MAQSA: Social Analytics of User Responses to News

Designed by QCRI in partnership with MIT and Al-Jazeera, MAQSA provides an interactive topic-centric dashboard that summarizes news articles and user responses (comments, tweets, etc.) to these news items. The platform thus helps editors and publishers in newsrooms like Al-Jazeera’s better “understand user engagement and audience sentiment evolution on various topics of interest.” In addition, MAQSA “helps news consumers explore public reaction on articles relevant to a topic and refine their exploration via related entities, topics, articles and tweets.” The pilot platform currently uses Al-Jazeera data such as Op-Eds from Al-Jazeera English.

Given a topic such as “The Arab Spring,” or “Oil Spill”, the platform combines time, geography and topic to “generate a detailed activity dashboard around relevant articles. The dashboard contains an annotated comment timeline and a social graph of comments. It utilizes commenters’ locations to build maps of comment sentiment and topics by region of the world. Finally, to facilitate exploration, MAQSA provides listings of related entities, articles, and tweets. It algorithmically processes large collections of articles and tweets, and enables the dynamic specification of topics and dates for exploration.”

While others have tried to develop similar dashboards in the past, these have “not taken a topic-centric approach to viewing a collection of news articles with a focus on their user comments in the way we propose.” The team at QCRI has since added a number of exciting new features for Al-Jazeera to try out as widgets on their site. I’ll be sure to blog about these and other updates when they are officially launched. Note that other media companies (e.g., UK Guardian) will also be able to use this platform and widgets once they become public.

As always with such new initiatives, my very first thought and question is: how might we apply them in a humanitarian context? For example, perhaps MAQSA could be repurposed to do social analytics of responses from local stakeholders with respect to humanitarian news articles produced by IRIN, an award-winning humanitarian news and analysis service covering the parts of the world often under-reported, misunderstood or ignored. Perhaps an SMS component could also be added to a MAQSA-IRIN platform to facilitate this. Or perhaps there’s an application for the work that Internews carries out with local journalists and consumers of information around the world. What do you think?

6 responses to “MAQSA: Social Analytics of User Responses to News

  1. Pingback: MAQSA: Social Analytics of User Responses to News - Claudio Marchiondelli

  2. Looks impressive Patrick. Any idea about the timing of all of this – i.e. when interested third parties can start experimenting with it? Thanks…

  3. Hi sdspieg,
    Thanks for your interest.
    So far, we successfully implemented some of MAQSA components as stand-alone Drupal modules, but the modules are still under test and validation. We cannot give a particular date but know that we are working hard to make available our first release for third parties. Please, keep in touch through this blog.

  4. Interesting article with information on a tool with great potential. I can think of multiple uses of this once its up n running.

    By looking at the Sentiment Map snapshot in your article I am curious to know, what tool (or technique) has been used for sentiment analysis in MAQSA? In my opinion, identifying the sentiment behind a comment and categorising it as positive, negative, or neutral is a challenging and a tricky task. And it becomes even more difficult for a news website as it caters to audience from different cultures, and linguistic traits.

    Moreover, although, I am aware that the project is in a nascent stage, but I believe having broader classifications of positive, negative, and neutral might be helpful. For example, after looking at the Sentiment Map snapshot in your blog about I thought, the sentiment is Positive about what in Libya, negative about what in Libya. Does the topic Libya refer to the “War in Libya”, “Gadaffi’s overthrow in Libya”, or “Civilian deaths in Libya” etc. So there might be a need to make the topic classification a bit more specific or maybe I am getting too pedantic here :).

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