Entries from March 2008 ↓

Sentiment analysis has more legs than we’d bargained for

I used to cover a lot of so-called sentiment analysis vendors, that is companies that used text analysis techniques to mine the Web to determine how consumers feel about something, be it a company, product, movie or whatever.

Companies like BuzzMetrics, Biz360 and Cymfony sprung up to serve this market. Some got bought – BuzzMetrics is now part of Nielsen and Cymfony was picked up by TNS Media Intelligence in February 2007. Biz360 meanwhile is still independent and plugging away.

Around the time we published our Text-Aware applications special report in mid-2005 we thought this stuff would move beyond appealing solely to marketing and PR professionals to blaze some sort of trail of text analysis into the enterprise, rather like analysis on structured data has done via the likes of SAS Institute and SPSS. Well, it didn’t, though we still think in general enterprises will adopt text analysis, but that’s for another post.

But I’m amazed to find, turning back to look at the sentiment analysis market after recent conversations with the likes of Jodange and veteran Lexalytics (which is an enabler of this stuff rather than selling the service itself) and reading Matthew Hurst’s posts on sentiment mining that there’s way more companies now than there were 2-3 years ago (so much for traditional maturation models leading to consolidation, or perhaps, with our eye on innovation we were just too early?). But the somewhat disappointing thing to notice was that they are still to doing much the same thing with what appears to be much the same technology.

So here’s a list of what we would broadly call sentiment analysis companies in alphabetical order (some old, some new, some stealth). This is list far from comprehensive and very North American-focused, so I realize I’m probably missing a lot.

It was originally compiled for our internal use, but once I realized just how much of this stuff there is around, I thought I’d share it to see if I could find anymore.

Andiamo Systems – I don’t know them but pricing it by ‘mention’ makes me wonder how sophisticated the sentiment analysis is – more mentions doesn’t necessarily equate to anything other than more mentions.

Biz360 – veteran of the space

BrandIntel – appears to involve a bit of manual labor, rather than a pure software approach

Buzzlogic – recent startup with a lot of er, buzz

Collective Intellect – company launched about a year ago, targeting financial services industry, which is somewhat tough right now

Infonic – British company formerly known as Corpora, has broader text analysis tools and used at Dow Jones, so I believe

Monitor110 – aimed at institutional investors, with Daper Fisher Jurvetson as investors

MotiveQuest – I don’t know them but from the website it may not be quite so technology-driven and more brute force, but I could be wrong

Nielsen Buzzmetrics – the 800lb gorilla that rolled up some of the early players

Nstein – has an Nsentiment module as part of its text analytics offering aimed at the publishing industry

Northern Light – veteran search company, has some sentiment analysis in its MI analyst product, but it’s document-level, which means the whole document is either one thing or another, when often stories can be both positive and negative

RavenPack counts Dow Jones as a partner and also claims to be able to do news-based algorithmic trading, which is ballsy, if nothing else

SentiMetrix – stealth, apparently

ScoutLabs – in beta and uses Lexalytics’ technology

SkyGrid – aggregates and analyzes financial news, includes Bill Burnham as an enthusiastic investor

Summize – analyzes online product reviews for sentiment

Umbria -focused on online sentiment analysis of social media, such as blogs

Here is our report on Lexalytics (451 login required to see full text) and our report on Jodange will come shortly.

We plan to speak to some (but not all) of the above in the coming and I’ll report back on what I find (though most of it will end up in our syndicated research). But if anyone knows of any significant omissions, please leave them in the comments, I’d love to know.

Marketing as a two-way dialogue

It’s not a secret that The 451 Group isn’t the largest of analyst firms. We plain and simple don’t have as many analysts as the biggest firms — don’t get me wrong, we have about 35, we’re not exactly tiny. But still, we have bigger coverage areas (we have a bit of a different focus which makes this work). There are pros and cons to this but one of the biggest pros is being able to look across a larger area at what sometimes seem to be unrelated or parallel trends to see the intersection. This can be difficult when you’re really heads-down covering one fairly narrow sliver of IT (I speak from experience on that one).

I split my time pretty evenly between content management (in a broad sense) and what we used to call team collaboration but is really now enterprise social software. I’m not alone in these areas. There are several folks here that also work on social software in particular as social computing is starting to impact so many other sectors (search, CRM, app development, etc.). In particular I work with Vishy Venugopalan who covers mash-ups and other types of social application development and our new research associate Anne Nielsen who joined us just recently to specifically help out in the area of social software (yay, welcome Anne!).

But I digress. What I wanted to talk about was a particular intersection point between content management and social software. For internal deployments, this intersection is pretty obvious. As team collaboration gets more social, blogs, wikis, profiles, shared tags and so forth are natural extensions for internal collab tools. Even though the cultural changes can be difficult, from a pure technology perspective, it’s not a stretch to see that a content management tool like Microsoft SharePoint, that started out in content management, must quickly morph into social software.

But what about on the external side, where social software is deployed in customer-facing environments? (I really am getting to the title of this blog post…). Web content management, the traditional home of an organization’s customer-facing web presence, is more and more about online marketing, figuring out how best to test and target content to increase “success” (however that is defined on a particular site).

At the same time marketers are investing more to analyze the success of campaigns, test offers and automate content and product recommendations, they’re also delving into the world of customer communities and user-generated content. Social software is increasingly being used to solicit customers for feedback, enable customers or site visitors to socialize with each other, and use social tools to better support, retain and increase the value of customers.

Are online marketing (targeting, personalization, advertising) and customer communities different things? Of course not.  Community contributions (votes, comments, blog posts) can make marketing more of a two-way dialogue,  not to mention the fact that explicit contributions could be a goldmine user data on which to base offers and recommendations.

Are early efforts in online marketing and customer communities separate, siloed, manned with separate technologies? Mostly. Are customers looking to change this? Not yet. But they will once they’re more experienced and successful in both areas.

This will have an impact on how these markets (online marketing and social software) consolidate and grow. It’s still early days, but definitely something I’ll be looking at a lot as I cover (with help!) both areas.

The state of ECM…and knowledge management?

I had a strategic counsel call last week with a large vendor thinking about expanding its product portfolio in the direction of ECM. We discussed whether this investment should be in the area of records management and archiving or full-boat document management with BPM.

Well, according to AIIM’s recent “State of the ECM Industry” survey, 2008 spending plans are focused on the records, documents, and processes, so it seems either bet could be a smart one. John Mancini elaborates:

At the top of the list of spending plans for the next 12-18 months are workflow/BPM (45% planning a spending increase), document management (45%), and records management (43%).

The whole AIIM survey is available and is interesting reading if you follow ECM.

Another thing I noted in these survey results is that only 5% of respondents plan to spend “much more” than last year on “Enterprise 2.0.” This is the same amount that plans to spend “much more” on knowledge management. And 24% of respondents plan to spend “slightly more” this year on “knowledge management,” compared to only 20% on “Enterprise 2.0.”

I wonder what they put in the knowledge management bucket that’s separate from “Enterprise 2.0?” I would certainly argue that social networking and related technologies are the latest-and-greatest type of knowledge management, especially when you’re talking about internal deployments. We even went so far as to delete ‘knowledge management’ from our taxonomy...

The 451 taxonomy

We’ll occasionally use this blog to discuss our own internal taxonomy work. We ask enough vendors if they eat their own dog food, as it were, so it’s only fair we turn the spotlight on ourselves occasionally.

We here at 451, like all industry analyst companies that publish research have our own issues with categorizing our reports and making them easy to find. We started in an ad-hoc fashion when we launched back in 2000 with eight broad sections and some basic metadata but without any real plan. We gradually added to the categories till we came to a point a few years ago when I realized unless we took a more coordinated approach to a taxonomy and categorizing reports across all our products and services we were heading for trouble.

So, with experience gleaned from talking to numerous vendors and users over the years I embarked on developing a single taxonomy for the whole company. Our IT team built our own taxonomy editor and another tool to sort out reconciliations between old and new taxonomies.

But until Kathleen joined in 2006 however it was still something of a side project, but she used her experience of doing a similar project at Giga to propel the project along and I’m pleased to be able to say we’re now satisfied that we have all the bases covered. However, we know a taxonomy is never finished and we are constantly making small revisions as the industry shifts.

How we use the taxonomy still varies from product to product, however. Our M&A KnowledgeBase has always used a taxonomy as the basis of helping customers find deals, and we have just ported that product over to the new taxonomy, meaning it has gone from 300 or so categories to more than 600 (and I know more is not always better, but you’ll have to trust me on this one, or better still sign up for a trial!). It’s a much more balanced representation of the tech, internet and telecoms industry than before.

This means our Market Insight Service, TechDealmaker and M&A KnowledgeBase are all using the same taxonomy, although only the last of those currently exposes it. We use additional themes to group our research in key areas, such as open source, enterprise security or our work with the European Union. We also use the taxonomy to drive internal tools to help us manage our coverage areas and output.

In future posts I’ll talk about specific elements of the taxonomy and also how we’re planning to roll it out across all our research, improve our search engine and overall make it easier for customers to find the research they need.

Open source content management in a city near you…

I came across this announcement today that Dutch open source content management play Hippo has “taken over all activities of the San Francisco based portal-specialist BlueSunrise.”

Seth provides some details:

Hippo BV bought David Sean Taylor’s (of Apache Jetspeed fame) company Blue Sunrise. David is now the VP of Engineering and gives Hippo a presence on the West Coast (Bay Area). I don’t know of any North American customers running on Hippo CMS yet. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Blue Sunrise customers running on Jetspeed start to move toward Hippo Portal, which is based on Jetspeed.

Hippo is one of several European open source efforts in the content management realm expanding operations, an indication of the activity in this area at the moment. eZ Systems has announced a new managing director for North America, who will be tasked with opening an eZ office in Chicago. French company Nuxeo opened a UK office last year and the Drupal start-up Acquia, led by Dries Buytaert from Belgium, is based here in Boston. Knowledgetree (headquartered in Cape Town but with offices in London) is also starting up on the West Coast.

What’s the right level of automation in content targeting?

I spoke with two web content management (WCM) vendors in the past week that are investing heavily in online marketing. In the WCM realm, this mostly means user-friendly tools that marketers can use to not only create content for a web site but also to test it and target it to site visitors.

A question I’ve been asking lately is, how automated can / should this targeting be? Interwoven, FatWire, Tridion and others have tools that let marketers segment visitors and then build some rules around how content should be targeted to these segments. This is a fairly manual process – segments and rules have to be manually created and managed. This is workable for sites that have a few broad segments and relatively shallow content / product catalogs. But wouldn’t be manageable with multiple, detailed customer segments and a deep product catalog.

This is one of the reasons Amazon, with arguably the deepest product catalog around, has long applied what we used to call “collaborative filtering” on its site — you know, the “readers who bought X also bought Y.” This approach has its own drawbacks to be sure (on Amazon, I get a strange list of recommendations based on the books I purchase for myself, for my kids or as gifts) but it wouldn’t be feasible for someone at Amazon to manually create cross-sell rules for every item Amazon sells.

A crew of start-ups like Baynote, Aggregate Knowledge and Loomia offer updated approaches to collaborative filtering that use more inputs (like time on page, search terms, clicks, scroll rate etc.) than early collaborative filtering tools. These vendors take different approaches (i.e., behavioral vs. contextual) but they’re similar in making recommendations automatically.

Some WCM vendors note that customers are leery of a “black box” making recommendations with live content on their sites. That isn’t surprising really. They also note that most customers are only beginning to segment customers or to get their feet wet with content testing (like multivariate testing to test layout or content success rates) and aren’t ready for automated recommendations yet. Still, Vignette just signed an OEM agreement with Baynote, so there must be some interest.

So which is the right approach? Ultimately both rules-based and automated targeting are likely to have roles to play. As emerging online marketing suites that include WCM, web analytics, testing and targeting tools come together, they’ll let the marketers choose the right approach for different types of content and/or different customer segments. But we aren’t there yet.


I admit this was my first thought when I read this post by Alex Loddengaard on the Redfin Developers’ Blog. Redfin evaluated a number of open source CMS tools, including Alfresco, Drupal, Joomla, Mambo and Plone but found only Bricolage (written in Perl) met their requirements for multi-site publishing, templating and staging. It seems like the 2.9 release of Alfresco’s Community edition (which maps to the 2.2 Enterprise edition) probably would fit the bill now, but wasn’t available at the time of this initial eval.

I checked in with our open source gurus and they’re familiar with Bricolage and note that it has a substantial following.  But I hadn’t come across it before. There is also a commercial play for Bricolage services and support.

Many of the folks at Redfin, including CEO Glenn Kelman, came from Plumtree Software and I’ve known them for ages. I chatted with them at one point as they were making this choice before they found Bricolage. As they found the open source tools inadequate and the commercial tools to be too much (in more ways than one), I had suggested a SaaS provider like Crownpeak as a reasonably priced alternative – or at least one where the costs get chunked up, making them easier to swallow.

But for a company like Redfin, which provides real estate services online, the website is essentially the product (along with the real estate services themselves, I know) and open source seems a more natural fit, given the technical expertise on hand. This isn’t always the case in a comparably-sized company in a different line of business. It gets to a bit of what I was saying in yesterday’s post about the room that exists in ECM (and in this case the subsector of WCM specifically) for multiple vendors and models. Congrats to the folks at Redfin for finding the right one.

Public ECM companies? Open source and SaaS are next

Just catching up on feed reading (impossible) after being out at AIIM so much last week and saw Dennis Byron’s post at Seeking Alpha about enterprise content management investment opportunities. He looked at the AIIM show floor through the lens of the public markets and found few investment vehicles, at least at present. He missed one or two – consolidation in 2006 did take Stellent and FileNet off the public market, but Open Text, Vignette and Interwoven remain (these last two were absent from the AIIM show floor).

Byron also identifies the right prospects for a year or two out. Alfresco (open source) and SpringCM (SaaS) both had big booths at AIIM and are two of the most interesting companies to watch in ECM at the moment. Alfresco may be a bit further along — John Powell, Alfresco’s CEO, is on record saying 2009 is a target for an IPO. But the two are comparably sized with 70ish employees and probably something like $10m for a bookings run rates (both have annual subscription models).

This is of course peanuts to the Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and EMC crowd that dominates ECM these days but may point to the future nonetheless — or at least a future. We consistently hear from traditional ECM players that open source and SaaS don’t come up much competitively, which I think is an indication that change will be slow in coming. It’s also a reminder though that “ECM” is a fractured market with many sub-sectors and room for many players (SpringCM and Alfresco don’t really compete, for example, even with business models aside). Success of new vendors and models doesn’t necessarily displace established ones particularly in ECM, which means many things.

Our take on M&A in enterprise search

I’ve gathered all my current thinking on potential M&A in enterprise search in a SectorIQ that we published earlier this week to our customers. In it, I look at four main potential targets plus a few other small ones and look at a few of the likely acquirers. (This is the way we write all our Sector IQs, btw and they’re a great way of getting a quick grasp on what might be coming down the pike in any particular sector of the IT industry)

Fortunately those of you that are not our customers (yet!) are able to read it via our arrangement with the New York Times DealBook section. Click here to see the NY Times posting or go here to go straight to the report – and while you’re there, sign up for a trial of our M&A KnowledgeBase, where we’ve been collecting details of every IT, internet and telecoms deal since the start of 2002!

Finally, a quick word about the headline. We like to have some fun here at 451 with these things and while I appreciate that this one might have been pushing things a little in terms of clearly explaining what the report was about, when else would I be able to use it? 😉

AIIMing for social software

No surprise really that social software, social publishing and other types of socializing were hot topics this week at the AIIM show here in Boston. I started out the week at Drupalcon (co-located at AIIM this year), the community event for the open source Web publishing tool Drupal. This was my first time at Drupalcon, or really at any open source user event of this size. A couple things struck me. First and most superficially, I stuck out a bit both due to my rather corporate-looking business attire (sorry guys) and because of my gender — a comment was made at the start of the event that the attendees were 93% male.

But much more interesting was the level of engagement. Cheers and audience participation during the keynote by project lead Dries Buytaert were plentiful. The event was packed (there were 800 attendees and they had expected 500) and there appeared to be a high level of engagement among folks in the sessions and the hallways. (And I wasn’t the only one sticking out for looking a little corporate – I think the guys from Acquia, the new Drupal start-up were in the same boat. 451 Group clients can read our write-up on Acquia here (log-in required)).

AIIM didn’t have the same level of excitement but there was still a common thread between the two events. Part of Drupal’s popularity is due to its community features and the availability of modules to add capabilities like feed management, voting and so forth. Other vendors that fall into a broadly defined content management market are busy adding similar capabilities either to WCM tools that will ultimately deliver community features to site visitors or to content contributor UIs within apps themselves. I met with folks from Day Software, Alfresco, IBM, Salesforce.com and Oracle and support for communities, collaboration and user-generated content are hot topics. Interestingly, it was not a focus during a meeting with Google — no social features appear particularly imminent for Google’s Search Appliances.

I also attended an interesting session held by Tony Byrne of CMS Watch. Tony looked at CMS architectures and how those companies wishing to implement external communities or to support user-generated content on external sites may end up with best-of-breed tools for architectural reasons, even though WCM vendors are adding support for these features themselves. Interesting stuff.

There was no sense of irrational exuberance at AIIM though, not like last year’s Enterprise 2.0 conference that had a jammed showcase floor and overflowing sessions. AIIM is a massive show though and as it is co-located with the On Demand show, it’s an odd mix of photocopiers, printing machines and enterprise software. Several ECM vendors I met with including SpringCM, Xythos (which I found out was acquired by Blackboard last year in a deal that has been kept totally quiet), Hyland Software and Tower Software are much more focused on more traditional ECM problems, from process management to archiving, which are alive and well.