About

I'm a partner in the advanced analytics group at Bain & Company, the global management consulting firm. My primary focus is on marketing analytics (bio). I've been writing here (views my own) about marketing, technology, e-business, and analytics since 2003 (blog name explained).

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36 posts categorized "Online Communities"

March 28, 2007

Twying out Twitter

With encouragement from my friend Perry Hewitt, I've been fooling around with Twitter to get a better sense for what all the fuss is about.  Conclusion:  it's a service that provides an asynchronous chat room for group interaction via SMS, and this has its place and time.

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March 17, 2007

Bazaarvoice Reviews: Another Good "Structured Collaboration" Example

A lot of marketers these days are asking themselves how they can take advantage of "consumer-generated media" ("CGM").  The knee-jerk association for the term is with bboards, and more recently blogs and wikis.  I've suggested in the past that providing such "unstructured" publishing vehicles as a starting point for productive interactions online is often not very helpful.  A more sophisticated approach offers means of contribution where what they're for and how to use them (both to contribute and consume information) are more self-evident.

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Friendspammed

After a year of dormancy during which "Tom" has been my only friend on my MySpace page (set up to check out the service), I added a link to Octavianworld.  Stunned by its genius, three of the 163 million reported MySpace members sent me friend requests in the last two days. 

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March 13, 2007

Grokking Yahoo Answers 2.0

"Yahoo! Answers Adds Social Networking", writes Loren Baker at Search Engine Journal (nice demo video from the Yahoo! Answers team included).  With everyone trying to build an online community to grow these days, what to make of Yahoo's latest gambit?

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March 10, 2007

Clouded Vision

My new colleague Steven Forth, who is CTO of eMonitor (the content technology arm of Monitor Group) referred me last night to Many Eyes (http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/home), which is a social data visualization and interpretation service developed by the Collaborative User Experience (CUE) Research Group at IBM's Watson Research Center.   As the intersection of social software and content analysis is currently a high-priority professional interest, I decided to try it out. 

Among other visualization approaches to structured data sets, Many Eyes generates tag clouds from free text files.  Steven noted that in particular, the two-word view seems like a very powerful 80-20 cut at inferring predominant meaning in a body of text. 

I experimented by exporting the contents of this blog as a text file, progressively scrubbing useless Typepad artifact words and html tags that appear frequently (like "title", "breaks", "comments", and my name) out of the source file -- to do this I simply ran "edit/replace/'word', '[]'" in Windows Notepad  -- and then publishing the file on Many Eyes.  Here's the result (click on the image to manipulate the cloud on Many Eyes):


The two-word view does a pretty decent job of communicating the themes I write about, I think.  Unintended side benefit:  highlights recurring cliches and verbal tics I need to purge from my writing, like "drive higher" (argh).

This whole effort took about 30 minutes, from registration to pasting the syndication html into this post.  Two-thirds of that time was spent scrubbing the data iteratively.  This could have gone faster in one of two ways.  First, Many Eyes could provide a custom scrubbing interface where I could register multiple words to be eliminated or replaced from a text file.  Second, and better, they could allow users to share not only comments, but scrubbing filters that would be applicable to data sets coming from common sources with common problems, such as Typepad exports, or government information.

Beyond this, I can imagine a thematic matching capability -- "based on two-word 'keyphrase' frequencies, this data set seems to have lots in common with these other ones..."  Such a capability could be further enhanced by ex-post user rating,  so people could confirm whether, for any given algorithmically-suggested match, the result was actually good, a la "was this useful to you?"  This, like the "Graphic Friendships" idea I wrote about a while back, could help to make the web browsing experience more productive.

Nice job guys! 

November 26, 2003

Past As Prologue: The Tale of The Binge-o-Matic

(Note:  This post was originally published here: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/cesarbrea/stories/storyReader$8 on November 26, 2003)

I left Bain in the summer of 1999 to join ArsDigita, a small firm of ultra-talented software engineers led by Philip Greenspun, and famous for its open-source application framework, the ArsDigita Community System.  Philip's ideas for online communities as the best use of the Web, and of open-source software as a more effective means of realizing such constructs appealed to me on many levels, and I felt I could make a real contribution to the firm.  So I signed on as the second "business guy". 

While, the rest of The ArsDigita Story has already been told from many different perspectives, this little fragment has stuck with me (with apologies to friends who have heard me tell it one time too many).  It's said that "within every insanity lies a grain of genius," and for me this proves the point.

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