Polecat: Mining for Meaning with MeaningMine

People now know that if you don’t want the world to know about something than don’t post it on the internet. (Sometimes sadly, but sometimes entertainingly, that particular message hasn’t quite reached everyone yet.)

For individuals it is quite possible to disappear from view online for most businesses this is neither a desirable or worthwhile option. After all, online is where the customers are. However, while a company can control its own postings it has no control over what others may say in response.

Leaving libel issues aside, these comments, whether they are hurtful or not, are a mine of invaluable data that, if thought about and acted upon correctly, could help the company shape a profitable future or enable a non-profit to have a more effective presence in ways that could not have been anticipated otherwise.

Data mining is a set of tools and techniques that enable individuals and organizations to find out how the data that they themselves are generating is being received, reacted to and given meaning by others. Correctly interpreted the results can show how a given activity or series of activities are being perceived by others.

This technology deployed in the fields of Business Information and Analytics is being found to be particularly useful and powerful. It can find the answers to the questions that any organisation that has an online presence has to ask itself on a consistent and regular basis. Such as:

Is what we are doing working?
Do people know we exist? One reason for the absence of sales may be the absence of knowledge about your product.
Do people care that we exist? Are customers seeing our product story as being relevant to them?
Is our offer appealing? Would people appreciate a bit more taste in the design and presentation?
Do people like or dislike dealing with us?
Are people interested but just not quite enough? What woud it take to make that sale?

These are just a few of the thousands of questions to which a new breed of specialist companies coming into existence in the big data space are able to retrieve meaningful answers. They have the technological capability to measure customer sentiment from many sources including the social media channels and be able to provide long-form analytics for business insights.

One such company is Polecat who are based in Dublin, Ireland. They have an R&D team in Bristol, in the UK, and an analytics team San Francisco, in the US.

According to John Peavoy, the Head of Sales at Polecat, “The company has done a lot of research into linguistics, machine learning and search algorithms. The team out of Bristol have created an engine that provides very relevant results to any search terms that you provide.”

The information acquisition platform is a program called MeaningMine which provides visualizations and graphs that can describe the health of a conversation: Key topics, key phrases, sentiment, magic quadrants around influencers and their key roles in a conversation.

“These are tools that enterprise will, typically, find very valuable as a briefing mechanism for the broader organization by informing decisions on how to engage with stakeholders on any particular subject.

“MeaningMine is a browser-based tool that allows you to enter various search terms, manage them, filter them and iterate and immediately see the results of any term you include in the research.”

John goes on to describe the MeaningMine interface, (screenshot above,) “You have a Google-like interface on the left. You have six standard visualizations or graphs, which are all customizable, on the right sid of the browser page. As you enter more terms into your search you can see the effect it has on either increasing or reducing your results. It makes the results more representative of what you are trying to find out.

“We have done a lot of work with some industry specific taxonomies around the energy sector, the financial services sector and some of the government sectors such as tourism.”

But this just the start. According to John, “We are also continuing to add visualizations. At the moment we have visualization around; top number of citations, the health of a particular conversation which is like an advanced sentiment analysis, top organizations, top people and top phrases and words.

“The next level of visualization, the more advanced visualizations which we will be introducing over the next quarter will include a force by sentiment chart — a graph that shows both positive and negative sentiment along a time axis. It provides a very strong snap shot of how a conversation is evolving or has evolved. It allows you to identify where you may need to engage with the stakeholders.”

Gartner estimated the business intelligence and analyis market to be worth over $10 billion in 2010. This is data derived from the software sales of big players such as SAP, Oracle, IBM etc. Another guesstimate, based on a broader base of platforms and tools, suggests the market could already have been worth as much as $50 billion two years ago.

Either way, the indicators show that the business intelligence, analytics and data-mining market is very much in the boom stage at the moment.

“The Irish organization has grown from two people at the end of last year to nine right now. We may be up to fifteen by the end of 2012. We are well on target to hitting thirty people in the Dublin office within three years if not sooner.”

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