Tuesday, November 01, 2011

SQL Azure Labs Unveils Codename “Social Analytics” Skunkworks Project

The SQL Azure Labs team reported the availability of Microsoft Codename "Social Analytics" on 10/25/2011 (missed when posted):

• Updated 11/1/2011 10:30 AM PDT for my first test of the Engagement Client. See below.

Integrate social web information into your business applications

Microsoft Codename "Social Analytics" is an experimental cloud service. It’s aimed at developers who want to integrate social web information into business applications. This lab includes:

  1. The Engagement Client, used to browse and view analytics on a social dataset

  2. Two pre-defined, actively streaming datasets which include data from top social sources such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs and forums

  3. The Social Analytics API, based on the Open Data Protocol and delivered through the DataMarket on the Windows Azure Marketplace

    Explore the datasets using the Engagement Client. Once you’re familiar with the data, test the Social Analytics API in your applications to create a rich social experience for your users.

    Your feedback on your experience with this lab will help shape our direction. Please contribute your feedback generously.

Social Analytics

Microsoft Codename "Social Analytics"

imageAs the popularity of the social web continues to grow it has become increasingly important for businesses to keep their finger on the pulse of the social web. Social information provides businesses with new insights, and the social web provides a means to connect with customers and respond quickly to customer concerns or comments. Microsoft Codename "Social Analytics" allows you to easily integrate social information into your business applications.

Aggregate social media content from many sources including Twitter, Facebook, blogs and forums.

raw social data by assessing the sentiment and by tying conversations together.

Include rich social media content in your web applications through straightforward APIs.

imageThanks to Mary Jo Foley (@maryjofoley) for the heads up in her Microsoft delivers service for integrating social Web data into business apps post to ZDNet’s All About Microsoft blog of 10/31/2011.

Twitter’s #SocialAnalytics hashtag has many interesting links to current literature about this rapidly trending topic, including:

Ben Zimmer’s Twitterology: A New Science? post to the “Gray Matter” section of the New York Times’ SundayReview of 10/29/2011.

Jennifer RobertsMarshall Sponder on Social Media Analytics and Gaining Analytics a Seat at the Corporate Table post of 11/1/2011 to the SmartDataCollective blog.

Marshall Sponder’s Review of Social Media Analytics from the Web Analytics Perspective, New Google Reader Annoyances post of 11/1/2011 to the Web Metric Guru blog.

Social Report Analytics Group’s Social Syndication at Your Fingertips advertorial of 11/1/2011 about its social network analytics app.

The Microsoft Social Analytics Team posted Boo! Little Surprises in the Engagement Client on 10/27/2011:

imageHappy Halloween! There are many features in the Engagement Client that you can explore on your own by clicking all the controls or by reading the "Engagement Client Quick Start Guide". Some controls are visible all the time and some are cleverly exposed when you roll your mouse over a post. Here are a few features that may not be as obvious as others which we think you will find useful:

  1. Open Conversation in a New Column
  2. Tweet
  3. Go to Post
  4. Expand & Collapse Column
  5. Dismiss Filter Header

Let's take a look at these!

imageOpen Conversation: This is one of our team's favorite features. On each post, you'll see a conversation icon; it looks the bubble with words over a cartoon character's head. If you click on that icon, a new column will open to the right in the Engagement Client. The column will be populated with all the posts, replies, comments, tweets, retweets and links associated with that conversation. If you see a single bubble icon, that means the conversation is one thread (a single post with all its replies & comments). If you see a double bubble icon, that means the conversation spans multiple channels (multiple posts across multiple channels tied together by a link to the same URL.)

This feature exposes one of the key components of "Social Analytics" which is the algorithm we've designed which ties a conversation together regardless of how many channels it spans or how many people participate in it.

Tweet: You can tweet, retweet, and reply to a tweet making it simple for you to not only find, but also participate in conversations from within the Engagement Client. The "Tweet" and "Register Account" controls are along the top of the Engagement Client main screen. The first time you tweet, you will be prompted to register your Twitter account with us. Our future plans include expanding our platform reach to Facebook and LinkedIn.


"Social Analytics" uses the standard Twitter APIs to enable you to register your Twitter account and tweet right from within the Engagement Client. For your security and protection, we use OAUTH V2 so that we never store your twitter password in our application.

Go to Post: On the top right corner of each post, you'll see an icon representing the channel or source where the post originated. By clicking on the icon, a new window will open in your browser and it will take you to the post directly at its source. This is particularly helpful for blog posts that you may want to read in full.

Expand & Collapse Column: You can make any column double-wide by clicking on the expand column control at the top of the column. If you open an "Analytics Column" you will notice that the default column size for it is double-wide. Clicking the control again resets the column size to single-wide.

Close Filter Selection: You can get more valuable real estate for viewing posts by clicking on the "Close Filter Selection" control at the top of the column. We built this feature at the request of one of our early adopter customers to increase the number of posts they could view. The filter header allows you to change filters in your column. If you want to see filter headers again, you can click on the "Show Filter Setting" control to get the filter selector back on the top of the column. Here are both controls:


Those are a few Halloween treats for you! We are eager for your feedback. Tell us what you think by posting comments to this blog or to our forum. We will use your feedback to guide the future direction of "Social Analytics".

Subscribed, signed up and received my invitation code on 11/1/2011. Here’s a small part of the Windows 8 data set on my test machine:


I added my Twitter account (the client uses OAuth for authentication), but wasn’t able to post a tweet probably due to a bug.

I’m curious why there’s no mention of Codename “Data Explorer” and its mashup capabilities in this context.

The Microsoft Social Analytics Team described Getting Access to the Social Analytics Lab on 10/26/2011 (missed when posted):

imageAre you curious about Microsoft Codename “Social Analytics?" Are you wondering how to get started? The Social Analytics Lab and its documentation (on Social Analytics Connect) are available and ready to help you, as is our Social Analytics Forum. Just go to the Social Analytics Lab to register for the lab and follow the instructions there. In case you want to bypass the lab page, just click on this shortcut. [Missing link added.]

imageAfter you fill out and submit the access request form, we will send you an e-mail with detailed instructions. Today you'll find the process relatively complicated, but we will continue to make improvements over time as we move toward the goal of enabling "one-click" access to rich social analytics.

Here's a sample of what you'll hear from us with some commentary <in-line>.


Thank you for signing up for Microsoft Codename “Social Analytics.”

To start using Social Analytics data, visit https://Win8.social.azure.com and use your invitation code: xxxxxxxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxx.

<"Social Analytics" is a cloud based service hosted in Windows Azure. The invitation code provides your Windows LiveID with access to the Windows Azure service. Enter it the first time you go to https://Win8.social.azure.com (or https://BillGates.social.azure.com for the Bill Gates data).>

After entering your information and accepting the Terms of Use, you will have two ways to interact with social media data about Windows 8:

Browsing Real-time Social Analytics Data

We recommend familiarizing yourself with Social Analytics data via our web-based Engagement Client, which shows a real-time stream of social media content about Windows 8. After logging in, select “Engagement Client” in the top navigation menu. You can find information about using the Engagement Client here.

<The Engagement Client [a.k.a. “Vancouver API”] provides a simple social media data browsing experience, oriented toward viewing most recently posted information. The detailed information link shows you a map of the Engagement Client describing each control and what it does.>

Using Social Analytics API

When you are ready to start using the Social Analytics API with data about Windows 8, start with the following steps:

1. Get your account key here. <We provide programmatic access to Social Analytics data through Windows Azure DataMarket. This step provides you with the secret (account key) linking your LiveID to the Windows 8 data>

2. Copy your account key to use in LinqPad, PowerPivot or Visual Studio.

3. Review instructions for using LinqPad, PowerPivot or C# to access your dataset <We want you to be able to use the API as part of your usual development process. Let us know what we can do to make it simpler and easier for you to achieve your social web integration goals.>

Note: You may see an “Explore this Dataset” option on the DataMarket offer page. This explorer is not compatible with the Social Analytics source and should not be used to explore the data.

For additional information, you can read the full API documentation.

Additional Resources

Here are some other links that you may find useful:

That's basically it!

If you click on one these URLs and don’t have access, go to this "shortcut" to request access.

Play with the lab. Enjoy!

It took about 24 hours to receive my invitation code.

The Microsoft Social Analytics Team posted Announcing Microsoft Codename "Social Analytics" Lab on 10/25/2011 (missed when posted):

imageToday we are announcing the release of the Microsoft Codename “Social Analytics” Lab. As the popularity of the social web continues to grow it has become increasingly important for businesses to keep their finger on the pulse of the social web. Social information provides businesses with new insights, and the social web provides a means to connect with customers and respond quickly to customer concerns or comments.

imageMicrosoft Codename "Social Analytics" Lab is an experimental cloud service that provides an API enabling developers to easily integrate relevant social web information into business applications. Also included is a simple browsing application to view the social stream and the kind of analytics that can be constructed and integrated in your application.

You can get started with “Social Analytics” by exploring the social data available via the browsing application. With this first lab release, the data available is limited to two topics (“Windows 8” and “Bill Gates”). Future releases will allow you to define your own topic(s) of interest. The data in “Social Analytics” includes top social sources like Twitter, Facebook, blogs and forums. It has also been automatically enriched to tie conversations together across sources, and to assess sentiment.

Once you’re familiar with the data you’ve chosen, you can then use our API (based on the Open Data Protocol) to bring that social data directly into your own application.

Do you want to learn more about the Microsoft Codename “Social Analytics” Lab? Get started today, or for more information visit our official homepage, connect with us in our forums and stay tuned to our product blog for future updates.