Sentiment Symposium: “Engagement: The Unspoken Connection”

In a couple of weeks time I’ll be heading over to New York to attend the Sentiment Symposium to speak on the topic of Engagement Analytics. I face this with both excitement and trepidation. Excitement because the event has a impressive line-up of speakers and I expect lots of great insight and energetic dialog during the event. Trepidation because I will be talking about engagement and not sentiment, so I’m not sure if people will “turn on” or “switch off” during my session. I’ll be pumping pure oxygen into the room just in case ;-)

So why am I talking about engagement at a sentiment symposium? Because I believe that understanding the dynamics of the people graph tells us something about individuals that cannot be uncovered by looking at them in isolation. It has the potential to give us insights into motives, biases, influences, agendas, and context behind their actions. There are also some strong indications, at least in the enterprise, that changes in network dynamics may tell us more about an individual’s sentiment than what they actually say.

And from whence came my passion for analysis of the people graph? Well, that’s a bit of a story…

A physicist by education I’ve spent the last 2 decades in the software industry in a number of different roles — ouch, that makes me positively ancient :-) — however it was only in 2001 that I found my passion; analytics. And a number of steps got me from there to here.

Step 1 (Content Analytics): I joined IBM in 2001 to build the next generation of NLP technology for IBM. The project was the 3rd generation of IBM LanguageWare which initially started back in the ’80s. This project was a great learning experience as I got to work with a very smart engineering team, researchers (both inside and outside IBM), consultants, and customers across geographies and industries. This exposed me to both technological and business perspectives on the strengths and weaknesses of NLP; such as its difficulty integrating complex domain knowledge into the analysis process.

Step 2 (Semantic Web): So in 2005 I joined a European Framework project, NEPOMUK – The Social Semantic Desktop, to create a personalized intelligent work environment. This project was long before Facebook or Twitter, however we had e-mail, calendars, and documents, and so I was exposed to the joys of analyzing social semantic networks and then started my fascination with harnessing of human knowledge.

Step 3 (Social Web): And then the motherload lands on our laps with the emergence of social media. This allowed us move from a personal perspective (ala Nepomuk) into a global one. And even better still, along came bigdata architectures which allowed us to crunch through these massive amounts of content and network data. Woohoo!!!!

Step 4 (Systems of Engagement): Finally, and this is the last step in the journey so the end is near :-), as I started to work on the business application of people networks it became clear that social is just one dimension and that the network can encode much more than social interactions. This is when I became interested in the more generalized Enterprise Network derived from Systems of Engagement data. And so we arrive at Engagement Analytics which I will be discussing at the Sentiment Symposium.

For those attending the event I look forward to meeting you. It should be a good one!

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