Computer science major analyzes social media for senior project

BY DANNY THOMPSON
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With more than a billion people using social media to express themselves, computer science senior Kyle Finneman created a social media feedback site that gathers people’s posts and tweets. He wants to use this data to determine the average opinion on any single topic.

Kyle Finneman

Kyle Finneman

“My goal is to provide a useful application to people that will allow them to have a one-stop place to get feedback on subjects,” Finneman said. “If you want to know the public opinion about a phone you are thinking about buying, you can search for it in my application and get an overall rating of it.”

Finneman’s project relies on mining data from Twitter. Tweets are publicly available and are a vast resource for people’s opinions.

The 400 million messages tweeted per day is too much data for any one person to comprehend, which is why Finneman will be processing this data with a semantic analyzer.

“This is a relatively new concept in computer science that allows a computational process to determine the semantics of the human language,” Finneman said.

This software determines the context of someone’s tweet by looking at patterns of words and ranks it by the degree of emotion. By performing this analysis on such a large scale, Finneman hopes to show the public opinion of any topic.

Several companies provide this type of analysis but charge up to $25,000 a year.  Finneman wants to make this type of data available to everyone for free.

Making this software publicly available is an obstacle for Finneman. He has to find open source software for semantic analysis and for mining data from Twitter. Software that is open source is available for anyone to use and modify for free.

Semantic analysis and data mining are new topics in the field of computer science, which led Finneman to this project.

This is not just a senior project for Finneman. After completing the course he plans to keep refining his software.

Finneman is an associate software engineer for Fargo Public Schools. He hopes the knowledge gained from this project, and the final product, will help him find full time employment after graduation in the spring.

“I think the project will not only be beneficial for using in a portfolio of work, but it will also be very marketable because, I think, it improves upon anything out there,” Finneman said.

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