Blog posts in Announcements

Richard Caudle's picture

Transitioning to GNIP: Feature Gaps vs DataSift

Twitter has terminated their partnership agreement with DataSift, meaning that as of August 13th 2015, companies will need to license Twitter data directly from GNIP. 
 
From our analysis, 80% of our customers leverage capabilities which are absent in GNIP. The goal of this post is to highlight the main functional areas that will be impacted by transitioning to GNIP, to enable our customers to evaluate the features that may need to deprecate from their products, or identify the additional development work they will need to fill these gaps. 

Innovations Deprecated: What Will I Miss?

If you're a current DataSift customer consuming Twitter data there are features you may be relying on which (to the best of our knowledge) are not be available on the GNIP platform. 
 
Filter Size & Complexity DataSift allows you to create complex filters. To reproduce the same filtering you may need to break up your filters and perform your own second level of filtering after you have received the data. 
Delivery & Integration DataSift provides connectors that guarantee data delivery, and are ready made for integration to common data stores and applications. Without these connectors you'll need to build directly against their API and handle connection drops & backfill yourself.
Classification DataSift VEDO allows you to tag, score and apply machine learning to data before it reaches your application. To the best of our knowledge there is currently no equivalent feature in GNIP.
Augmentations DataSift provides rich augmentations such as for links, sentiment and demographics. GNIP provides a number of augmentations, but not for sentiment or demographics.
Filtering Features GNIP restricts you to a set number of data fields and to fewer operators. You may need to perform your own second level of filtering once you receive the data.
Asian Language Support DataSift provides support for Japanese and Chinese language tokenization, without this you are left with simple substring matching which can be inaccurate.

 

Filter Size & Complexity

If you've been using DataSift for a little while you'll no doubt have created some complex filters for your projects.
 
It's common for our customers to need to filter by lists of user IDs or names, for example:
 
 
Or to use lists of include and exclude keywords and phrases:
 
 
With DataSift you can include 10,000s of IDs, words and phrases in a filter, enabling you to track long lists of users and be very precise with your content matching.
 
DataSift filters are individually limited to 1Mb in size, but you can filters in to each other using the stream keyword so in effect creating filters of limitless complexity and size.
 
GNIP limits you to 2048 characters for your filter. To reproduce this level of filtering complexity you will need to create many separate filters on GNIP to retrieve the same data, then post-process the data once you receive it to remove duplicates and build a combined data set. 
 

The inability to create complex include/exclude statements in your GNIP rules will mean:

  • Expect data costs to increase as the ability to filter with precision is reduced. 
  • Implement post-processing capabilities to reduce the potentially noisy data set you receive into a refined data set for analysis.

Delivery & Integration

To make it easier to integrate Twitter data into your analytical applications, DataSift provides a number of Data Delivery Connectors to common data stores and applications, all which buffer delivery for at least 1 hour and guarantee no data is lost in transit.
 
On top of this DataSift supports delivery of both tabular and hierarchical data structures. For stores such as MongoDB that are designed for JSON data, DataSift delivers data directly. For stores such as MySQL we allow you to map data to your tables, saving you from implementing this painful step.
 
Also, if you're sitting behind a highly-secured firewall you can also make use of the Pull connector, which buffers data for you until you request a delta set.
 
GNIP offer access to data through their APIs, but do not provide ready made connectors. Instead you need to build against their API and map data to your destination yourself.
 
GNIP do offer a level of protection through their Backfill feature, this provides 5 minutes of buffering, rather than 60 minutes. GNIP also allow you to run multiple redundant connections to try to protect against connection loss. Here you will need to detect connection drops, re-establish connections and to deduplicate the data you receive.

Classification (VEDO)

DataSift VEDO allows you to understand data by classifying it using tagging and scoring. VEDO allows you to classify data after it has been filtered so that you receive data marked up for your application, removing the need for you to post-process the data.
 
As a quick example, you can use VEDO to identify Dow Jones companies:
 
 
Or you can take things further by applying machine learning to data, to create your own emotion and sentiment classifiers trained to your domain.
 
There is no equivalent to VEDO when using GNIP. To achieve the same outcome you will need to post-processing the data yourself when you've received it from the GNIP platform.

Augmentations

DataSift provides a rich set of augmentations which you can apply to your data. 
 
Augmentations are applied to data before it reaches filtering, allowing you to filter and classify against the augmented results. 

Link Pre-Processing

One of the most powerful augmentations DataSift offers is the Links Augmentation
 
The DataSift Links augmentation not only unravels the link, but also pulls back metadata such as the page's title and meta tags. For example a t.co link expands to:
 
 
With DataSift you can therefore filter and classify against titles of pages, Twitter Card metadata, Facebook Open Graph tags, in fact a huge number of data fields.
 
GNIP offer an augmentation to unravel links to their original location too. For example a t.co link will be unravelled as follows:
 
 
The GNIP augmentation does not give you the same level of detail for links. The absence of Links Title is the biggest gap. Using GNIP, for example, you cannot create a rule to return news stories being shared on Twitter that mention “Apple” in the page title. Unfortunately, you cannot solve this problem with “post processing” so this is a feature that you will have to deprecate from your application if it is being used. 

Sentiment

Another powerful augmentation provided by the DataSift platform is sentiment analysis.
 
When a tweet arrives in the platform the augmentation attaches a sentiment score:
 
 
You can also use VEDO to run a custom machine-learned classifier to produce a domain-specific sentiment score.
 
If you rely on sentiment scoring in your solution, there is currently no equivalent augmentation in GNIP. You will need to investigate 3rd party solutions to fill this gap.

Demographics

DataSift Demographics expands Twitter data to give you demographic details. Our Gender augmentation determines the author's sex and can be used with all tweets. 
 
Our Demographics takes you much further giving details such as age, profession, interests and brand alliances for anonymised tweets.
 
Demographics are extremely valuable when trying to understand your audience or target market. 
 
 
GNIP does not currently offer a demographics product. You would need to investigate 3rd party providers to fill this gap.

VEDO FOCUS

One of our recent product launches has been VEDO FOCUS. FOCUS classifies all Tweets in the Twitter firehose against a deep taxonomy of 450,000 categories. This taxonomy is constantly updated to include rapidly changing topics from breaking news to the latest music artists.
 
With FOCUS enabled, rather than spending time tuning and perfecting your filter, you can write extremely simple but powerful queries. FOCUS helps developers build more accurate filters much faster.
 
For instance to capture all discussion around the automotive industry:
 
 
There is currently no equivalent product when working with GNIP. You would need to investigate 3rd party providers to fill this gap.

Historic Archive

Both GNIP and DataSift offer historical Twitter data access, however the workflow for historic queries is significantly different.
 
DataSift allows you to run historic queries, using the same filtering & classification features you use for real-time stream access. The data is delivered to you through one of our push connectors, so is extremely easy to integrate. 
 
GNIP's historic access is limited by the same filtering and classification gaps as for real-time access. The resulting data is stored in a collection of files, each representing 10 mins of the query, which you then need to download, combine and store in your database.  
 
In addition, if you are relying on augmentations on tweets such as sentiment and link expansion, this data is not available in the GNIP historic archive, because of the differences in the augmentations each platform provides.
 

Filtering Features

When working with DataSift you have access to a large range of data fields and CSDL operators to craft your filters and classifiers. 

Data Fields

When creating DataSift filters you can work against any data field in a Tweet. There are a huge number of fields in a single Tweet (over 100) all which can be very useful across use cases, all of which you can work with. Using CSDL you can consistently use the same operators across any of these data fields.
 
For instance, maybe you'd like to filter to only tweets that have been retweeted at least 1000 times, with content in either the body of the tweet or in the title of a shared link. In DataSift you can say:
 
 
The contains_any operator can be applied to any text field. The twitter.retweet.count field is just one of many targets not available in GNIP to work with.
 
GNIP does offer a fixed list of fields to work with, but the list is more limited.
 
When migrating to GNIP you will need to assess each of your filters to see which fields are possible to work with in GNIP. Any that are not you will need to reproduce in post processing once you receive the data in your application.

Geo Polygons

Geo polygons are a a great way to restrict your filtering to an exact location. They take you beyond simple location box or radius filtering allowing you to define complex real world locations, such as US states.
 
For example, you can define countries and states to filter for. This example filters precisely for tweets posted in California:
 
 
GNIP supports geo box and radius searches, but not currently geo polygons.

Regular Expressions

The DataSift regular expression operator is very useful for defining advanced filters. With a regular expression you can move way beyond simple text matching.
 
For instance with a DataSift filter you can match cashtags with the following filter:
 
 
GNIP does not support regular expressions. 

Case Sensitivity

The DataSift case sensitivity switch is a great feature when you need precise matching of content. 
 
For instance, when you're trying to match mentions of brands, case sensitivity is important:
 
 
All operators in GNIP are case insensitive so you cannot reproduce this feature, aside from filtering for 'google it' and post-processing the data you receive.

Wildcards

Wildcards are a great way to 'fuzzy match' content. Wildcards are supported on the DataSift platform using the wildcard operator.
 
As a quick example, wildcards are great when  you're trying to match a commonly misspelled word:
 
Or filter for variations of a word such as print:
 
 
GNIP doesn't support wildcard matching. 
 

Tokenization for Japanese and Chinese

We're all keen to tap into a wide variety of markets for our analysis. Two key markets are Japan and China, which present a difficult technical challenge because of the language structure. 
 
As a quick example, the brand Samsung in Chinese is written as 三星. Because there are no spaces to break up words as there would be in English, meanings of characters are based upon the context of surrounding symbols. So performing a substring match on the characters would match both of these phrases:
 
我爱我新的三星电视!  (I love my new Samsung TV!)
我已经等我的包裹三星期了!  (I've been waiting three weeks for my parcel to arrive!')
 
The trick to working with the languages is tokenizing the content, in effect adding spaces where appropriate, based upon the surrounding content. In DataSift this is solved for you by tokenization support. With this support you can build precise filters just as you would for European languages. 
 
There is no equivalent tokenization in GNIP for these languages at present. You can look to produce the same effect using substring matches. This is tricky to get right and might take some time to perfect.
 

 

Richard Caudle's picture

DataSift PYLON - The value of unified data processing

Applying CSDL and VEDO to Facebook topic data

You might have seen our recent announcement which enables developers to gain insights from Facebook topic data. No doubt you're eager to learn more! In this post we'll look at how easy it is to take CSDL you've fine-tuned for filtering data from networks such as Twitter or Tumblr, and apply this in PYLON both for not only filtering but also for classifying Facebook topic data. This demonstrates the simplicity of using a unified data processing platform. 
 
Before we jump in too deep, at this point you're probably keen to know exactly what PYLON is. Let's give you a quick intro…

What is PYLON?

PYLON is a new API that enables a privacy-first approach to analyzing Facebook posts and engagement data. Using the PYLON API, for the first time you can build insights from Facebook's topic data.
 
With PYLON you can analyze the billions of posts and media engagement that takes place on Facebook every day, but respect the privacy of individual people using Facebook. 
 
The sources of aggregate and anonymized information that can be extracted from Facebook topic data can be broadly categorized as posts and engagement data:
 
  • Posts on pages: Content, Topics, Links and Hashtags
  • Engagement data: Comment, Shares, Likes

Privacy-First

PYLON gives you access to Facebook topic data, but it also protects the identity of individuals on Facebook. Personally identifiable information (PII) is never exposed.

  • You receive statistical summarized results, never individual posts.
  • A minimum audience-threshold of 100 is applied to any analysis you perform to protect from individual-level analysis.
  • Data is processed within Facebook’s own data centre. Raw data never leaves Facebook’s servers.
  • Interaction data is only available for analysis for up to 30 days, after which time it is deleted from the service.

So with PYLON you can generate insights that before now were not possible, yet in a way that ensure privacy for Facebook users!

PYLON Workflow

If you've worked with DataSift before you'll be used to the Stream workflow:
 
  • Create filters in CSDL against your enabled data sources
  • Add classification rules to your filters using VEDO
  • Deliver raw, classified data to your chosen destination
 
PYLON is different, as to maintain privacy the output is delivered as summary results:
 
  • Create a filter that matches interactions on Facebook
  • Include classification rules to add value to the data
  • Record output from this filter into a private index
  • Submit analysis queries to the index to receive analysis results
 
 
The data you filter is recorded to a PYLON index only you have access to. You access your index using analysis queries which return summary statistical results from Facebook topic data.
 

Apply your CSDL expertise to Facebook topic data

So until now if you're a DataSift customer you'll have been using our Stream product, this provides access to filter from a variety of social data sources such as Twitter, Tumblr, and blogs.  
 
In this scenario, you'll have created filters, for example to capture tweets about popular mobile games:
 
( \n\tinteraction.content contains_any "Game of War,Boom Beach,Pet Rescue,Candy Crush,Don't Tap, \n2048,FarmVille 2" \n\tOR interaction.content contains_near "Clash,Clans:5" \n\tOR interaction.content contains_near "Puzzle,Dragons:5" \n\tOR interaction.content contains_all "step,white,tile" \n) \nAND NOT interaction.content wildcard "cheat*" \nAND NOT interaction.content wildcard "hack*"
 
Even if you've not familiar with CSDL syntax, you can see how easy it is to work across different data fields (which we call targets), make use of operators such as contains_any and combine many conditions with boolean operators.
 

Applying CSDL to Facebook topic data

With PYLON just like Stream your first step is to create a filter for the interactions you'd like to record to your index.
 
The best thing about PYLON is that under the hood it uses exactly the same filtering engine to filter Facebook topic data stream, just as is used to filter the Twitter firehose.
 
So, let's take our example CSDL from above. If we'd like to index the Facebook topic data which covers exactly the same criteria as we used with Twitter:
 
( \n\tinteraction.content contains_any "Game of War,Boom Beach,Pet Rescue,Candy Crush,Don't Tap, \n2048,FarmVille 2" \n\tOR interaction.content contains_near "Clash,Clans:5" \n\tOR interaction.content contains_near "Puzzle,Dragons:5" \n\tOR interaction.content contains_all "step,white,tile" \n) \nAND NOT interaction.content wildcard "cheat*" \nAND NOT interaction.content wildcard "hack*"
 
Yes, that's right - the CSDL is exactly the same! 
 
This works because common data fields in both sources are mapped to the interaction namespace. In this case we're making heavy use of interaction.content which is the content of the post or tweet. Also regardless of the data field you're filtering upon, the operators such as contains_any work in exactly the same way too.
 
Of course, you can also utilise the unique data available from each network. For example, Facebook topic data contains audience demographics and topic-data which is not present in Twitter.  With this, you could expand your CSDL to focus your analysis on for males talking about cars who live in California.
 
fb.author.gender == "male" and fb.author.region == "California" \nand fb.topics.category == "Cars"
 
With Facebook topic data you can filter on demographics, but what's even better is that PYLON ensures privacy for Facebook users as returned results are anonymous, aggregated summaries.
 

Classifying with VEDO

The power of CSDL doesn't stop at filtering to identify data for analysis. You can use the same language, operators and data fields to classify your data using VEDO.
 
Classifying data this way is particularly important when using PYLON as privacy guards prevent you from accessing raw data. By using VEDO with PYLON you can add extra value to the data before it is saved in your index, and then make use of this extra data when submitting your analysis queries.
 
Let's build on our example above by adding tags to data that has been filtered. We can do so by adding tag rules to our filter:
 
tag.game "Candy Crush" { interaction.content contains "Candy Crush"} \ntag.game "Game of War" { interaction.content contains "Game of War"} \ntag.game "Boom Beach" { interaction.content contains "Boom Beach"} \ntag.game "Pet Rescue" { interaction.content contains "Pet Rescue"} \ntag.game "Don't Tap" { interaction.content contains "Don't Tap"} \ntag.game "2048" { interaction.content contains "2048"} \ntag.game "FarmVille 2" { interaction.content contains "FarmVille 2"} \ntag.game "Clash of the Clans" { interaction.content contains_near "Clash,Clans:5"} \ntag.game "Puzzles & Dragons" { interaction.content contains_near "Puzzles,Dragons:5"} \ntag.game "Don't Step On The White Tile" { interaction.content contains_all "step,white,tile" }
 
Again this code can be run on Twitter data using the Stream product or against Facebook data in PYLON. 
 
We can take things further by applying machine learned classifiers. For instance we could create a custom sentiment classifier, then apply this to both Facebook topic data and Twitter.
 

Analyzing Facebook topic data

Finally to complete our workflow we let's take a quick look at submitting analysis queries in PYLON. As you cannot access the raw data this is how you get your insights from the data your recorded to your index.
 
When you submit a query to PYLON you specify the data field you'd like to analyze, what analysis to perform and which segment of the data in your index to analyze.
 
Here you get to use your CSDL skills once more, as CSDL is used to filter the data in your index into precise segments. You can drill down deeper and deeper to get very detailed insights.
 
As a quick example we could start by analyzing the age groups in our entire dataset as a frequency distribution. In PYLON you specify the following arguments:
 
{

    "analysis_type":"freqDist",
    "parameters":
    {
        "target":"fb.author.age"
    }
}
 
Using CSDL we can take this further selecting a precise subset, based upon demographics and tags we introduced in our example. To do so we simply specify a filter when making the analysis request:
 
interaction.tag_tree.game == "Candy Crush" AND fb.author.gender == "female" \nAND fb.author.region == "UK"
 
Immediately this gives us some powerful insights, breaking down players by age group:
 
 
This is just a taste of how powerful PYLON and VEDO are when analyzing Facebook topic data! In future posts we'll look at filtering, classification and analysis queries in much more depth.

 

Richard Caudle's picture

New Community Site Launched!

Things change very fast at DataSift, it can be hard to keep up.
 
This week we've released our new community site at community.datasift.com.
 
 
 
The community site hosts our forums going forwards. It's the best place to ask questions to be answered by our staff and other developers, and you can also leave feedback and make suggestions to our team.
 
Another role of the community site is to keep you better informed of platform changes and to build a community around our platform. The Announcments category will be used to keep you up-to-date with platform changes, and soon we will hosting events for developers which will also be announced to the community.
 
Of course if you have a support package our Support team is always on hand too.

Subscribing to Announcements

To subscribe to new posts in any category (although Announcements will probably be the most interesting to get you started), you need to do the following:

  • Visit community.datasift.com
  • Click Log In in the top right corner
  • The new site has SSO integration with dev.datasift.com. If you have an account already sign in, if not register for a developer account.
  • Go to the Announcements category 
  • Click the top right dropdown and choose Watching

 
 
Richard Caudle's picture

Announcing Tencent Weibo - Broaden Your Coverage Of Chinese Conversation

In a previous post I discussed how we're broadening our reach to help you get the best out of East Asian sources such as using our Chinese tokenization engine.
 
To build on this momentum, I'm excited to be able to announce a new data source for Tencent Weibo, another huge Chinese network you'll be eager to get your hands on. Now you can build more comprehensive solutions for the Chinese market with ease.
 

Tencent Weibo - A Key Piece In Your Chinese Social Jigsaw

China has the most active social network community in the world. With over 600 million Internet users on average spending 40% of their online time using social networks, there's an awful lot of conversation out there which no doubt you'd love to harness.
 
There are a wide variety of social networks used in China, one of the largest is Tencent Weibo. Tencent Weibo gives great coverage of 3rd and 4th tier cities, essentially emerging markets which already have large populations and are experiencing massive growth. To generate full insights, and generate maximum opportunity from Chinese markets it is essential that you listen to these conversations.
 

Understanding Tencent Weibo Interactions

Tencent Weibo is modelled largely on Twitter. Just like Twitter users can use up to 140 characters for a post, and can share photos and videos. As a result Tencent Weibo lends itself to similar use cases you may already have set up with Twitter.
 
We expose as much data as possible to you through targets. A full list of the Tencent Weibo targets can be found in our documentation. Here are a few highlights to get you started though.
 

Types of Interaction

Tencent also has it's own types of activity which are very similar to Twitter. A 'post' is the equivalent of a tweet, and a 'repost' is the equivalent of retweet. 
 
A reply is slightly different however. If you reply on Twitter, you mention the user you are replying to. On Tencent Weibo when you reply you are actually continuing a specific thread and do not need to mention the user you are replying to.
 
To distinguish between these types you can use the tencentweibo.type target.
 

Thread ID

As I mentioned above Tencent Weibo runs a threaded conversation model. You can filter to certain conversations by using the thread ID, exposed by the tencentweibo.thread_id target.
 
This is very useful because you can for example pick up a first post which discusses a topic you're interested in, then you can make a note of the thread ID and track any replies which follow.
 

Author's Influence

Frequently you'll want to know a little more about the content's author. Three useful pieces of metadata you can work with are:
  • tencentweibo.author.followers_count: The number of followers a user has
  • tencentweibo.author.following_count: The number of users the user follows
  • tencentweibo.author.statuses_count: The number of posts the user has created
Commonly we use similar features to identify spam on Twitter. For example we might filter out content from users who follow a high number of users, but themselves have few followers, as this is a common signature for a bot.
 

Tencent In Action

Ok, so you've decided that you want to tap into the world of Tencent Weibo conversation. How does this work in practice? Let's look at a quick example.
 
A common use of the new data source will be brand monitoring, so let's write some CSDL that picks out well-known brands from Tencent Weibo chatter. For this example I'm going use the targets I discussed above to filter down to influential authors who are posting original content, this will give us the more pertinent data for our use case.
 
To filter to influential users I can use the tencentweibo.author.followers_count target:
 
tencentweibo.author.followers_count >= 10000
 
To filter to original posts (so exclude replies and reposts) I can use the tencentweibo.type target: 
 
tencentweibo.type == "post"
 
To filter to a list of brands I'm interested in (Coca-Cola, Walmart, etc.): 
 
tencentweibo.text contains_any [language(zh)] "可口可乐, 谷歌, 沃尔玛, 吉列, 亚马逊, 麦当劳, 联合利华, 葛兰素史克, 路虎, 维珍航空"
 
Trust me for now on the translations! Things will get clearer in a minute.
 
The expression I've used here uses the tencentweibo.text target, which exposes the text content of the post. Following this I make use of Chinese tokenization, using the [language(zh)] switch as explained in my previous post to ensure accurate matching of my brand names.
 
My finished filter becomes: 
 
So now I have a stream of original content from influential authors discussing my collection of brands. In just a few minutes and extremely powerful definition.
 

A Helping Hand From VEDO

Honestly, I struggle when working with Chinese data, because I can't speak a word of Mandarin or Cantonese. (I did once spend a month in China and picked up my Chinese nickname of 'silver dragon', but unfortunately I got no further.) Fortunately I can make use of VEDO tagging to help me understand the data.
 
I can write a simple tag to pick out each brand mention, for example "Coca-Cola", as follows:
 
tag.brand "Coca-Cola" { tencentweibo.text contains [language(zh)] "可口可乐"
 
Notice that tag.brand is part of VEDO tagging, this declares a namespace for the "Coca-Cola" tag which follows. The braces that follow the tag contain an expression, which if matched for an interaction will cause the tag to be applied to the interaction. When the data arrives at my application the data is tagged with the brand name in English and therefore makes it much easier for me to work with.
 
Remember that VEDO tags are applied to data that has been first filtered by a filter wrapped in the return clause. In my final definition I'll add a line for each brand. 
 
For a refresher on VEDO, please take a look at my earlier posts
 

Putting It All Together

I can put my filter together with my tags by wrapping the filter in a return clause. My completed CSDL is as follows:
 
Running this stream in preview you can see that conversation on Tencent Weibo is being nicely categorised so it can be much more easily understood.
 
 

Over To You...

This concludes my whirlwind introduction to Tencent Weibo. Technology aside, it's definitely worth emphasising again that Tencent Weibo is a vital source if you want to maximise opportunities in Chinese marketplaces. 
 
For a full reference on Tencent Weibo targets, please see our technical documentation.
 
To stay in touch with all the latest developer news please subscribe to our RSS feed at http://dev.datasift.com/blog/feed.
Richard Caudle's picture

Chinese Tokenization - Generate Accurate Insight From Chinese Sources Including Sina Weibo

We all know that China is a vitally important market for any international brand. Until recently it has been difficult to access conversation from Chinese networks and tooling support for East Asian languages has been limited. This is why at DataSift we're proud to not only now offer access to Sina Weibo, but equally important we have greatly improved our handling of Chinese text to allow you to get the most from this market.
 

The Challenges Of East Asian Social Data

Until now it has been difficult to access social insights from markets such as China, for two reasons:
 
  • Access to data: Almost all conversations take place on local social networks, rather than Twitter and Facebook. The ecosystem around these local networks has been less mature, and therefore gaining access has been more challenging.
  • Inadequate tooling: Even if you could gain access to these sources, the vast majority of tools are heavily biased towards European languages, trained on spacing and punctuation which simply don't exist in East Asian text. Inadequate tooling leads to poor and incomplete insights.
Happily our platform now solves both of these challenges for you. Firstly we now give you access to Sina Weibo. Secondly, we have greatly improved our handling of Chinese text, to give you exactly the same powers you'd expect when processing European languages. Specifically we support Mandarin, simplified Chinese text.
 
Incidentally, we also tokenize Japanese content which is a different challenge to Chinese text. The methods of tokenization are quite different but equally important to the accuracy of your filters. Read a detailed post here from our Data Science team.
 

Moving Beyond Substring Matching

In the past our customers have been able to filter Chinese content by using the substr operator. This can give you inaccurate results though because the same sequence of Chinese characters can have different meanings. 
 
Take for example the brand Samsung, which is written as follows:
 
三星
 
These characters are also present in the phrase "three weeks" and many place names. So a simple filter using substr like so could give you unwanted data:
 
interaction.content substr "三星"
 
It would match both of these sentences:
 
我爱我新的三星电视!  (I love my new Samsung TV!)
我已经等我的包裹三星期了!  (I've been waiting three weeks for my parcel to arrive!')
 
By tokenizing the text into words, and allowing our customers to filter using operators such as contains, our customers can now receive more accurately filtered data.
 

Tokenization 101

The key to handling Chinese text accurately is through intelligent tokenization. Through tokenization we can provide you with our full range of text matching operators, rather than simple substring matching. 
 
I realise this might not be immediately obvious, so I'll explain using some examples.
 
Let's start with English. You probably know already can use CSDL (our filtering language) to look for mentions of words like so:
 
interaction.content contains_near "recommend,tv:4"
 
This will match content where the words 'recommend' and 'tv' are close together, such as: 
 
Can anyone recommend a good TV?
 
This works because our tokenization engine internally breaks the content into words for matching, using spaces as word boundaries:
 
Can anyone recommend a good TV ?
 
With this tokenization in place we can run operators such as contains and contains_near.
 
However, with Chinese text there are no spaces between words. In fact Chinese text contains long streams of characters, with no hard and fast rules for word boundaries that can be simply implemented.
 

Chinese Tokenization

The translation of 'Can any recommend a good TV?' is:
 
你能推荐一个好的电视吗
 
With the new Chinese tokenization support, internally the platform breaks the content into words as follows:
 
推荐 一个 好的 电视
You can recommend a good television ?
 
The DataSift tokenizer uses a machine learned model to select the most appropriate tokenization and gives highly accurate results. This learned model has been extensively trained is constantly updated.
 
Our CSDL to match this would be:
 
interaction.content contains_near [language(zh)] "推荐,电视:4"
 
The syntax [language(zh)] tells the engine that you would like to tokenize content using Chinese tokenization rules.
 

Best Practice

To ensure the accuracy of the filter, we recommend you add further keywords or conditions. For example, the following filters for content contain Samsung and TV:
 
interaction.content contains [language(zh)] "三星"
AND interaction.content contains [language(zh)] "电视"
 
This may seem like we're cheating(!), but in fact a native Chinese speaker would also rely on other surrounding text to decide that it is indeed Samsung the brand being discussed.
 

Try It For Yourself

So in summary, not only do we now provide access to Chinese social networks, but just as important our platform takes you beyond simple substring matching to give you much greater accuracy in your results.
 
If you don't have access to the Sina Weibo source you can start playing with Chinese tokenization immediately via Twitter. The examples above will work nicely because they work across all sources.
 
For a full reference on the new sources, please see our technical documentation.
 
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