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October 20, 2011

IBM, USC Tackle Major League Data

Nicole Hemsoth

Researchers at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab released a joint statement with IBM today that reveals how academia is making use of big social data.

The Annenberg Innovation Lab has created a “Social Sentiment Index” using IBM Social Analytics technology to sift through innumerable tweets about everything from retail to fashion. The social media analytics project involved sentiment around the National League Championship Series, and will, according to a statement from IBM “broaden the index to follow the World Series games beginning tomorrow to determine ‘social media MVPs.’

Last May IBM released its social media analytics tool, which was designed to capture data from a number of social networks, including Twitter. These analytics tools, buckled under the name SPSS Modeler Data Mining and Text Analytics Workbench, uses natural language process to take the temperature of everything from brand names to slang and overall “mood” of the Twitter kingdom.

IBM claims a number of customers for this product already, including Rosetta Stone and Money Mailer.  While some argue that price and learning curve for the product are far beyond the grasp of SMBs, “for larger enterprises that need robust technologies and can’t risk entrusting data collection to a startup web app, IBM’s software might very well provide the features they need.”

The researchers hope to show how it is possible to discover previously unseen trends and insights from the social media data to demonstrate how data-driven approaches can be valuable in other contexts.

The USC Annenberg Social Sentiment Index has already been used to harness social media data to predict film box office success and to identify top retail fashion trends.

According to Jonathan Taplin, USC professor and director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab, “Our work with IBM is a great demonstration of how Watson-inspired technologies, like sophisticated semantic and linguistic analysis software, can crunch Big Data to quickly gain temperature checks on timely issues.”

Taplin points to the competitive advantage an analytics background can provide students, noting that “Throughout the past year, our students have developed analyses across other industries including movies and fashion retail. By taking a deep dive into the Twitterverse — concentrating on the short 140 character tweets and polling large data sets over a number of days – students are able to determine positive or negative sentiments in a matter of minutes. The results are helping students gain highly sought skills in analytics that can set them apart in the business world.”

IBM’s partnership with USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab is part of its push to increase analytics skills in academia. Big Blue says it’s working with 6,000 universities worldwide “to develop curricula and provide training, resources and support for business analytics.”

Curious about the findings of the analytics exercise? Read more here

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