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Analytics for Human Information: Fore! Sentiment is not all positive or negative

DanBurke ‎04-17-2014 01:01 PM - edited ‎02-19-2015 02:27 PM

In the lead up to the Masters Golf Tournament, I was watching highlights from last year and listening to the talking heads discuss the favorites for this year’s event.


I was struck by the amount of time the analysts spent talked about how players were fighting their swings: “If he can drive the ball well, he may have a chance but he has been all over the place in recent weeks.” “His wedge play is just too erratic for these greens which require precision.” “He simply struggles with distance control on these greens and is prone to too many three putts.”


It brought me back to a conversation about sentiment that occurred several months ago. I was at a conference and the topic of sentiment came up. Folks were frustrated by their inability to get their arms around sentiment, as there were always accuracy issues, regardless of how big or small.


Then, a colleague chimed in and said,  “The true indicator of sentiment is consistency, not accuracy.”




He expanded, “Accuracy is unattainable above a certain base level, and all you do is ruin your accuracy in a quest to improve it. Think about it. You try to tune it, tweak it, and it works for a while…but then it starts to undermine its own accuracy.” The discussion table went dead for 10 minutes or so.


My colleague chimed in again. “Let me give you analogy so my point can be clear. How many of you guys golf?”


A good portion of the hands went up.


“How many of you are really good—or just ok?”


I thought to myself where is this going? I struggle plenty playing golf, but not sure I want to disclose…


“Well, the reason I ask is I want to make sure not everyone in here is a scratch golfer as it would make my analogy tougher.”  Luckily, we were (and still are) all hacks.


He continued. “Imagine a scenario where you are out playing golf. You quickly realize that you have your normal slice today. Not a terrible slice,—more of a fade—but you have it today. What do you do? Do you try to correct it?”


The group chimed in.  Some say yes. Some say they just aim a little left.


He began, “Ok. Now, what if you find yourself hitting a slice on one hole, a hook on another, then a draw, then a slice, followed by the dreaded straight ball? Your overall accuracy of landing your ball on the fairway or green may be the same, but you have little confidence standing over your shot. Do you correct it? If so, how? Clearly, you have no idea where the ball is headed and the more you try to correct it the worse it gets. Are you following me?”


Consistency or accuracy?

Suddenly, the table gets it—the light bulbs go off. Sentiment is not designed to be obsessively tuned and tweaked, and it is a law of diminishing returns. Yes, you tune for the obvious but after that; you need to be very careful, as your tuning will start to work against itself.


Sentiment is a trend not a point in time, and consistency trumps accuracy.


My point is this: I’d rather have a manageable consistent slice than a day filled with uncontrollable misses where I have no idea where one shot is going from one hole to the next. Same with sentiment….focus on consistency, not accuracy and confidence in sentiment will grow.




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Analytics for Human Information: Watson? So What? by Fernando Lucini

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About the Author


Dan Burke serves as a vice president of HP Software. He is in SME within Power and Emerging technologies, focused on HP Autonomy Explore and IDOL based solutions, such as multi-channel analytics and knowledge management.

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