Data sharing site sifts through the substance of current events

Social networks have sprung up around unexpected applications. One of the most useful, especially in the uncertainty of the last few weeks, is, which is a social data visualization site. The premise is simple: People upload complex datasets that they feel they, and others, would like to analyze. The site then allows them to use some novel visualization tools.

Some of the best charts are available for public exploration, with no registration necessary. Here is one from the site’s home page today, dissecting the magnitude, in dollars, of various bailouts in recent history:

Click to go to

Other charts allow you to dig through data in unexpected ways. This word tree helps those interested in the substance of Katie Couric’s interview of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to take in Palin’s answers sentence-by-sentence, starting with key words:

Click to go to

The datasets cover the gamut, from the mundane, to the crucial, to the sublime (example of this last type: All of song writer Leonard Cohen’s lyrics). Visit the site to see your world in a new way.

Hear Nancy Hernandez speak to the Milwaukee Interactive Marketing Assoc.

For those who missed it, the Milwaukee Interactive Marketing Association has just posted this podcast of the presentation on Multi-cultural Online Marketing, presented at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Milwaukee.

As an office of the organization, I’d love to hear your comments on the topic, the locale, and the presentation itself. Especially the topics.

What are the topics you’d like to learn about?

Expanded Facebook Lexicon helps marketers understand user zeitgeist

In the early days of radio journalism, reporters would conduct “man on the street interviews,” to get the opinion of “John Q Public.” The news-gathering ritual has extended into television reporting today. The technique makes for interesting coverage of a topic, but opinions recorded are hardly the unvarnished truth. When presented a microphone, all but the most incautious of us edit out statements to fit what he’d like the world to think of us.

If it were possible, a more accurate accounting of public zeitgeist might be to eavesdrop on a roomful of friends, discussing and arguing about the topic at hand. Listen in on enough rooms and you might be able to get a better feel for public sentiment.

That’s the concept behind Facebook’s Lexicon. This (currently) free feature allows marketers and others to slice and dice Facebook members’ comments on their friends’ Walls. Currently this new Lexicon version is limited to a list of roughly 20 terms. There are plans to open this up shortly.

An earlier Lexicon version showed relative volume of terms over time, but not actual numbers. This made any sort of statistical inferences impossible. The newer release shows the actual numbers, as well as these enhancements:

  • Demographics by gender and age
  • Geographic breakdowns down to state level. You can even compare breakdowns between two terms on the same map.
  • Sentiment over time, although Facebook hasn’t stated how it determines this.
  • Associations: Terms frequently mentioned alongside a given term.

Below is an example of terms associated with mentions of “Palin,” over the last two weeks. Significantly, it was within this period that Saturday Night Live (SNL) presented a much-talked-about skit, where Tina Fey played Sarah Palin at a press conference, standing beside Amy Poehler as a disgruntaled Hillary Clinton. The topic was sexism in the presidential race.

In the Associations graphic, the bottom dimension is gender, with the terms farthest to the right being used by more men than women. The graphic (which can be expanded by clicking on the image) shows that more women than men commented on Facebook walls during that time period with statements containing SNL, Tina Fey and skit (when also using the word Palin).

The caption at the bottom of the graphic helps you understand what you’re looking at:

The Y axis is the average age and the X axis is the average gender of users who posted the association. For example, a bubble up and to the left means that the association is more prevalent among older and more female users. A bubble down and to the right means that the association is more prevalent among younger and more male users. The size of the bubble indicates the number of times the word appeared alongside the topic in the given time window.

Explore Lexicon for yourself. And if you’re curious what all of the comments were about, check out the skit:

Hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold … Have fun!

Here’s a Help Wanted ad guaranteed to get noticed: Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. It was written by Antarctic explorer Earnest Shackleton, undoubtedly to make it clear that this was one opportunity that slackers could take a pass on. Ironically, the  challenges that my marketing technology team face sometimes seem just as formidable. And they persist in their struggles against the odds — as Shackleton’s heroic team did – for precisely the same reason: To have fun.

I’m sure that’s why it was included in this Eight Principles of Fun web slideshow presentation. Here’s another quote:

Do yourself a favor and watch this brief and inspiring presentation. I ordinarily do not enjoy these types of time-wasters. I’m more inclined to enjoy and share satires of this sort of rah-rah motivational blather. But I didn’t this time. And here’s why:

Most of the “There is no i in teamwork; We can do it if we don’t give up”-type presentations seem calculated to get us working folk more excited about doing the same old stuff faster and cheaper. If you consider your work life dull and frustrating, they seem to imply, “Look again! It’s really more exciting than you think!”

Yeah, right.

This presentation is far more subversive.

It talks not about achievement, but about the fuel that propels us to it: FUN. Yes, fun laughs at adversity. But it also laughs at authority — or at least the pomposity and rote conformity that often come with authority.

Take a look. And many thanks to personal and business coach Lindy Asimus for posting this.