Consuming News Through Social Media and Read It Later With Pocket

These days the fastest way, not always the most accurate, to get news is through social media.  Technology, sports, politics, and breaking news will always be found first on social media outlets like Twitter.

For example, I’m a huge fan of American Football or most known as the NFL.  Every year the NFL teams draft players from college teams to play professionally. This is done through a big televised spectacle called the NFL Draft and is held across multiple days once a year generally in April.  The highly anticipated moment is always when the commissioner walks up to the podium and announces which player each team has picked.  Well that moment that is so exciting to watch (most casual fans would not call the draft exciting) on live TV is now very anticlimactic because of Twitter and other social media outlets that told me 5 minutes earlier which player was picked.

It sounds like I’m complaining right?  No, in actuality I love it and embrace it.  Obviously if i didn’t want to know this kind of information early I wouldn’t look at Twitter during the live draft.  Can i guarantee this information is accurate?  Absolutely not, there’s not any news outlets that can make that guarantee.  Sports news is one thing, if I make a mistake repeating what I read through social media it isn’t a big deal (because my career is not in sports) but technology, world news, politics, etc… you should always consider the source of the information and do your own research.  Don’t blindly believe everything you read through social media.  I think most people understand this but those that are new to consuming news through social media will learn it fast.

So you get my point, social media is great a providing news extremely fast.  Now if you’re like me you’re probably an extremely busy person.  I keep a very busy schedule at work and with three young children at home time is limited to catch up on the latest news.  That’s why Twitter is my favorite social media outlet.  Tweets are short, usually easy to read/search and with many of the mobile apps available I can quickly read them from my smart phone of choice.

My smart phone is generally how I consume Twitter because like I mentioned I have such a busy work schedule I don’t have time to keep a constant distraction up on my screen while working.  Nothing against you if you do this, you’re probably just better at multitasking than I am.  With Twitter post only allowing 140 characters my phone is fine for reading content, but 140 characters isn’t long enough to read the full story is it?  I certainly don’t think so and that’s why tweets that have more information often will include a link to a full article or blog.  This is great but I don’t want to use my phone to read a two page story.

That’s why for about  9 months now I’ve been using a a free online tool called Pocket(formally Read It Later) to read entire stories at my convenience.  Basically Pocket let’s you archive any Twitter post that has a link so you can read at a later time.  This has definitely saved me because often I’ve seen a tweet about a new piece of technology and if I didn’t have this archiving tool I would probably forget to go back and read about it later.  The nice thing is it’s not limited to Twitter.  For example, some web browsers have a Pocket add-in that will allow you to archive web pages as you surf the web.

I also like really like the output.  It almost has the look and feel of live tiles that you can scroll through to catch up on your stories.

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I’m not much for endorsing products but I thought I would share this one sense it has allowed me to keep up with the details of news rather than just the headlines.  If you’re interested in giving Pocket a try visit them here http://getpocket.com/.

Getting Started with Microsoft Data Explorer

What is Data Explorer

Data Explorer simplifies the data discovery phase for Excel users that are creating self-service Business Intelligence solutions.  It does this by provided straightforward methods for connecting to data previously unheard of, without a developer, in Excel.  It also provides a basic ETL tool for those involved in self-service BI projects all within Excel.

What do I need

Currently Data Explorer is only available as a preview and works with Excel 2010 SP1 or Excel 2013.  You can download the Data Explorer preview from http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=36803.

Enabling the Add-in

Once you download and install the add-in you will have to enable it by going to File –> Options –> Add-Ins.  Then Select COM Add-ins from the Manage dropdown and click Go

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Check off Microsoft “Data Explorer” Preview for Excel from the Add-Ins available list then click OK.

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Once you have enabled the add-in the DATA EXPLORER tab will appear in the increasingly crowded Office ribbon.

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Let’s take a look at what this new add-in has given us.

What does it do

A very detailed list of each element of Data Explorer can be found here http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/excel-help/start-page-HA104003813.aspx.

In this post I’ll walk you an example that i think all companies are starting to take a lot more seriously, which is social media sentiment.  In other words how does the public perceive our company.

With the built-in ability to import data from Facebook Data Explorer can very easily analyze things like statuses, likes. comments, and much more.  Let’s walk through an example:

  1. Launch Excel and ensure the Add-in is enables with the steps detailed above.
  2. Select the Data Explorer tab and choose From Facebook from the From Other Sources dropdown selection.image
  3. You will then be prompted to provide a UserName or object ID.  The default is “me”, which means it will allow you to import data from your personal Facebook account.  However, if you’re an administrator of a corporate Facebook page you could enter that page in here.  For example, I am an admin on the Pragmatic Works page.  So if change the default “me” to PragmaticWorks and set the Connection name to Posts I can see all posts on our corporate page.  Click Apply.image
  4. Now the true data exploration can begin.  My first step was to hide all the columns I don’t care about.  You can select multiple column headers at once and then right-click to select Hide Columns.image
  5. Now that we’ve got just the data we care about let’s analyze things like how many likes and comments we’re receiving on our posts.  You will notice on the columns for both comments and likes that the word Link is displayed.  This means there’s more data in a separate object that can be imported.
  6. If you click the word Link it will preview that data in that object as shown below when i clicked on likes.  From this I can tell there were 6 likes on this particular post.  There’s also another option if i click Table that will allow be to see the actual users that liked my corporate post.image
  7. This is great for exploring but if i actually want to add this data to my query then I would clear my likes search on the Steps page as shown below.image
  8. For my Marketing team’s analysis they really want to know a count of how many likes and comments we had on each status.  To do this I will navigate back to the likes column in my query and click the Expand button to check off new values i want to return.  For this example i just need the count of likes but if I wanted to see who actually made the like on our post I could return the data.image
  9. We have the data we want now so hit Done and all the Facebook sentiment data will be imported into Excel.
  10. Now that this data is in Excel we can create a PowerPivot workbook on it or even Power View report that looks something like this:image

Having the ability to create these kinds of report in a very short amount of time is exactly what our Marketing department needs to analysis our true reach.

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