Thoughts on the Text Analytics Summit

Overall, the conference was very interesting and well worth attending, from our perspective. Good attendance – 190 versus 140 last year – and a better mix of users and vendors, though not clear how many of those users came because of vendor sponsorships. Nevertheless it made for better discussions rather than vendors talking to themselves.

  • There wasn’t a lot to set one vendor apart from another. A lot of the vendor presentations were quite similar. This was summed up by a presentation from Ernest & Young at the end of Day 2, where ostensibly there as an Autonomy customer, the presentation actually showed tools from Megaputer and Seagate’s Metalincs, as well as Autonomy and he said ‘any of those guys next door [in the vendor exhibit space] could do this.” Quite.
  • SaaS will be one area where vendors can differentiate themselves from the pack, at least in the dshort term – Clarabridge and Attensity are leading the way there.
  • The thing most people wanted to know about was sentiment analysis. There’s a lot of vendors out there as we’ve noted before and a fair amount of confusion on the part of prospective users as to what it is, why it’s useful and what it might do for them. There will definitely be vendor consolidation over the next year in this space
  • The pre-conference workshop where I presented my overview of the vendor landscape was much more fun than I’d anticipated – I think my vendor overview went well – thought I wasn’t clear in what way it was a workshop, really just a couple of presentations from Seth Grimes and myself with questions afterwards, although we did some great follow-up in the bar, I guess that counts towards it! We had about 40 people there and over the next two days I met a few who said they didn’t show up because it was Father’s Day (word to the wise when organizing conferences ;)). For anyone waiting for my slides, I will send them to you, just drop me a line.
  • Everyone wanted to know what Facebok was doing and although it was interesting, I found it a little underwhelming, even if it was quite fun. Still they clearly have some very smart people there. What a corpus on which to experiment – the writing on everyone’s walls. I’m sure they’ll come up with more interesting applications of text analysis over time; indeed the presenter acknowldted that things like term disambiguation and sentiment analysis are on the roadmap, which is where things will ge interesting.
  • The EU government intelligence market may prove lucrative for some of these vendors, we intend to investigate that further ourselves.
  • As with any relatively obscure technology area, those implementing text analysis need to get some quick wins under their belt rather than go for the hardest problem first – Gaylord Hotels and Intuit (both Clarabridge customers, Clarabridge was the main sponsor) both emphasized that, as did others.
  • There was very little talk of semantic technologies, despite my best efforts to drum some up. I think that will change as text analysis and semantic tech are much more closely related than the players therein seem to want to admit.
  • There was perhaps too much content, a lot of presentations which fed the problem I mentioned earlier, of many vendors sounding very similar to one another.
  • There was not enough to be heard from the large vendors that have built or bought their way into this market – notably SAP-Business Objects (they was one person there from the Inxight team, but not presenting); SAS Insitiutite had a lot of people on the attendee list but most of them didn’t show for some reason, and although IBM had one presentation, I would have liked to have seen more. Microsoft’s presence was Matthew Hurst, who is clearly thinking pretty far ahead in terms of social media analysis and got a lot of people’s attention, including mine.

I’ll definitely be back next year.

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.