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Posts Tagged ‘opinion monitoring’

Capturing Mood About Daily Weather From Twitter Posts

by September 29, 2011

After considerable preparation, we’ve just launched a version of our interactive tool, Pulse. Using Pulse, users can explore feelings about the weather as expressed on Twitter.

We began the process by choosing a topic that would yield a substantial volume of discussion on Twitter as well as be of general interest. Once we settled on weather, we wrote a survey designed to gauge Twitter users’ sentiments about the topic. With the help of workers from the “crowd” accessed through CrowdFlower, we had tens of thousands of relevant tweets coded as to the expressed emotion about the weather. These results were then used to create an “instance” of the Pulse tool, which manifests as a map of the United States that at a glance reveals Twitter users’ sentiments about the weather in their region on a given day. (You can read more about the coding process here and our choice of weather as a topic here.)

For our launch of Pulse for weather, we chose to feature tweets published over a month beginning in late April, 2011, a period in which many extreme weather events occurred—the devastating tornado in Joplin, MO; widespread drought throughout the South; and flooding of the Mississippi River, among others. The image below is from May 25, three days following the Joplin tornado (jump to the interactive map here).

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We gathered tweets from all 50 states as well as for about 50 metro areas. Here you can see a zoom up on several states centered on Missouri.

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The interactive map tells part of the story, namely a state’s or city’s overall sentiment about the weather, while the content under the “Analysis” and “Events” tabs reveal some of the “why” behind this sentiment: what were some of the most notable weather events occurring on a given day? [Note: our "events" feature has a bug in it and is currently turned off. In the future, icons will show up on the map to highlight out-of-the-ordinary weather events, like outbreaks of tornadoes, persistent flooding or drought, etc.] To what extent did the weather deviate from normal conditions? Why were tweets from, say, the South, uniformly negative during a certain time? What was happening when we saw a single positive state amidst a region that was otherwise negative?

We hope that weather is just the beginning. We envision using the Pulse tool to visualize nationwide sentiments about more complex, nuanced topics in the future—a sample of emotions about gas prices is just around the corner, and see our preliminary work on opinions about global warming. For now, you can explore the Pulse tool here, and let us know what you think!

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Which Energy Questions To Answer?

by July 28, 2011

2540266946_df7114d8fa The memory of our frustration during our last car purchase, more than 10 years ago, is still strong. Fuel economy was central to our decision, and we ended up opting for a turbo diesel Volkswagon. Soon after our purchase, I certainly engaged in some second guessing. This was the older generation turbo diesel, which means the dirtier version. We were in Washington, D.C., so we had to carry with us the reality that we were contributing to lowering the air quality. A more nuanced issue—and one that I’ve not fully researched—is that fuel mileage for a diesel is not directly comparable to that of a gasoline powered car, especially if one is interested in their transportation carbon foot print. I’d forgotten about this for a while, but it is very relevant now that we at Dialogue Earth are working on a project proposal to supply information to support consumer decisions that are connected to energy use.

Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be exploring how people get their information about energy use when they’re pondering a purchase, be it a new car or a clothes dryer. Is there the proverbial “low hanging fruit” in terms of information that would be relatively easy to provide, but is not readily accessible currently? No doubt consumers will span the spectrum from knowing very little about energy to having a deep knowledge. What do consumers with different energy knowledge want to know?

Have you thought about your personal energy use recently? Did you seek out new information? If so, was it easy to find? What sources did you tap? If not, why?

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Sentiment Analysis Milestone: More Than One Million Human Judgments

by June 27, 2011

judgment-shot We have developed a process, dubbed Pulse, to extract nuanced sentiment from social media, like Twitter. We recognized early on that tools weren’t available to adequately answer specific questions, such as: “What’s the mood about today’s weather?” or “What portion of Twitter authors who discuss global warming believe that it is occurring?” or “Did Apple or Google have a more favorable buzz during this year’s South-by-Southwest Interactive?” Specifically, we concluded that it was necessary to get humans involved in the process—especially for Twitter posts, or tweets, which are often cryptic and have meaning that might be missed by a computer algorithm.

So, we turned to crowdsourcing.

However, successfully leveraging the power of the crowd for our sentiment analyses required cultivating the crowd, which we have achieved by working with partner CrowdFlower. In short, CrowdFlower offers an approach where we can access various work channels (we have relied mostly on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk), yet do so by layering on a quality control filter. Specifically, we intersperse within jobs what CrowdFlower terms “gold” units—in our case, tweets for which we already know the sentiment.  Workers build trustworthiness scores by getting the gold units correct. If they miss a gold unit, they get some feedback from us that has been tailored to that unit, such as “This person is happy that their garden is getting rain, so this should be marked as a positive emotion about the weather.”

We have been running a lot of jobs through CrowdFlower, but only recently did I step back and add up the tweets processed. For more than 200,000 individual tweets, we have received more than 1,000,000 trusted, human judgments from the CrowdFlower workforce! I know our research team, who had to do a bunch of judgments early on as we worked out a viable strategy, are grateful that we could get help from the crowd.

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Teasing Out Opinions About Global Warming From Twitter

by June 24, 2011

snapshot-ca A couple of months ago, we posted results from a quick sampling of mood about global warming in the Twittersphere that was featured in Momentum, the publication of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Along with our work on weather mood and mood about gas prices, we are on the verge of releasing a more in-depth analysis of sentiment about global warming. Here, we explain the method behind our sentiment analysis related to global warming, building off an earlier post that presented some of the details of our methodology on studying global warming chatter. (more…)

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To Persuade, or Not to Persuade? That’s A Key Question in Science Communication

by June 11, 2011

The philosophy behind Dialogue Earth is deeply rooted in a sense that our provision of information should be advocacy-free in order to maximize trustworthiness (see our history and strategy sections). That is, providing information about an issue while also urging the public to take a particular action based on this information has the real potential to erode trustworthiness, especially among those audience segments who are likely the most important: those people who are skeptical about the credibility of the information and the intentions of its source. This becomes all the more true for issues that are controversial, where I believe advocacy-driven information campaigns can deepen the societal polarization (here’s a short video I recorded explaining more about how I feel we can cut through the polarization, based on an op-ed that I penned for the Pioneer Press in April).

I recently discussed this issue in the context of an edgy hip-hop video featuring climate scientists that has become a YouTube phenomenon over the last month. In that piece, I referenced a 2010 letter to the editor in the journal Science by Bowman and colleagues that advocates for a new initiative to spread information about climate change, and that this initiative should be rooted in a nonpersuasive approach.

Digging into this issue further, it is clear that there is a debate centered on the goal of science communications. To boil things down into a few words: those calling for advocacy and persuasion by scientists cite growing disregard for science in public discourse and within policymaking, while those who urge caution suggest that mixing advocacy with the provision of science-based information jeopardizes the trust in the source of such information. By the way, a great book to read as background on the role of science in American society is “Unscientific America” by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirschenbaum. (more…)

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Relevancy and Context are “Critical” with Sentiment Analysis

by May 24, 2011

September 11 Whenever I come across a piece that highlights how tricky sentiment analysis truly is, I tend to be encouraged more often than dissuaded to keep trying to figure it out.

Sentiment analysis is tough—not as in strict, like a teacher is tough, or in resilient, like a marathoner is tough. More like hard, like an AP calculus test is tough.  Not hard, like a block of concrete is hard.  Hard, as in difficult.  Eh, nevermind.

A colleague of mine just sent me a piece from the Miller-McCune site discussing a flawed mood study about September 11 pager text messages.

Researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany had concluded that there was an escalating level of “anger” words communicated to pagers as time passed on September 11 (here’s the study).  I’ve included the original data graph in this post. (more…)

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Sleuthing Out Questions about Hybrid Cars from Twitter

by May 20, 2011

It is hardly news that we are all paying a lot at to fill up our vehicles. As we prepare to launch a multi-week analysis of mood about gas prices (here’s the background on how we extract sentiment from tweets), I’m curious what questions people have that may have been sparked by high gas prices.

Questions around the topic of hybrid cars/vehicles seem like a good starting point, given that one of the key benefits of hybrids is the potential to cut down on fuel expenses. One goal could be to create something like this Wired flow chart that is designed to help people choose a social search site. Not sure yet what the starting question would be to draw in as many people as possible on the topic of hybrids, but I think it would need to be responsive to feeling pain at the pump. One can imagine an interactive flow chart that offered up explanatory videos at various decision points.

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So, what are people asking about hybrids on Twitter? Below is a sampling of what I observed from a quick search on the string “hybrids ?” (by the way, I’m impressed with Storify’s handy interface for creating this kind of graphic). (more…)

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Hope for Human Sentiment Analysis Coding

by May 13, 2011

I just read an interesting blog post on Social Times discussing the advantages of machine-based sentiment analysis. In the piece, author Dr. Taras Zagibalov challenges the critics of “automatic” sentiment analysis, who claim that humans can better determine than computers the sentiment of social media text. He asserts that, with the proper tuning of a system’s classifier—creating specific classifiers for each domain (subject matter) and keeping them current—a machine-based sentiment analysis system can outperform human accuracy.

The discussion of human vs. machine sentiment is core to our work at Dialogue Earth, where we are developing Pulse—a social media analytics tool to help tease out nuances in the social media dialogue about key societal topics. Pulse social media analytics tool (more…)

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Have We at Dialogue Earth Broken Free of Randy Olson’s “Nerd Loop”?

by May 9, 2011

nerd-loop-piecePrior to reading Andy Revkin’s post Climate, Communication and the ‘Nerd Loop’ just now, I was unaware of Randy Olson’s newly coined term the “Nerd Loop.” It is a term that he recently gave to in-the-box strategies for communicating science to general audiences (read about it on his blog, The Benshi).

Olson argues passionately that there needs to be more risk taking in the science communication realm. I equate this to needing more out-of-the-box approaches, some of which will fail and some of which will help members of the public to understand a bit more about important issues like global warming, energy, food, water, land use, and so on. There won’t be a single approach that will work in all cases. Nor do I expect that there will be massive uptake of new information. It’ll be a slow, gradual process.

For me, I think the key for out-of-the-box approaches to work is that there needs to be an underlying genuine quality. Is there an effort to change people’s minds, or just to inform? If the goal is ultimately to change people’s minds, I deeply believe that even the most out-of-the-box efforts to raise literacy on a number of key issues connected to the environment will face barriers.

That’s why I’m committed to a non-advocacy approach with Dialogue Earth. We’re advocates for good information being present in societal dialogue and decision making. Period.

I believe that our strategy based in understanding the public dialogue, building credibility by drawing in a wide spectrum of experts, and ultimately delivering highly-engaging, crowd-based multimedia products holds lots of promise.

Ultimately, we can convince ourselves that we’ve stepped outside of the box, but our opinion amounts to very little. What do you think?

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Oil Companies’ Profits to Increase Greatly This Year; People’s Energy-Related Questions to Follow Suit.

by May 5, 2011

The rapid increase in oil prices should equate to the oil industry having its best year since 2008, as reported by Chris Kahn for AP (via ABC). Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhilips are expected to report a combined $18.2 billion in first quarter earnings — a 40% increase from last year and just shy of the $20.2 billion that they earned in the first three months of 2008.

An increase in consumption, the constriction of supply (e.g., Libya’s reserve access is currently limited), and also a weaker US dollar are all speculated to contribute to an increase in oil prices.

While some stand to benefit from the rise in oil prices (shareholders), businesses and consumers will feel the hurt as gasoline prices inflate. Increases in gas prices tend to have ripple effects, increasing the prices of transportation and any good or service that is reliant on transportation — bread, toiletries, DVD players, air plane tickets, etc.

The broad societal effect of an increase in oil prices is precisely what makes this issue of interest to Dialogue Earth.  This will undoubtedly augment expressed sentiment related to energy across social media platforms, such as Twitter. (more…)

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Just Around the Corner: A Longer-Running Pilot On Weather Emotions

by April 27, 2011

This week the weather in the U.S. has been pretty unusual. We set a record for rainfall here in the Twin Cities, which is really a footnote to the week compared to the violent extreme weather in the Southeast and beyond. While understanding how people are feeling about the weather day-to-day won’t change the weather, we see it as a great starting point for developing our Pulse system for tracking public opinion on issues discussed in the social media.

As a follow-on to our first weather pilot, we are gearing up to monitor mood about the daily weather across the U.S. for weeks at a time. In fact, we are just completing a run of about 8000 Twitter tweets through our “crowd-based sentiment engine” using the CrowdFlower platform. Once we have double-checked the results, we are set up now to collect tweets continuously, automatically send them over to CrowdFlower for sentiment judgments, have the judgments returned to our database automatically, and then publish the data on our interactive Pulse display. We expect to be analyzing several thousand tweets through CrowdFlower on a daily basis in order to create a detailed map of weather mood for the U.S. (see more here about our data sampling strategy). Look for more on this in the coming days. The image below is a sneak peek at our interactive platform, which our team has overhauled in recent weeks. It should prove to be a much-improved user experience!

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Bringing Trustworthy Energy Information to the Table

by April 20, 2011

This opinion piece authored by Kent Cavender-Bares was published in the Pioneer Press on April 20, 2011.

‘We need all of our energy options on the table!’ So say those advocating for the removal of the legal barrier preventing new nuclear plants in Minnesota. I completely agree with the sentiment and would go a step further: We need to understand all of our energy options so we can make informed decisions about them.

Does this mean entering a cycle of unending study? No. Expert studies certainly have their important role. But they are not the weak link. Rather, what is missing is an adequate transfer of knowledge from the expert community to the rest of us regarding the multiple, unequal options available. We need translators to bring technical key points to life in a way that furthers our understanding while remaining faithful to the underlying science and technology.

The challenge in making that happen with complex, controversial topics such as nuclear energy is twofold.

First, it means traversing the gap between the language of those who understand a technology like nuclear energy and the rest of us. That is where great communicators come into the picture.

Second, it means separating trustworthy information from hyperbole. We need to be able to identify and then clearly communicate a knowledge base that is widely shared by experts drawn from across society — experts from corporations like GE and Xcel as well as academics and experts from various advocacy groups and government agencies. (more…)

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A Sentimental Look at SXSW

by March 21, 2011

 

sxsw-banner South by Southwest (SXSW) is the annual opportunity for startups across art and technology to prove themselves or, more often than not, generate buzz in the attempt. Whether you’re checking out the latest surf rock 3-piece or organizing drinks via group text, SXSW generates chatter – and a lot of it.

We couldn’t resist the lure of participation, albeit from across the country, so we decided to turn our developing Pulse technology, for analyzing social sentiment, on the interactive portion of the event. We focused on something a little different, though…

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Digging into the South-by-Southwest (SXSW) Twitter Traffic on Apple & Google

by March 16, 2011

ssGiven we couldn’t be at South by Southwest (SXSW) this year, we thought it would be interesting to apply our developing Pulse technology to the Twitter chatter connected with the event. Pulse represents our approach to sifting out interesting information from social media dialogue. Our first major application has been in the area of weather mood, a pilot study of which is chronicled here.

The quick overview is that we leverage the power of the crowd using CrowdFlower’s platform to extract a high-quality, nuanced understanding of sentiment from Twitter tweets. Prior to going to the crowd, we develop a strategy to create a survey that we can give to crowd-based workers so that they can make reliable judgments about author sentiment. We then collect a bunch of relevant tweets, do some pre-processing to limit the size of the sentiment coding job sent to the crowd, do some preliminary rounds of coding to ensure quality control, and then run a coding job on a large number of tweets. (more…)

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Preparing to Extract Weather Mood from Tweets

by March 3, 2011

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Yep, it was cold this morning in the Twin Cities. I didn’t need Twitter to tell that. Yet, we can’t always assume that, just because it is cold, people are upset, or that because it is warm, people are happy about the weather. But, we believe tweets will reveal something quite interesting: how people’s emotions are indirectly affected by the weather. For example, are people happy to be inside watching a movie even though it is “super chilly” outside? Or happy that the it is raining because it will help the garden, even though they may not be eager to be out in the rain themselves?

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Having set the stage for tackling the issue of weather mood on our Pulse platform, here I describe our process for developing weather as a Pulse topic. (more…)

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A Journey to Understand Social Media Sentiment

by February 14, 2011

Brand Bowl 2011

Chrysler stood atop the final standing for Brand Bowl 2011.

On Super Bowl Sunday, 106.5 million viewers were watching the big game—the largest TV audience ever, according to Nielsen. Many tuned in to witness the Packers battle the Steelers; even more, I imagine, were watching to see emerging brand Groupon face off against fan-favorite Go Daddy and advertising stalwarts Pepsi, Doritos and Volkswagen.

Millions were simultaneously browsing the Web, monitoring game stats and their Super Bowl pools, and checking out the brands advertised on the TV spots. A much smaller group of advertising and social media junkies were simultaneously glued to “Brand Bowl 2011,” a venture between ad agency Mullen and social media monitor Radian6 to monitor and rank the sentiment of Twitter references of Super Bowl advertisers. (more…)

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