Searching for big insights from online reviews

March 14, 2016
Searching for big insights from online reviews
NYU Tandon researchers have developed a tool called RevEx, which can analyze text and data across multiple domains, thereby allowing amateurs and investigative journalists to extract meaningful insight from sites such as Yelp. In this case, a word map indicates which words show up most frequently in reviews. Credit: NYU Tandon

There is no question that data are big: 2.5 quintillion new bytes are added every day from our keyboards, sensors, entertainment, and medical scans, to name but a few. Data scientists have begun refining tools to encourage civilians to join them in extracting important insights from the aggregation and analysis of big data sets.

NYU Tandon Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Enrico Bertini and his graduate student Cristian Felix recently received a $35,000 Knight Foundation Prototype Fund grant to do just that for RevEx, which can perform faceted searches and analyze a combination of text and data across multiple domains. The Knight Foundation, which supports investigative journalism, will support refinements to RevEx that will enable reporters to elicit stories, but the appeal of the tool reaches well beyond the Fourth Estate.

Even before the Knight grant, RevEx—developed with graduate student Anshul Pandey—was embraced by journalists.

The nonprofit investigative journalism unit ProPublica used it to sort through millions of online reviews of medical services on Yelp. (Some findings: Thumbs down for low-cost dental clinics; medical doctors' staff were panned more often than the actual care; and simple transactions like hair removal scored individual highs.)

The Economist employed RevEx to discover some fundamental unfairness in students' assessments on Rate My Professor. (Female professors consistently ranked lower, and "horrible" rankings seemed to correlate to the difficulty of the subject.)

But the most significant work so far for RevEx has been for the United Nations. Using RevEx as a starting point, Felix devised a tool that took top honors at in the U.N.'s #VisualizeChange: World Humanitarian Summit Data Challenge. Designed to analyze and visualize a staggering amount of data from citizens on a country-by-country basis, it will allow the U.N. to attack the most pressing local humanitarian problems.

Explore further: AP gets Knight funding to create journalistic tool

Related Stories

AP gets Knight funding to create journalistic tool

June 22, 2011

(AP) -- The Associated Press will be among 16 news organizations and Internet entrepreneurs sharing $4.7 million in funding to design innovative ways to find and deliver news in the digital age.

E-portfolio developed to assess millennial med students

November 20, 2015

(HealthDay)—Electronic portfolios are being used to transform medical students' assessments and track progress as students advance through medical training, according to a report published by the American Medical Association ...

Engineering surgery for children

February 12, 2016

What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than help save a child's heart? That's what Vittoria Flamini, an industry assistant professor in Tandon's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, has in mind.

Recommended for you

Swiss unveil stratospheric solar plane

December 7, 2016

Just months after two Swiss pilots completed a historic round-the-world trip in a Sun-powered plane, another Swiss adventurer on Wednesday unveiled a solar plane aimed at reaching the stratosphere.

Solar panels repay their energy 'debt': study

December 6, 2016

The climate-friendly electricity generated by solar panels in the past 40 years has all but cancelled out the polluting energy used to produce them, a study said Tuesday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.