How Do We Express Our Emotions Online?
By Sabrina DorronsoroMar 13
For every “official” Brandwatch project there are often one or more unofficial counter-projects orbiting its gravity.
These rogue satellites are just one of the many tricks we employ to allow room for innovation and experimentalism around our solid core of serious quality.
Official projects have stakeholders, a business case and, ultimately, a purpose. Satellite-projects, by contrast, lack these limitations.
They can exist joyfully free of constraint, direction and purpose – which means they can also lack priority and the time to get them finished too, and so often come to nothing.
But this is fine, because they are allowed to fail. Failing is good. Failing is how we learn to make things better.
But occasionally one doesn’t fail. Occasionally one might turn out pretty good. Occasionally one ends up nine meters long and the subject of a “Data Labs” post.
Brandwatch’s official UK Election project for 2015 is the Election Buzzboard, which is currently sharing a window into some of the social data we’re tracking.
With the buzzboard you can get a live snapshot of social reactions to the events of the campaign, updated every two minutes.
We’ve found the buzzboard has really come into its own during the live leaders debates where, from the limited perspectives of our living rooms, it may be hard to get a read on the national reaction solely via the cautiously bias-aware TV coverage.
The buzzboard was capable of giving us this assessment instantly.
— Brandwatch React (@BW_React) April 2, 2015
However, we felt it would be pertinent to also take a longer, less-reactive view of the election campaign, to see what have been the persistent/recurrent stories of the campaign.
This became the counter-project, our “topics whale”.
The whale is created by a simple app that extracts a list of the algorithmically determined topics for a certain time period via the Brandwatch API, then maps their swells and sweeps.
The “whale” nickname came from the way new topics feed in from the bottom of the stream, and so create this rather cool ventral-groove effect.
The whale’s-eye view of the election is a subtly different story than the buzzboard, where the tracked topics are the results of specific Queries.
The whale’s topics are derived from a broader dataset, the same data used for our previous election prediction experiments.
The curves generated by the app are the contours of a landscape as seen from the top of a mountain of social data.
It is a raw, honest map of this terrain. These topics are a smart algorithm’s idea of what people online are talking about around the election campaign, rather than what a data analyst might go hunting for in the data.
We began by generating images daily, from the last 24hrs data, and dumping these images in a shared folder that could be linked to on the web. But even these fragments quickly exposed the major problem with presenting this story on the web – the file size.
If we wanted to tell the full tale of the campaign, from beginning to end, it wasn’t going to be able to be presented online. Not without building a clever Google Maps-style interface to incrementally load these massive images, which simply wasn’t viable with such a short amount of time available.
Also, the fixed window of a laptop screen – or even our giant Vizia display – couldn’t really capture the full form of this landscape.
So, thoughts turned to print.
The best way the story could be told at full scale would be to take it outside of the screen. So, using the combined skills and enthusiasm of the whole Design team, we developed a BIG version – a render of the full 2015 UK Election campaign, day by day, beginning at New Year – in a format a printer could handle.
A big printer, obviously.
This is the print that now adorns the wall of The Hub in our Brighton office, where the length can be walked, like a Bayeux Tapestry of snarky political memes. If you’re in the area, drop by and take a look.
Even though our nine-meter monster has been affixed with a degree of permanence it still has to be regarded as a test print, simply because the story is incomplete. The campaign isn’t over yet – we’ve another week to go, and another debate to follow on the buzzboard tomorrow.
Whether we’ll reprint it after the 7th May, or add a visual post-script to the end covering the final weeks maybe, we haven’t decided yet. There are already other projects (and counter-projects) vying for attention.
But if you’re currently planning your election party and have a nine-meter long space in need of a splash of colour, get in touch. We may have just the thing…