Tag Archives: Qatar

Sentiment Analysis of #COP18 Tweets from the UN Climate Conference

The Qatar Foundation’s Computing Research Institute (QCRI) has just launched a live sentiment analysis tool of all #COP18 tweets being posted during the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar. The event kicked off on Monday, November 26th and will conclude on Friday, December 7th. While the world’s media is actively covering COP18, social media reports are equally insightful. This explains the rationale behind QCRI’s Live #COP18 Twitter Sentiment Analysis Tool.


The first timeline displays the number of positive versus negative tweets posted with the COP18 hashtag. The tweets are automatically tagged as positive or negative using the SentiStrength algorithm, which has the same level of accuracy as that of a person if s/he were to manually tag the tweets. The second timeline simply depicts the average sentiment of #COP18 tweets. Both graphs are auto-matically updated every hour. Note that tweets in all languages are analyzed, not just English-language tweets.

These timelines enable journalists, activists and others to monitor the general mood and reaction to presentations, announcements & conversations happening at the UN Climate Conference. For example, we see a major spike in positive tweets (and to a lesser extent negative tweets) between 10am-11am on November 26th. This is when the Opening Ceremony kicks off, as can be seen from the conference agenda.

Screen Shot 2012-12-01 at 9.30.25 AM

The next highest peak occurs between 6pm-7pm on the 27th, which corresponds to the opening plenary of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP). This group is tasked with establishing an agreement that will legally bind all parties to climate targets for the first time. The tweets are primarily positive, which may reflect a positive start to negotiations on opera-tionalizing the Durban Platform. This news article appears to support this hypo-thesis. At 2pm time on November 28th, the number of positive and negative tweets both peak at approximately the same number, 160 tweets. Twitter users may be evenly divided on a topic being discussed.

QCRI Sentiment Analysis

To find out more, simply scroll to the right of the timelines. You’ll see two twitter streams displayed. The first provides a list of selected positive and negative tweets. More specifically, the most frequently retweeted positive and negative tweets for each day are displayed. This feature enables users to understand how some tweets are driving the sentiment analyses displayed on the timelines. The second twitter stream displays the most recent tweets on the UN Conference.

If you’re interested in displaying these live graphs on your website, simply click on the “Embed link” to grab the code. The code is free, we simply ask that you credit and link to QCRI. If you analyze #COP18 tweets using these timelines, please let us know so we can benefit from your insights during this pivotal conference. The sentiment analysis dashboard was put together by QCRI’s Sofiane AbbarWalid Magdy and myself. We welcome your feedback on how to make this dashboard more useful for future conferences and events. Please note that this site was put together “overnight”; i.e., it was rushed. As such it is only an initial prototype.

Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī: An Update from the Qatar Computing Research Institute

I first heard of al-Khwārizmī in my ninth-grade computer science class at the International School of Vienna (AIS) back in 1993. Dr. Herman Prossinger who taught the course is exactly the kind of person one describes when answering the question: which teacher had the most impact on you while growing up? I wonder how many other 9th graders in the world had the good fortune of being taught computer science by a full-fledged professor with a PhD dissertation entitled “Isothermal Gas spheres in General Relativity Theory” (1976) and numerous peer-reviewed publications in top-tier scientific journals including Nature?

Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī was a brilliant mathematician & astronomer who spent his time as a scholar in the House of Wisdom in Baghdad (possibly the best name of any co-working space in history). “Al-Khwarithmi” was initially transliterated into Latin as Algoritmi. The manuscript above, for example, begins with “DIXIT algorizmi,” meaning “Says al-Khwārizmī.” And thus was born the world AlgorithmBut al-Khwārizmī’s fundamental contributions were not limited to the fields of mathematics and astronomy, he is also well praised for his important work on geography and cartography. Published in 833, his Kitāb ṣūrat al-Arḍ (Arabic: كتاب صورة الأرض) or “Book on the Appearance of the Earth” was a revised and corrected version of Ptolemy’s Geography. al-Khwārizmī’s book comprised an impressive list of 2,402 coordinates of cities and other geo-graphical features. The only surviving copy of the book can be found at Strasbourg University. I’m surprised the item has not yet been purchased by Qatar and relocated to Doha.

View of the bay from QCRI in Doha, Qatar.

This brings me to the Qatar (Foundation) Computing Research Institute (QCRI), which was almost called the al-Khwārizmī Computing Research Institute. I joined QCRI exactly two weeks ago as Director of Social Innovation. My first impression? QCRI is Doha’s “House of Whizzkids”. The team is young, dynamic, international and super smart. I’m already working on several exploratory research and development (R&D) projects that could potentially lead to initial prototypes by the end of the year. These have to do with the application of social computing and big data analysis for humanitarian response. So I’ve been in touch with several colleagues at the United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to bounce these early ideas off and am thrilled that all responses thus far have been very positive.

My QCRI colleagues and I are also looking into collaborative platforms for “smart microtasking” which may be useful for the Digital Humanitarian Network. In addition, we’re just starting to explore potential solutions for quantifying veracity in social media, a rather non-trivial problem as Dr. Prossinger would often say with a sly smile in relation to NP-hard problems. In terms of partner-ship building, I will be in New York, DC and Boston next month for official meetings with the UN, World Bank and MIT to explore possible collaborations on specific projects. The team in Doha is particularly strong on big data analytics, social computing, data cleaning, machine learning and translation. In fact, most of the whizzkids here come from very impressive track records with Microsoft, Yahoo, Ivy Leagues, etc. So I’m excited by the potential.

View of Tornado Tower (purple lights) where QCRI is located.

The reason I’m not going into specifics vis-a-vis these early R&D efforts is not because I want to be secretive or elusive. Not at all. We’re still refining the ideas ourselves and simply want to manage expectations. There is a very strong and genuine interest within QCRI to contribute meaningfully to the humanitarian technology space. But we’re really just getting started, still hiring left, center and right, and we’ll be in R&D mode for a while. Plus, we don’t want to rush just for the sake of launching a new product. All too often, humanitarian technologies are developed without the benefit (and luxury) of advanced R&D. But if QCRI is going to help shape next-generation humanitarian technology solutions, we should do this in a way that is deliberate, cutting-edge and strategic. That is our comparative advantage.

In sum, the outcome of our R&D efforts may not always lead to a full-fledged prototype, but all the research and findings we carry out will definitely be shared publicly so we can move the field forward. We’re also committed to developing free and open source software as part of our prototyping efforts. Finally, we have no interest in re-inventing the wheel and far prefer working in partnerships than in isolation. So there we go, time to R&D  like al-Khwārizmī.

Joining the Qatar Foundation to Advance Humanitarian Technology

Big news! I’ll be taking a senior level position at the Qatar Foundation to work on the next generation of humanitarian technology solutions. I’ll be based at the Foundation’s Computing Research Institute (QCRI) and be working alongside some truly amazing minds defining the cutting edge of social and scientific computing, computational linguistics, big data, etc. My role at QCRI will be to leverage the expertise within the Institute, the region and beyond to drive technology solutions for humanitarian and social impact globally—think of it as Computing for Good backed by some serious resources.  I’ll spend just part of the time in Doha. The rest of my time will be based wherever necessary to have the greatest impact. Needless to say, I’m excited!

My mission over the past five years has been to catalyze strategic linkages between the technology and humanitarian space to promote both innovation and change, so this new adventure feels like the perfect next chapter in this exciting adventure. I’ve had the good fortune and distinct honor of working with some truly inspiring and knowledgeable colleagues who have helped me define and pursue my passions over the years. Needless to say, I’ve learned a great deal from these colleagues; knowledge, contacts and partnerships that I plan to fully leverage at the Qatar Foundation.

It really has been an amazing five years. I joined the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) in 2007 to co-found and co-direct the Program on Crisis Mapping and Early Warning. The purpose of the program was to assess how new technologies were changing the humanitarian space and how these could be deliberately leveraged to yield more significant impact. As part of my time at HHI, I consulted on a number of cutting-edge projects including the UNDP’s Crisis and Risk Mapping Analysis (CRMA) Program in the Sudan. I also leveraged this iRevolution blog extensively to share my findings and learnings with both the humanitarian and technology communities. In addition, I co-authored the UN Foundation & Vodafone Foundation Report on “New Technologies in Emergen-cies and Conflicts” (PDF).

Towards the end of HHI’s program in 2009, I co-launched the Humanitarian Technology Network, CrisisMappers, and have co-organized and curated each International Conference of Crisis Mappers (ICCM) since then. The Network now includes close to 4,000 members based in some 200 countries around the world. Last year, ICCM 2011 brought together more than 400 participants to Geneva, Switzerland to explore and define the cutting edge of humanitarian technology. This year, ICCM 2012 is being hosted by the World Bank and will no doubt draw an even greater number of experts from the humanitarian & technology space.

I joined Ushahidi as Director of Crisis Mapping shortly after launching the Crisis Mappers Network. My goal was to better understand the field of crisis mapping from the perspective of a technology company and to engage directly with international humanitarian, human rights and media organizations so they too could better understand how to leverage the technologies in the Ushahidi ecosystem. There, I spearheaded several defining crisis mapping projects including Haiti, Libya, Somalia and Syria in partnership with key humanitarian, human rights and media organizations. I also spoke at many high-profile conferences to share many of the lessons learned and best practices resulting from these projects. I am very grateful to these conference organizers for giving me the stage at so many important events, thank you very much. And of course, special thanks to the team at Ushahidi for the truly life-changing experience.

Whilst at Ushahidi, I also completed my PhD during my pre-doctoral fellowship at Stanford and co-founded the award-winning Standby Volunteer Task Force (SBTF) to provide partner organizations with surge capacity for live mapping support. I co-created the SBTF’s Satellite Imagery Team to apply crowdsourcing and micro-tasking to satellite imagery analysis in support of humanitarian operations. I also explored a number of promising data mining solutions for social media analysis vis-a-vis crisis response. More recently, I co-launched the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN) in partnership with a UN colleague.

The words “co-founded,” “co-launched,” and “co-directed” appear throughout the above because all these initiatives are the direct result of major team-work, truly amazing partners and inspiring mentors. You all know who you are. Thank you very much for your guidance, expertise, friendship and for your camara-derie throughout. I look forward to collaborating with you even more once I get settled at the Qatar Foundation.

To learn more about QCRI’s work thus far, I recommend watching the above presentation given by the Institute’s Director who has brought together an incredible team—professionals who all share his ambition and exciting vision. When we began to discuss my job description at the Foundation, I was simply told: “Think Big.” The Institute’s Advisory Board is also a source of excitement for me: Joichi Ito (MIT) and Rich deMillo (GeorgiaTech), to name a few. 

Naturally, the Qatar Foundation also has access to tremendous resources and an amazing set of partners from multiple sectors in Doha, the region and across the globe. In short, the opportunity for QCRI to become an important contributor to the humanitarian technology space is huge. I look forward to collaborating with many existing colleagues and partners to turn this exciting opportunity into reality and look forward to continuing this adventure with an amazing team of experts in Doha who are some of the best in their fields. More soon!