Linguabrand qualifies emotions through social media

Linguabrand uses psycho-linguistic algorithms to extract social and emotional metrics from free text. Recently they were supplied with two sides of an online discourse between those recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and those with the condition existing. Without even reading the discourse, they uncovered and quantified changing emotional needs.

The figures were measured against Linguabrand’s ‘Emotional Background Benchmark’. This provides a comparison of the measurement factors against levels you’d expect to hear in a normal spoken conversation. (In all of the graphs below ‘100’ equals this benchmark. Also note the changing values on the axes).

Although many of the findings seem obvious, quantifying conversations from a forum without even being read is less so. Gut feel is important; but until it’s measured it’s nothing but opinion. Psycho-linguistics opens up a new way of understanding how people are feeling.

MS – Life Transforming

It was immediately apparent that MS is a massive, problem-centric, transformation. Both new diagnoses and existing patients are strongly orientated towards moving away from that problem rather than moving towards answers.

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In this respect we’d guess it’s little different from any other conversation around debilitating or life-threatening conditions. Those newly diagnosed are heavily focused on themselves, but this focus returns to normal levels as they come to terms with the condition.

Family is by far the most important social frame. The impact of MS on family life, present and future is extremely important. This has major implications for communications from drug companies. They need to include the family instead of talking to the patient alone.

A Storm of Emotions

Negative emotions were 50% higher than average levels for both patient sets. Looking at negative emotions in more detail was revealing…

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… Sadness is the overwhelming feeling for new diagnoses, coupled with very high levels of anxiety. As people accept their condition sadness levels more than halve. But anxiety actually increases. This is an important finding, because anxiety is a focus of on-going medication. Understanding and reducing anxiety should be a key metric for medical communications.

Anger levels are half the level of a standard conversation. Perhaps there isn’t room for it amongst the sadness and anxiety? But it suggests that both patient groups are open to a conversation.

Uncovered – The Brave Face?
Existing people encourage the new. They talk much more about success and show higher levels of confidence. However, they are also much less sure of themselves.

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Marry this finding to the increasing levels of anxiety as the illness proceeds and this sounds like putting on ‘the brave face’. Behind all their encouragement lies anxiety and doubt.

These findings, and more, enabled Linguabrand to make specific recommendations on patient communications.
Healthcare professionals are strongly science led. Bringing a metrics-driven approach to emotional data encourages them to understand, measure and manage patient relationships better. This could have a significant impact not only on patients’ quality of life, but potentially on their medical treatment itself.

Big data – intimate insights

Using social media data means is free of many research biases. It’s not question or process led. People take part speaking in their own voices, in their own time and in their own space. They select themselves rather than being offered a proposition to opt in.

Privacy is clearly important. Individuals are never revealed, indeed many don’t use their names anyway. And in big data it’s the collective that is important.

Understanding that language reveals emotions is remarkable in itself. Scaling this using software will change the way research works. This converts social and mobile-based free-text from unwieldy, unstructured data into a quantified emotional insights.

Communities are the next games play for Palringo

IMG_20140919_143357A sunny day in Sweden is the type of experience that makes the visitor feel cleansed, vibrant and healthy… even after a pint of Guinness and a pie at a tourist pub in Gothenburg.

People-spotting here is so modern that it wouldn’t be that weird to see a couple of pregnant men walking around talking to mothers, driverless cars parking themselves or air-bicycles being softly pedalled by children on the way back from school.

What would be weird, however, is a man without a checked shirt or beard. If London’s Shoreditch has beards, then Sweden’s Gothenburg owns beards. Bearded Londoners look like Beau Brummell, bearded Swedes look like Grizzly Adams.

This is Sweden’s second biggest city and it’s quietly cool. Surrounded by an archipelago of islands, defined by cafe culture and hipster bars, Gothenburg understandably attracts creative people and companies, those who know that small cities like this are the future of developed humanity, where businesses as well as families will prosper.

One such company based in the centre of the city used to be called Free Lunch Design and is now part of The Palringo Group, a messaging app that focuses on group-forming, games, chat and communities. The company now has more than 28 million global users and more than 350,000 special interest groups.

Magnus Alm was the CEO of Free Lunch Design, but now heads marketing for Palringo and when I enter his office, I am asked to take off my shoes, my Birkenstocks fitting in rather neatly with the array of discarded footwear by the door. Immediately, it’s clear this is a games company. Avatars of staff members adorn the walls, and Alm himself is wearing a red fez; it’s going to be an interesting couple of hours.

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Free Lunch Design were a very successful company before the acquisition by Palringo in the Spring of 2014. The company had already worked with mega brands Disney, Paramount and Marvel, as well as having almost a million Likes on Facebook. To this day, the company is still one of Sweden’s biggest Facebook developers.

But that is past, now Alm is looking forward to a interesting future with Palringo and creating the new force in gaming, that of community. He has a good platform to work with. Palringo has more than 28 million users, of which there are 350,000 interest groups, some of which have two thousand members.

The idea is to meld chat-based applications with games, be they downloaded and fitted with a Palringo button to join these communities or by adding a games-based layer to the messaging technology itself.

“Game publishers can reap benefits by becoming platform owners such as messaging apps, social networks and communities…or platform owners becoming game publishers. Loyal users being presented by relevant and appealing content within an environment they feel comfortable can be a method to strike gold in the app stores,” says Alm.

As I stroll around (bare-footed) around Alm’s offices, the feeling is one of placidity and calm, games being organically created in a quiet and intelligent atmosphere. Here, we are a universe away from other entertainment companies where business is conducted in a frenetic fashion.

Palringo also seem to be hiring wisely and ramping up its marketing budget to bring community managers from outside the games and mobile industry, underscoring how important the curation of Palringo’s burgeoning communities is to the company.

As I bid farewell to the Palringo guys and put back on my shoes, there is a sense that while this company may not be manically shouting above their weight and promising the world, there is a calm, yes, Swedish, assurance here that suggests the future… although probably not the imagined pregnant fathers I mentioned earlier.

Mobile games: Playing with the group dynamic

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It was the 16th Century English poet John Donne who said that ‘no man is an island entire of itself’ and this maxim has endured for almost 500 years. Effectively Donne was saying that humans need to be in groups, not in isolation.

The need to participate in actions is crucial to humanity. When we do this with things we love, our levels of engagement and happiness soar. Watching football is better in the pub or with friends around, playing sport is better in a team and going to a gig with mates is more enjoyable than going alone.

Same with videogames, be they console, PC-based, tablet or mobile. While solitary people can sit happily with Doodle Jump all day long, multiplayer games and the sense of belonging in a community is one of the largest driving forces behind the games industry today.

One such example is Kongregate, a free open platform for browser-based games that has more than 15 million unique visitors per month. Playing games in groups is good for the soul and even better for the platform that provides it.

The same is also true with the wave of mobile chat apps that have swept through technology over the past couple of years. We talk in groups, so why don’t we play in groups? That makes a lot of sense – games added to group-based chat apps.

Group dynamics can strengthen the game experience and, in turn, the game experience can enhance group dynamics, a win-win scenario. Players can encourage each other, exchange friendly banter and even mock each other, when their game actions take place within an open chat context.

A real-time and user-driven experience instead of a slow and asynchronous experience creates a sense of urgency and spurs activity between people. It’s like turning on a switch. Eyes dilate, people become excited, people jump in.

Moreover if a users add a bonus, extra feature, or other gameplay enhancers by unlocking them for a whole group, it is similar to buying a round for everyone in the pub. It is not necessarily about individual accomplishment, but perhaps more about appealing to the social context that is experienced within the game.

There are several concepts that works well within a text-based environment. But, when adding the group perspective, things get really interesting. How about raising a pet dragon along with your friends, taking care of a farm or creating a city together?

Players of clan-based games typically have to use chat apps as companion apps to their games. We’ve seen this happen a lot in our group chat app, Palringo. We cater to that audience, both by releasing ‘in chat’ games but also external native mobile titles, which are enhanced when playing connected to Palringo.

You might want to coordinate attacks, discuss new features, access certain game modes or just talk about the game in a more relaxed environment. This is further evolved by adding a group vs group dynamic. A highly engaging game mechanic that our company will be focusing on in the future.

Of course, group v group may be similar to the ‘every man is an island’ citation earlier in this post and island v island may creation its own dynamic, but in a world where the technology is good enough to keeps up with humanity’s need for groups, the future of games is likely to be like this. And a jolly fine thing that is.

150-WORD PHONE REVIEW – CAT B15Q

CAT_B15QI recently had the highly depressing and long-winded experience of breaking the screen on my Nexus 4. If there was ever a cottage industry that needs modernising, it’s that one.

It took two suppliers, three attempts, four weeks and £135 to fix the screen and made me think differently about the so-called ‘strongphones’ that are becoming increasingly popular.

These are rugged products that companies such as CAT market as unbreakable, waterproof and which can be dropped from almost two metres. Round the world yachtsmen use them as much as plumbers do, so I splashed out £230 without a contract for the CAT B15Q.

A month later, I’m sold. It feels like a proper phone, thick and textural and all-weather. I know it’s in my pocket; its bulk reminds me and if I was a working man (rather than a glorified typist) I’d throw it in my tool-box like a tape measure.

It’s brilliant. Goodbye fragile-screen, I don’t need you any longer… although I miss your snazzy camera sometimes.

REVIEW: 8.5/10

150-WORD BOOK REVIEW: Your Brain on Porn by Gary Wilson

final.cover__0Like most of you, I read the Internet for the articles. Not everyone’s the same. It will come as no surprise to anyone to learn just how pervasive online porn is. One study in 2010 suggested that 37% of the Internet comprises of pornographic material. Given the speed at which we’re sharing videos, images and more online (even inadvertently), that’s likely to be even higher now. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ease with which people can access this content and the amount of time that some spend engaging with it is having a massive effect on psyches, personalities, performance and more.

Your Brain on Porn is the culmination of years of research and reams of stories told on the website of the same name. It’s a damning indictment of the effect that porn is having on an increasing number of people – psychologically and physiologically. A hugely engaging read which talks about a problem that’s only getting worse.