SAS2011.jpgThe Sentiment Analysis Symposium was a great experience for me ! Back in Paris, I first thought of updating my last post on Opinion Mining and Sentiment Analysis. But the update grew heavier and heavier, so here's a enhanced one.


For more than a decade now, researchers from Text and Data Analytics, Computer Science, Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Processing, among others, have been working on technologies that could lead to analyze how people feel or what people think about something. In the current period, a great amount of commercial offers have been built on what is still to be taken as a Research Program. Here are some basic clues to get an idea of how this kind of content analysis technologies work.

One of the major issues dealing with huge amounts of User-Generated Content published online – also referred to as UGC – implies mining opinions, which means detecting their polarity, knowing the target(s) they aim at and what arguments they rely on. Opinion Mining/Sentiment Analysis tools are, simply put, derived from Information Extraction (such as Named Entities detection) and Natural Language Processing technologies (such as syntactic parsing). Given this, simply put, they work like an enhanced search engine with complex data calculation habilities and knowledge bases.

Applications with pieces of linguistics inside

Four types of applications are put forth in (Pang & Lee, 2008)’s reference survey :

  1. those seeking for customer insight, in movie or product reviews websites or in social networks ;
  2. the specific integrations within CRM (Customer Relationship Management) or e-commerce systems ;
  3. the strategic foresight and e-reputation applications ;
  4. and last but not least, political discourse analysis.

Automated textual summaries also stands as a very promising subtask, as it is currenlty deeply linked to data visualization for information summarization.

Among the numerous problematics related to Opinion Mining and Sentiment Analysis systems adressed in (Pang & Lee, 2008)’s, I would pinpoint two of particular interest from a linguistic point of view :

  1. linguistic – e.g. syntactic properties and negation modelization – and statistic – e.g. the type/token distribution within large amounts of texts - features as an important issue for systems improvement ;
  2. current processes for adapting Linguistic Resources- such as lexicons or dictionaries – to various domains as an impediment to cost-cutting and reusability.

Not as easy as it seems

Indeed, the Social Media industry expresses a growing interest and need towards NLP technologies to overcome issues such as accuracy, robustness and multilinguism. Sentiment Analysis & Opinion Mining became a promising business field a couple of years ago, as a very well documented post by Doug Henschen for Information Week explains.

But quick recipes are easily found on the web, as shown by a glance on Quora’s « How does Sentiment Analysis Work ? » thread. Also, a manichean way of viewing things, which implies an insuperable dichotomy between ''Linguistic Resources'' and ''Machine Learning'', is well-spread in the industry right now. As Neil Glassman writes on the latest Sentiment Analysis Symposium’s insights, he puts forth that there is a way

« Between those on one side who feel the accuracy of automated sentiment analysis is sufficient and those on the other side who feel we can only rely on human analysis », adding that « most in the field concur with /the idea that/ we Need to define a methodology where the software and the analyst collaborate to get over the noise and deliver accurate analysis.»

So the word is spread !

Putting forth the benefits of Textometry

Textometry is one of the major steps towards the new methodologies to achieve such a goal. Simply put, it is a branch of statistical study of linguistic data, where text is considered as possessing its own internal structure. Textometric methods and tools lead to bypass the information extraction step (qualitative coding), by :

  • applying statistical and probabilistic calculations to the units that make up comparable texts in a corpus ;
  • providing robust methods for processing data without external resources constraints (lexicons, dictionaries, ontologies, for example) ;
  • analyzing objects distribution within the corpus framework ;
  • improving the flow of building corpus-driven Linguistic Resources that can be projected on the data and incrementally enhanced for various purposes, such as Named Entity Recognition and paraphrase matching, resources for deep thematic analysis, and resources for opinion analysis.

Kurt Williams, Mindshare Technologies CTO, accurately wraps it up as follows :

« Using Textometry to leverage opinion analysis. It can be used to cluster authors who share similar opinions together. One approach for improving opinion mining, rather than starting with the individual leveling phrases, start with the context of the conversation first. In other words, many approaches often skip the step of analyzing the context of the text. »

Please find out more in the following presentation displayed at the Sentiment Analysis Symposium.

So this must be what sets up a hot topic : an emerging market, industrial R&D and academics chasing for better solutions and improved systems, and a pluridisciplinary field of interest !

Post scriptum

Special thanks to Seth Grimes who chaired the Sentiment Analysis Symposium and Neil Glassman who nicely quoted me in his post.

Post Update Just to let you know that Seth Grimes nicely provides videos of the SAS'11 Talks and Lighting Talks. You can find my french-accent speech here :)