SA online research: audience much bigger than we thought

The internet is not the preserve of the middle class and the wealthy in South Africa but an essential part of life for a far larger – and more economically and racially diverse group – than previously thought, says new research that came out in November 2012. “The New Wave” research report byIndra de Lanerolle, … Read more

Using "sentiment analysis" to get insight into an unfolding story: Jacob Zuma Spear saga


I had some fun this week with the raging debate over Brett Murray’s artwork which showed President Jacob Zuma with his private bits a-dangling. It provided the perfect opportunity to have a go using something called “sentiment analysis” to get some insight into an unfolding story.

Right! What the heck is “sentiment analysis” and how on earth could this possibly be used in journalism?

The LA Times Sentimeter

The back-of-envelope description of “sentiment analysis” or “opinion analysis” is simply machine-recognition of the emotional intent behind a piece of text and it seeks to classify it as either “positive” or “negative” or, in some cases, as neutral. For a fuller explanation see this wikipedia entry.

As this story began to heat up last week, I spent the weekend tinkering with some code to see if it would be possible to mine Twitter in realtime and collect as many of these tweets as possible to do some analysis on it. I then recalled something that I had read relating to sentiment analysis and how it could be used with Python, the computer language I am familiar with, alongside the Natural Langage Toolkit library.

Read moreUsing "sentiment analysis" to get insight into an unfolding story: Jacob Zuma Spear saga