U.S. presidential race, social media monitoring, and SharePoint 2013 apps

I’m sure the title of this blog post could be turned into some clever joke, but the truth is sometimes seemingly unrelated things can come together to produce something cool. In this case, the cool thing is an app in the SharePoint 2013 beta marketplace called “The Election Watch – 2012”. This is an app you can easily add to your SharePoint 2013 beta installation to track the conversation around the 2012 U.S. presidential election race. The app charts the level of daily mentions in social media (e.g. Twitter, blogs, etc.). You can click on one of the circles in the chart to drill down to view a single day. Whether you’re viewing 30 days or a single day, you can see the most influential people, the most commonly used terms, and the messages that had the greatest impact. If you don’t have access to a SharePoint 2013 beta installation to add the app directly, you can go this page to learn more and see a screenshot.

For me, the most interesting story is how all app came to be. NewsGator’s core business is Social Sites – a powerful social computing platform that runs on top of Microsoft SharePoint. Customers buy Social Sites to enhance collaboration, accelerate innovation, make expertise more visible, etc. Basically Social Sites makes knowledge workers more productive and happy.

Social Sites includes the ability to monitor social media and aggregate other streams. I already track my Twitter and LinkedIn updates inside Social Sites, so I can easily share and collaborate on them with my co-workers. And Social Sites can bring in Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.com Chatter feeds, and we’re adding integration to bring in Yammer feeds as well. All of those capabilities help knowledge workers have easier access to important information in one spot.

When Microsoft approached us about working with the Codename “Social Analytics” lab project, we were intrigued by the parallels we saw between making sense out of large amounts of external social data and making sense out of large amounts of internal social data like Social Sites handles for large companies. We wanted to see what we could learn in terms of building analytics and how it might apply to Social Sites users. In the end, our research lead us to the conclusion that most end users benefit most from customizable views of their personal streams (which you can see in the Lookout UI we released in version 3.0) while a few users can benefit from a more aggregated and analytical view.

In the process of doing this research, we built The Election Watch app and decided it would be cool to share it. We also wanted to experiment with delivering an app in the new SharePoint 2013 app model powered by an Azure service. It’s been a great learning experience, and it is pretty interesting to see the data. But mostly, this story illustrates NewsGator’s constant drive to understand how to help users get value out of social and how we’ve been fortunate to work with Microsoft in pursuing this kind of investigation.

One last point – this all runs against a lab infrastructure, so it can be a bit slow to display the data at times. If you want to learn more about the Social Analytics lab project, check out this page.

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