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Mary Ellen Bates
Bates Information Services, Inc.
8494 Boulder Hills Dr.
Niwot, Colorado 80503 USA
Tel: 303.772.7095
Email:
mbates@batesinfo.com
Skype: Mary.Ellen.Bates
Twitter:
www.twitter.com/mebs
LinkedIn:
www.linkedin.com/in/maryellenbates
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It's so easy to Google whatever it is we're looking for that we forget that there is more content than what Google finds. One of the underappreciated resources is the content within discussion groups, forums and similar sites.

Boardreader.com is a specialized search engine that covers web sites that host user feedback, such as Amazon.com reviews and Facebook discussions, Twitter and other microblogs, and even discussion forum audio and video files, in addition to the posts within discussion groups and forums.

In addition to using Boardreader as a way to monitor what is being said about a company or an issue, what I find most useful is its data-mining graphics. Next to each item in the search results page is a "show more site info" link. Click that and you get the title of the site and the individual forum, a link to see all posts in the thread, related threads (both within the site and throughout the web) and a "Customize" link where you can rank the post, add metatags and subscribe to a feed of new posts within the thread.

A nice feature for adding some zip to your research is Boardreader's Trendy, which charts the frequency of your search term(s) over the past six months. Similar to Blogpulse's Trend Search, you can not only see when the discussion of a topic rose and fell but also compare the relative amount of discussion between two topics or concepts. How much buzz is there around the iPhone as compared to the Droid, and how has that changed since the release of the iPad? How much was BP in the news before the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster? Has there been any reaction to the announcement of our latest product?

To use Trendy, click the "More graphs on [your search words]" link below the graph at the top of the search results page. In addition to a line chart, bar chart and pie chart, Trendy lets you generate a table that shows the total number of posts for each of your words or phrases, the number of posts per day, and the relative frequency of your words or phrases. So, for example, I can see that mentions of BP account for over 3% of all discussion posts at the end of May, as we watch the oil wash onto beaches and marshlands. Discussions of immigration and terrorism, two other hot buttons, have dropped significantly during this time.

As we focus more on how we can add value and insight to our research projects, finding data visualization tools is always welcome. I also find that I am spending more time looking beyond both the "traditional" web and the published literature to the conversational web. Boardreader is now in my toolkit for those searches.

May 2010
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Tapping Into Discussions
by Mary Ellen Bates
Bates Information Services

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