Data-Driven Crisis Monitoring: Turning Online Activity into Actionable Insights During Crisis Scenarios
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Data-Driven Crisis Monitoring: Turning Online Activity into Actionable Insights During Crisis Scenarios

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The proliferation and adoption of mobile phones and social media technologies presents new ways of capturing conversations surrounding crisis events in real-time. This allows researchers, analysts, ...

The proliferation and adoption of mobile phones and social media technologies presents new ways of capturing conversations surrounding crisis events in real-time. This allows researchers, analysts, and first-responders to explore events by monitoring many media sources (blogs, photos, web feeds, news sources, and tweets) from one environment.

The tragic situation unfolding in South Sudan is complex and evolving rapidly. The rate at which the fledgling state has descended into political and social unrest is distressing and highlights the need for urgent intervention. Thus, having ways to identify and engage influencers and to anticipate and potentially mitigate disastrous scenarios is greatly needed.

Using a combination of the data-analysis products available from D8A Group, we’ve been monitoring the unfolding events in real-time to illustrate ways our technology platforms can be used by NGOs, first-responders, civil society organizations and government agencies make data informed decisions in real-time in crisis scenarios.

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  • 1. CRISIS 
 2014 CASE STUDY Turning Online Activity into Actionable Insights During Crisis Scenarios
  • 2. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   ! !   Data-Driven Crisis Monitoring ! Real-Time Analysis and Data Mining of the 2014 South Sudan Crisis ! By Jon Gosier ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Version 3 2  
  • 3. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   ! ! TABLE OF CONTENTS ! Data-Driven Crisis Monitoring Real-Time Media Monitoring Contextual News Discovery Momentum Real-Time Zeitgeist Filtering by Keyword Exclusion Keyword and Phrase Networks Identifying Influencers Sentiment Analysis Geography Trends and Locations of Interest Predictive Analytics Risk Mitigation and the Timing Of Information ! 3 4 5 7 10 11 12 13 15 17 19 21 ! ! ! ! ! ! CONTACT ! D8A Group http://d8a.com ! Phone: (520) 301-7906 Email: jon@d8a.com 
 Version 3 3  
  • 4. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   4   Data-Driven Crisis Monitoring ! ! The proliferation and adoption of mobile phones and social media technologies presents new ways of capturing conversations surrounding crisis events in realtime. There is high demand for products that allow researchers, analysts, journalists, and first-responders to explore events by monitoring many media sources (blogs, photos, web feeds, news sources, and tweets) from one environment. ! As a real time example, we can look at the tragic situation unfolding in South Sudan, which is complex and evolving rapidly. The rate at which the fledgling state has descended into political and social unrest is distressing and highlights the need for urgent intervention. Thus, having ways to identify and engage influencers and to anticipate and potentially mitigate disastrous scenarios is key to timely intervention. ! Using a combination of the data-analysis products available from D8A Group, we’ve been monitoring the unfolding events in real-time to illustrate the ways our technology platforms can be used by NGOs, first-responders, civil society organizations and government agencies to make data informed decisions in realtime crisis scenarios. ! The solutions used for this analysis include: ! • SiftDeck: a product that connects online conversations to the people, places, and things being referenced offline. This helps organizations manage real-world risk to predict and avoid their offline assets from being threatened (think staff, office locations, or property). Version 3
  • 5. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   • 5   Themes: a product that allows users to visually sort through large amounts of text data or streaming data to surface patterns and trends in the content. It allows for the visual navigation of real-time data using search, word trees, keyword & phrase network analysis, and various filters. • Muxboard: a product with remixable analytic dashboards that allows researchers to apply various algorithms and third-party APIs to real-time, ever-evolving data sets using drag and drop ease. Muxboaard makes it easy to quickly create dashboards for different scenarios, each with intricate customizable analytics. ! Real-Time Media Monitoring The primary purpose of using technologies like the D8A suite of analytic products is to monitor and capture real-time data for forensic analysis and research. D8A’s products work across multiple communication channels. ! Though most users are primarily interested in analyzing Twitter’s real-time global data stream, our products work with mobile data streams (text messages), news articles and headlines, blogs, RSS feeds, JSON feeds, email, and can hook virtually any API made available. This makes our products flexible for any type of online activity monitoring. ! The added advantage of D8A’s particular set of products is the ability to research, sift through, and sort data streams in real time, allowing organizations to make data-driven decisions while events are still unfolding. ! Version 3
  • 6. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   6   ! ! ! Themes SiftDeck Muxboard Total Day 0 - Jan 8 0 0 0 0 Day 1 - Jan 9 7,933 4,348 2,000 14,281 Day 2 - Jan 10 14,936 8,537 8,000 31,473 Day 3 - Jan 11 23,821 17,056 9,869 50,746 Day 4 - Jan 12 27,689 21,522 11,127 60,338 ! Between Wednesday evening on January 8th and Sunday January 12th a total of 60,338 tweets were archived. Based on the amount of data filtered our products filtered in just four days , there’s more information than would ever be possible to track individually; to do so would be more time-consuming than it would be productive. ! The keywords tracked were various terms of interest, South Sudan, Sudan, juba, JubaCrisis, SouthSudanCrisis, Bor, Ichoosepeace, EastAfrica, Leer, Malualkon, Turalei, Nasir, MyTribeIsSouthSudan as well as the hashtag variations of each. ! These terms could be tracked individually, or in Boolean combinations (South AND Sudan, Sudan AND NOT football etc.). Tracking variations of how these terms might appear allows analysts to tell our products to aggregate very specific types or combinations of information, making the results more useful and relevant to their work and valuable to their organizations. ! Version 3
  • 7. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   7   The image above illustrates how all the raw information of our searches is accessible to analysts. They do not have to, and are encouraged not to, simply trust the algorithmic analysis we provide. All data can be viewed individually or exported into other environments (like Excel) where further analysis can be performed. ! Contextual News Discovery SiftDeck learns to aggregate news headlines based on keywords parsed from aggregated content. This is different from only aggregating content based on the keywords users enter because it provides a contextual stream of headlines based on the real-time conversation. In other words, SiftDeck recommends potentially related news headlines that a user may not even be aware of. So it serves as a real-time discovery and recommendation engine. ! This feature tries to answer the question: “what if I don’t know what I’m looking for?” Rather than the user programming every single detail into our products, Version 3
  • 8. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   8   they learn from both the user and the content creators to make new suggestions of which news items might be relevant to the research underway. ! ! ! Momentum Momentum is the term we use to refer to the qualities of a conversation. Does the conversation activity seem to be building or slowing? Are new people joining or are they leaving? Are the people involved from the beginning conversing more or less than they were from the start? Which keywords, influencers, and communication channels are leading the conversation? ! Version 3
  • 9. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   9   ! ! The image above was snapped at 2:58 PM EST on Friday, January 10, 2013 and chronicled the drop and eventual rebound of momentum surrounding the various keywords being tracked over the previous hour. ! ! ! Version 3
  • 10. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   10   Likewise, looking back over the previous days or weeks shows that there are lulls and bumps in the flow of the conversation over time. This directly correlates to events occurring in the real-world and the virality of news spreading online. For instance, we know from looking through the data that this uptick in activity correlates with when the U.S. made statements indicating that American troops might be deployed in Sudan. ! ! Version 3
  • 11. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   11   ! Real-Time Zeitgeist What are the recurring themes and phrases in a real-time conversation? The words, phrases, names, and locations that repeat may allow analysts to draw correlations between seemingly unrelated conversations. ! ! Were one not even paying attention to the situation in Sudan, if a word cloud all of a sudden started surfacing words like ‘conflict’, ‘prisoners’, ‘troops’ and ‘army’ (like in the above image) they could easily determine a dangerous situation might be unfolding in the region of focus. ! This ability to actively monitor the ‘zeitgeist’ or thematic relationships between conversations happening across disparate communication channels often proves Version 3
  • 12. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   12   powerful for organizations who have to plan suggested interventions or activities in real-time. ! Filtering By Keyword Exclusion More importantly, these word clouds make it possible to conditionally filter out conversations that actually are unrelated. ! ! ! In this case, the recurrence of the word ‘Munich’ in data streams monitoring conversations about Sudan was because of a football match between Sudanese and German teams1. After identifying messages that are skewing the research,   with our product,Themes, the user can simply click on the word (in this case ‘Munich’) and opt to exclude all data where Sudan and Munich (or other unwanted words) appear in the same sentence, while keeping all other data intact. !1  Bayern  Start  2014  on  Winning  Note        http://news.sudanvisiondaily.com/details.html?rsnpid=230943   Version 3
  • 13. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   13   ! Organizations using other products for social media analytics forget that many such tools don’t allow for the selective ‘cleansing’ of datasets to remove misleading or non-relevant content. ! Keyword and Phrase Networks ! ! Themes’ network graphs of words and phrases can provide a powerful means for visually controlling the underlying dataset. In this case, clicking on any word in Version 3
  • 14. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   14   the above graph, gives you the option to focus only on content that contains that word, or only on the content that doesn’t contain a particular word. A researcher might want to only view content where the phrases ‘troops’, ‘Sudan’, ‘president’ and ‘usa’ appear together. If so, it’s simply a matter of point and click, and the data is re-organized to fit that criteria. Terms can just as easily be excluded from the dataset. ! Identifying Influencers Monitoring digital conversations allows organizations to identify potential ‘thought leaders’, activists, actors or other people who may be influential in a given scenario. While it’s usually impossible to verify exactly who these actors are, and what their motives are, it’s useful to identify them, to conduct strategies for engagement and outreach. Version 3
  • 15. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   ! 15   ! In the real-time conversation regarding South Sudan the following non-news outlets were only some of those identified as potential influencers: @Juba_Horan, @juba_ddon, @Oxenstiema_IRL, @moseswasamu, @MundekeM, @PeterAcheyoLive, @AlMasryAlYoum, @Evalopa ! Having this information allows analysts to follow the public conversations of specific individuals. For instance, if any of these (or other) individuals are civilians actually in the country of interest, quickly building up such a list of trusted sources might be something the benefits the media monitoring activities. Analysts can then refocus their analysis on the contributions of specific individuals (or groups of individuals) as opposed to all individuals. Version 3
  • 16. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   16   ! Sentiment Analysis Sentiment analysis is a method of measuring the emotional tone of written text using computer programs. It attempts to weight different words in a body of text against one another, to ultimately provide a ‘score’ to the whole body of text that is either positive, negative, or neutral. ! Why is this useful? Because it allows users to algorithmically determine whether an online conversation is skewing positive or negative in tone. ! ! ! In the image above, it’s easy to quickly see that of the more than 6,972 messages analyzed in the first column, 1679 (25%) have been marked as being negative in tone, while 700 (10%) are positive. If the analyst wants to focus on Version 3
  • 17. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   17   the dataset that’s been marked negative, they simply click on that area of the graph. ! The content and related analysis is then sorted to focus on the ‘negative’ content. To give a usecase scenario, this would allow a researcher to view a list of influencers leading the negative tone of a conversation. In the past, this has allowed our users to identify individuals whom they would qualify as the ‘antagonists’ or ‘instigators’ who might be inciting violence or other unwanted activities. Being able to sort data in this way provides a powerful lens of context and discovery. More importantly, it allows analysts to constantly ask questions of the data itself through our simple drag and drop interface. ! ! ! The above screenshot looks at only the analysis of content negative in tone from a different data set than the previous image. You can see that 379 messages represent the negative content, of which 376 comes from Twitter, 3 items come from Google News, and we have a list of potential conversation influencers, as Version 3
  • 18. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   18   well as how much content they’ve contributed to the overall conversation. Analysts can now reach out to them directly, or begin monitoring these new sources of interest. Again, all of this is being done in real-time. ! Geography Trends and Locations of Interest Connecting this type of online research to offline activities and actions is a big portion of why people use data products like the ones provided by D8A. We use the social graph and natural language processing to algorithmically map various locations of interest to researchers. ! This might serve as a point for additional research (ex. “How does India relate what’s going on in Southern Sudan?”) or it might indicate hotspots of relevant activity, as indicated in the map below, where the discussion of refugees fleeing to Kenya and Uganda lead to those countries receiving pins on the map. ! ! ! Version 3
  • 19. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   19   The power of this information is that even with the most minimal knowledge of a situation, the maps and graphs generated tell a story. While knowing the context and having professional expertise in the given subject matter is absolutely necessary, when such knowledge is coupled with these kinds of visual data exploration tools, it’s possible to make the job of experts faster, more nuanced and efficient. ! D8A’s products (SiftDeck, Muxboard/MetaLayer, and Themes) are not meant to replace professional analysts and researchers, but to save them incredible amounts of time, ! ! Version 3
  • 20. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   20   ! Predictive Analytics When all of our products are combined, it’s possible to anticipate events, demands, or activities that have not happened yet. This is type of anticipatory response to data is based on an area of research called predictive analytics. ! By combining all of our insights into an informed narrative, researchers might be able to determine the correct actions to take well before it’s obvious. As with all systems, it’s possible these predictions can be wrong so rather than give researchers objectives, our products serve to provide the appropriate information for informed conversation and action. ! ! ! Version 3
  • 21. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   ! ! 21   ! In a scenario where an analyst is viewing multiple dashboards in an unfolding scenario, it’s possible to piece each of these different insights together to suggest action and give reasons for that action. ! In the case of South Sudan, well before these stories played out in the media, our team identified several influencers in-country and around the world. We knew that the situation was no longer contained to just South Sudan, but was now affecting the whole of the East Africa region; we knew that there appeared to be a rapid build of momentum in the conversations on the evening of January 9th leading into the 10th, and we know that the thematic tone of conversation was trending towards some sort of conflict. We also had the related breaking news stories confirming as much. ! ! Version 3
  • 22. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   22   ! Risk Mitigation and the Timing of Information While it’s possible to come to the same conclusions in a number of other ways, the timing of information often dictates its value, as well as the time it takes to aggregate all data sources to predict future conclusions. ! For a Wallstreet broker, receiving information that the CEO of a major company is about to be fired might indicate he needs to sell his position in that companies stock. However, receiving the information after the fact (ex. “the CEO was fired yesterday”) is an entirely different scenario. The first scenario allows him to mitigate risk in anticipation of a potential disaster. The other scenario allows him to make the same decisions, but the information is less valuable because he has less control over how the news affects things. A portion of the risk is already realized, thereby making the information less valuable. For the Wallstreet broker, the value of information could be valued in the millions or billions of dollars. For humanitarian organizations and journalists, the type of risk we try to help them mitigate might be measured in loss of life & property, or at the very least, quality of life for the people affected by these events. ! D8A’s products are designed to shift critical analysis of any situation, event, or phenomena from a retroactive exploration, to a real-time one. In the above scenario, the case was made that value of information is very much related to its timing. ! Thus, even if our products only slightly move the needle in regards to the time of information, there is a direct correlation to the amount of value that analysis Version 3
  • 23. Real-­‐Time  Analysis  of  Social  Media  Conversations  On  the  South  Sudan  Crisis   23   provides. Knowing how to potentially affect a situation in real-time can be exponentially more valuable than waiting for everything to play out, only to deal with the aftermath. ! While such actions need to be tempered with consideration for culture, context, privacy and law, there is value in time-shifting the research. It gives organizations the informed option of not waiting, allowing them to potentially influence more people, provide more help when its needed, and ultimately affect (and possibly save) more lives. Version 3