Monday, November 22, 2010

Sentiment Analysis Taxonomy

Sentiment analysis, or Customer Sentiment Analysis, has become an important component for monitoring attitudes or feelings about your business, products, or reputation on the Internet. With social media vehicles such as Twitter, Facebook, product review sites, comment sections, and more, your company or product could be mentioned all over the web. It's important to understand how people feel about your company, and take action to respond if necessary.

WAND has created a taxonomy specifically for this purpose. Our new customer sentiment taxonomy has hundreds of terms including, verbs, adverbs, superlatives, adjectives, and more that all correspond to an intensity of feeling from Extremely dissatisfied, Dissatisfied, Neutral, Satisfied, and Extremely Satisfied.

On twitter, a user might mention "I went to XYZ restaurant and the service was incredible". Using a taxonomy approach, one could understand that "incredible" indicates extreme satisfaction with the restaurant. Or, imagine a product review that says "When I received ABC product, the case was cracked". This would indicate that the product was in disrepair when it was received.

It's easy to understand and comprehend the meaning of the above examples by just reading them. However, with a huge volume of social media and other commentary on the Internet, a company cannot manage to read everything posted about it or its products/services. Leveraging a taxonomy that is designed to identify different levels of sentiment can be a valuable tool for any company to keep tabs on what people are saying about it online.

Sentiment taxonomies are not just valuable in monitoring online and text sentiment, however. They can be equally powerful in helping to analyze vasts amount of customer service or other call center communication. Transcriptions of phone calls can be run against a taxonomy to tag phone calls with levels of satisfaction. This allows a manager to identify an overall level of satisfaction experienced by customer the call-reps are speaking with, but also to identify specific calls that should be listened to and perhaps followed up with.

A recorded customer service call could conceivably last 5-10 minutes. It would be inefficient to listen to the entire call to find the exact point where a customer became upset. Instead, if the customer said "Your company's product is terrible", the exact point in the call where this took place could be tagged by the sentiment taxonomy and a manager could start listening at that point in the call.

For training purposes, a manager could identify all calls where the words "not helpful" were spoken by the customer. The manager could listen to these calls and determine why the representative was not being helpful and identify possible areas of improvement.

Call transcripts or social media could also be monitored and tagged with other taxonomies, such as product names, product features, or other elements to provide the ability to drill through the monitored data from several dimensions.

Please reach out if you'd like to learn more about sentiment analysis taxonomies or how the solutions described above can be implemented.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Five ways to use taxonomy

I've worked in the taxonomy space for quite a while now, but I still always speak to people who are just learning about taxonomies for the first time. Often times they have a specific project that they are working on that they know a taxonomy is needed. Sometimes, they have a challenge they are not sure how to solve, but think taxonomy may help. Other times, it's some poor person who may have asked me what I do for a living.

For any of these people, here is a list of things that taxonomies can be used for. I'll continue to add to this list and appreciate any input from others on items I may have missed.

1) Directory category structures. This could be a B2B directory, online yellow pages, general web page directory, or more. When somebody is searching for something in a directory, they need to be able to search by a category. Imagine looking through a set of 14 million businesses in the United States and not being able to narrow it down to a list of just the Plumbers. Taxonomy organizes big sets of information in directories so that they can be easily found. The first prominent Internet search engine, Yahoo!, was organized around a directory of websites, where each web site was put into a category that was part of a hierarchy, i.e.; a taxonomy.

2) Enterprise Search. Corporations may have hundreds of thousands or millions of documents in a shared folder, enterprise content repository, or on their intranet. This represents a huge amount of unstructured information - incredibly valuable data but very difficult to wade through. In a physical environment, a company would have put all of this information in filing cabinets with labeled folders. In the digital world, things may not be so organized. People expect to rely on a search engine to help them sort through all this information, but a keyword search may bring back thousands of results. Taxonomy can help filter and drill through these thousands of results. A well designed vocabulary covering terminology that is important to the enterprise can be tagged to the document set. This provides a valuable tool for a user to find the exact document he or she is looking for. In this case, a taxonomy, or corporate vocabulary, enables sophisticated faceted search through corporate documents.

3) Search Engine Optimization. Taxonomy can be used in SEO in a couple of ways. First, it is valuable to organize pages on a website according to a directory structure. Search engine spiders like this and it helps them appropriately index a web site. So, a URL would be structured something like Second, developing keywords and meta-data for any given website can benefit from a taxonomy that can suggest these keywords. This may include brands, other related terms, narrower terms, or term variations.

4) E-Commerce Product Search. Online catalogs need to be organized in a way that makes sense to the shopper. The shopper should be able to quickly get to the product they are interested in so they can make a transaction. The longer a shopper is browsing around a site looking for the right product, the more likely the shopper is to abandon the site entirely. Taxonomy helps this in two ways. First, the category tree itself is a taxonomy. On nearly every e-commerce website, the user is presented with 10-15 (sometimes more or less than this range) top level categories or departments. Clicking on any of these brings the user down the tree to more specific categories. An example may be Office Supplies>Envelopes>Padded Envelopes or Computer Systems>Laptop Computers>Netbooks. This tree needs to be straightforward and easy to navigate. The second place taxonomy is valuable is for providing further attribute drill down at a category level. For example, an e-commerce site may have 100 products in their category laptop computers. A shopper may be interested in a laptop computer that has a 15" screen, a built-in web-cam, and a hard drive larger than 500 GB. A taxonomy can provide these attributes and others as options for the tree category "Laptop Computers". So, instead of browsing through all 100 laptop computers for sale, the shopper can simply select the appropriate attributes and narrow down the results set to the 5 that meet his or her needs. Anytime you see a category tree or product filtering options on an e-commerce site, you are looking at a taxonomy.

5) Improving keyword search. Let's use another e-commerce example. Imagine you are doing a keyword search on an electronics website for "Laptop Computers". This may bring back 50 results, let's say. However, the site also has another 50 products that are labeled as "Notebook Computers". Those results would not be returned so, as a user, you would be presented with an incomplete results set. By making "Laptop Computers" a synonym to "Notebook Computers", a search for either will return the complete results set. That is taxonomy in action. Imagine another example of an online yellow pages search. There are 10 furniture stores within 10 miles of my house. Each of these is in the "Furniture Retailer" category on an online yellow pages website. If i do a search for "Beds" on the local search site, if there is not taxonomy, then that keyword search will not match to the category name, and unless one of the furniture stores has the word "beds" in its name, i will not get any results. Taxonomy can fix this problem. By associating a set of narrower terms from a product and service taxonomy to the yellow page category "Furniture Retailer", the number of keywords that can be recognized greatly expands. Now, a user can search for "Beds", "Bookshelves", and many other terms and be taken to a relevant list of businesses that sell these products. Taxonomy expands the types of queries that a user can get results for in a directory search environment.

This is just a partial list, of course. I'll have more posts like this in the future with other ways that taxonomy can be used.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why local search sites need taxonomy

Local search sites are all working on the same challenge - how to present the most relevant list of local businesses for any given search query - meaning keyword and location. The challenge is three fold:

1) Business data that is commonly available only comes with a single yellow pages style category - something like liquor stores, "Furniture Retailer", or Restaurants - Italian. This limits the results that can be returned on keyword searches for things like "Bookshelves", "Chardonnay" or "Lasagna".

2) Because business data is assigned to high level categories, local search sites can only present general business lists and are limited in the filtering and drill-down options that can be presented to a user. Ideally, a local search site should be able to present a list of Italian Restaurants, but also allow the user to drill down to those who have Chicken Parmesian on the menu.

3) Business data is sometimes not accurately categorized to begin with, meaning that the category assigned to a business is not correct. This is a common local search data problem.

Taxonomy is valuable for solving these two issues in two separate ways. First, it is crucial that a local search environment return relevant business results for as many keyword variations as possible. To achieve this, a local search site needs to expand the number of keywords in its database - sometimes placed in synonym tables - that are associated with each business category. Let's return to the example above for "Furniture Retailer". A user who searches for furniture store, sofa, couch, bed, bookshelf, metal furniture, armoire, desks, etc. should all be presented with listings from the "Furniture Retailer" category. Without adding this additional terminology to the database, then a search for any of the above keywords, plus all the other types of furniture that I didn't even list, would result in a failed search - or no results at all. Users will not return to a site that does not return results, so it is crucial to get this issue taken care of.

Once a strong vocabulary is in place and the local search site is able to resolve most user queries to a relevant business category, the next step is to enrich business data by tagging individual businesses with specific terminology from the taxonomy. One approach some sites use is to allow businesses to enter free text keyword tags about the business. However, this raises challenges in normalizing the information entered by users. For example, one user may enter a tag "sofa" and another user may enter a tag "couch". Without a normalized and controlled vocabulary, it will be impossible to know that these are the same concept and thus to present a list of all businesses that sell sofas/couches to a user. Also, most users won't spend the time to think of very many relevant keywords so the set of tags may be pretty limited.

Instead, the optimal solution is to use a controlled set of tags that a business or user can select from to append to a business. If you now that a business is a Furniture Store, you can present the business or user, in a self-registration environment, with the set of all the controlled keywords that they may want to append to the business. It will be much easier for the person registering to select from a prepopulated list of tags that can simply be checked versus entering keywords into a free text box. Also, the tags that are selected with be clean and normalized across all businesses. This opens up the possibility for a lot of great left hand filtering options. Attribute taxonomies can be presented to the user at this time as well to capture things like hours of operation, methods of payment, and more.

The bottom line is that a local search needs to have a robust vocabulary to support the precision and complete search results that users have been trained to expect from general search engine environments.

WAND's local search taxonomy can augment an existing yellow pages category schema with tens of thousands of additional categories (for query recognition and precision business tagging) and hundreds of thousands of additional keywords (for even more query recognition). WAND has also developed elegant business tagging tools that can easily be integrated into existing business registration or profiling environments.

Please reach out if you'd like to learn more about any of WAND's local search solutions.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sharepoint 2010, Windows Phone 7, and Taxonomy

As Microsoft prepares to launch it's latest initiative in the mobile space, Windows Phone 7, there is some interesting chatter and discussion about the tight integration between Sharepoint and the Windows Phone 7 OS. Microsoft will probably have the greatest chance at penetration in the business mobile market so a strong integration with its enterprise collaboration tool makes a ton of sense.

Here is a link to a techy/nerdy blog posting from Paul Stubbs ofMicrosoft about creating mobile applications on Windows Phone 7 using Sharepoint server.

As I read this blog post (actually skimmed it as much of it was over my non-programmer head), I tried to think of cool applications that could be developed by taking advantage of the managed metadata field in Sharepoint 2010. I could imagine that as documents get checked in, tagging them with managed metadata from an enterprise taxonomy could trigger alerts that are sent to phones. Or, on the search side, a corporate taxonomy that enables browse and filtering would be invaluable for search on a mobile device where it is more difficult to scroll through pages of keyword results. An employee out of the office could easily navigate through a general business taxonomy and find an expense report form or paid time off policy.

Overall, the better tagging and taxonomy that a company has in place will enable more sophisticated and useful applications.

Mobile business apps are definitely big drivers of mobile platform adoption. The ability to create custom apps connecting to Sharepoint 2010 is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New partnership with LevelsBeyond

Taxonomies have undeniable value in helping to organize unstructured information and in enabling more sophisticated search experiences - attribute drill down, results filtering, related searches, synonym searches, and more. However, a big challenge that people often encounter with taxonomies is the question of how to best make use of this information. Basically, once there is a taxonomy, how can business benefits be realized.

The answer lies in the software into which the taxonomy is installed. I've already mentioned that WAND has created Datafacet for implementing and managing taxonomies in Sharepoint 2010, Oracle SES, Oracle UCM, and other enteprise search environments. Now, I'd like to introduce our new partnership with LevelsBeyond, a company that is also based in Denver.

LevelsBeyond has created a technology called Reach Engine which essentially is a middleware bus that can consolidate content from any number of disparate sources, including legacy systems, and bring all the content together into a single normalized environment where it can be tagged, edited, and managed in preparation for consumption by a custom UI, front end, or an external search environment. WAND's taxonomies import directly into ReachEngine where they can be managed and used to tag content.

Here is just one example use case for the retail space. Imagine a general retailer who has a broad catalog of SKUs and had different bits of product data in inventory systems, customer service systems, CRMs, third party print systems, and an existing ecommerce content management system. There is no way to synch all of this data together - changes in one system don't synch with any of the other systems. Adding new products is cumbersome and time consuming. Further, the product catalog is poorly organized. Enter WAND and LevelsBeyond.

The LevelsBeyond reach engine can be deployed to integrate all 5 disparate systems mentioned above to bring all the data into a single interface where it can be centrally managed. Instantly, there is a complete view of the data. And, if the data is changed in ReachEngine, that change will simultaneously publish back to the legacy systems. Categories and attributes from the WAND Product and Service Taxonomy can be loaded into reach engine where teh product data can be tagged to a deep category tree and to relevant product attributes. In the case of Laptop Computers, this could be things like brand, processor speed, hard disk size, screen size, # of USB ports, etc.

The retailer will have transitioned from having poorly organized product data spread across its IT environment to a single location for all of its well tagged product data assets. All of this data can then be easily queried by external systems (like an online store) through the Reach Engine web services and/or using the content library available for a number of programming languages.

This is very powerful stuff. Retailers deploying LevelsBeyond have seen rapid payback periods and first year ROI of well over 100%. By combining this technology with the deep taxonomies from WAND, retailers can see this same type of ROI much more quickly - there will be no need to spend several months creating a taxonomy from scratch.

If you are a retailer struggling to get a handle on your product assets, please let me know. I'd be happy to set up some time to discuss how the WAND Taxonomy combined with LevelsBeyond's Reach Engine can help you do business more efficiently.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Taxonomies in Sharepoint 2010

I came across a report by AIIM about how companies are using Sharepoint 2010. AIIM Sharepoint - Strategies and Experiences can be downloaded for free - registration required. AIIM surveyed 372 companies who are using or implementing Sharepoint 2010 now to get a sense of their priorities and needs. As it relates to taxonomy, here are a few interesting items that I'd like to highlight:

From page 19 of the report:

Which of the following types of add-on package or system are you using/are you planning to use with your SharePoint implementation?

52% responded "Classification/taxonomy management" About 12% are using a third party add-on for Classification/taxonomy management now.

This is consistent with what WAND is seeing in the market as well. The Term Store feature has certainly driven interest and demand in taxonomies for organizing enterprise content. Many companies are looking for a way to more effectively tag documents with meta-data once they are checked-in to Sharepoint. Sharepoint 2010 does not provide any automated tagging capabilities out of the box - although manual tagging is available.  Employees should be paid to create content, not meta-data. I think this AIIM survey question reflects this need.

From Page 18 of the report:

What do you think will be the two biggest issues for you in upgrading to SharePoint 2010?

30% replied: "Standardizing on a taxonomy or metadata template" . This was the number two most chosen answer.

By providing the capability to import a taxonomy or vocabulary with the term store, Microsoft has implicitly raised the question of whether or not a company has an existing vocabulary, and if not, where can one start. Many companies struggle when starting from a blank slate and the projects can get bogged down in committee. The survey result reflects this reality - we see Sharepoint 2010 projects getting delayed for months while companies establish a corporate vocabulary. This is an expensive proposition.

WAND's off the shelf sharepoint taxonomies are a source of foundation taxonomies which can be customized to meet the needs of a specific organization. There is no need to start from scratch - a pre-built taxonomy provides instant ROI because the vocabulary can be placed into Sharepoint 2010 to get started without any delays. The taxonomy can then be customized and fine-tuned over time to continue to improve results.

From Page 17 of the report:

Which of the following information management issues have you experienced with your SharePoint implementation?

24% replied "No way to enforce a classification template/policy for new team sites"

This survey reply merely re-emphasizes the point above that employees should be paid to create content, not meta-data. The reality is that getting knowledge workers in large organizations (or even small and medium organizations) to consistently apply meta-data to documents is a losing battle. One of two things will occur: Either, employees will ignore the requirement and not add any meta-data to their documents, or 2) employees will append meta-data but it will be high level tags that they are familiar with - granular tags will be ignored. Either way, you will lose the benefit of a corporate vocabulary.

Thanks to AIIM for publishing this terrific report.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Check out WAND's new Insurance Taxonomy

In the numerous conversations we've had with customers recently about enterprise search, Sharepoint 2010, Oracle SES and UCM, and other platform, Insurance Taxonomy was a topic that kept coming up. So, we went into our caves and a short while later have emerged with version 1 of our Insurance Industry Taxonomy.

This is a great new taxonomy that has over 1550 preferred terms and several hundred synonyms. We've addressed both sides of the insurance business: 1)Writing policies and 2)investing premiums. The taxonomy covers different types of insurance, coverages, policy terms, regulatory and risk management terminology, investment types, investment strategies, finance and accounting, and important industry ratios.

This taxonomy can be imported into Sharepoint 2010, Oracle UCM, Oracle SES, and any other software package that can accept taxonomies.

Please reach out if you'd like to learn more. I'd be happy to walk anybody who's interested through a demo of the taxonomy.

Friday, September 10, 2010

WAND is now blogging

Welcome to the WAND, Inc. corporate blog. We've launched this blog to keep people up to date on the latest and greatest coming out of WAND.

For those of you who don't know much about WAND, we are a leading provider of pre-built taxonomies which help our customer better organize and search their unstructured and/or semi-structured information. Our library of taxonomies is extensive covering products and service from nearly every industry as well as industry and business specific taxonomies. See a listing of WAND Taxonomies here. All told, we have over 500 taxonomy titles available today and are releasing new ones on a regular basis. WAND has been around since 1994 and is based in Denver, Colorado.

Please check back often to see what new taxonomies we have rolling off our production line, as well as to learn about how you can utilize taxonomies in your business, such as in Sharepoint 2010, Oracle UCM and Secure Enterprise Search, online yellow pages, tagging, and more.

Also, please leave comments on the posts you see or if there is a new taxonomy that you'd like to see developed. We really look forward to interacting with the taxonomy community through this blog.