeds, which means I've missed some (some don't have news pages to monitor).

  • Search and tag feeds
    Google Blogsearch feeds to track current news events (these don't stay around long). and Technorati tag feeds to let other people do some of my discovery for me. The tag feeds have been especially helpful.

  • Vanity feeds
    Search feeds on my name (and the most common misspelling), company name, blog title keyword, and URLs. Feeds from, Digg, StumbleUpon and a few others to let me know when (and how) someone tags my sites. 50 feeds—I'll consolidate these when I get time.

  • Social network feeds
    Updates from LinkedIn, FaceBook and Dopplr. Twitter @replies (DMs go to email) and a Tweetscan search on the misspelled version of my name (correct spelling is picked up in Twhirl). Comments on my pictures on Flickr. A wiki watch feed, which I'm ready to delete.

  • Q&A feed
    New questions on TechDirt Insight Community. I had LinkedIn Q&A feeds, but the volume was overwhelming.

  • Event feeds
    Technorati, Flickr, tags. Event blogs. CrowdVine new member feeds. The good news is that traffic falls off once the event is over, and the feeds are an easy way to remember next year.

  • Job search feeds
    Keyword search on Indeed, feeds from job boards related to social media (including my own job board to let me know when someone posts there). You can learn a lot about who's doing what by their hiring needs.

  • Humor and other creativity enhancers
    Hey, it's not all work. You need xkcd.
All those feeds lead to an important distinction between subscribe and read. The feeds are grouped into folders by topic, and some of them get a very quick glance at the headlines before I mark everything read. I don't think I read every item in any folder, and I've become very quick at scanning headlines.

I have too many sources, and I need to clean house (again). But my feed reader is where I direct as many incoming sources as possible, and it saves me a lot of time visiting blogs, search engines and social networking sites. I couldn't do what I do without it.

News from the companies of social media analysis.

Companies and services

New research and papers
  • 18 March - Morgan Stanley's recent look at Internet trends (PDF) focuses heavily on social media and the growth in consumer Internet use.


links for 2008-05-01

About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
  • Principal, Social Target
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  • Highlights from the archive


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