The News Explorer has arrived. News Explorer uses the Alchemy API to automatically construct a news information network and present large volumes of news results in an understandable fashion. Now that we are able to extract semantic data from the news with advanced Watson NLP technology, we can provide new ways of visualizing and understanding news as it occurs.
The News Explorer is a cognitive web application that is available on Bluemix. News Explorer was developed only recently, but in the few weeks since the first version became operational, it has received tremendous attention in IBM communities. Now we are pleased to release the beta version to all our customers, and partners.
Try out the application in your browser now: Launch News Explorer
The News Explorer approach for reading and discovery of news
Huge volumes of news are published every minute. No single human being could hope to keep up with the hundreds of thousand of news stories being generated daily.
With Watson we can now observe and understand the richness of information that is emerging as it’s obtained right from the source. From the freely available text of news reports, we are using natural language processing to extract Topics and essential entities such as Locations, Organizations, Companies, People, and Time. These are the key components required in order to build and navigate the gigantic network of interconnected, heterogeneous information that is implicit in the news.
For example, imagine you are interested in a specific announcement made by IBM about the News Explorer at an event in Rio de Janeiro yesterday. Which articles talk about this announcement? Is this news related to other IBM products, or other events, or companies? What news articles were written about these related entities? The News Explorer tool can be used to investigate these questions and more.
Network science is a new discipline that examines complex systems and processes that exhibit network behavior. With a network visualization representation of the news and the entities mentioned within it, we can arrive at a deeper understanding of what is being reported and how it is interconnected.
If a client wants to know more about IBM, for example (Fig.1), we can go way beyond providing a list of relevant news for them. We can show the top People, Companies, Organizations, Locations, and Topics occurring in the news. In the News Explorer we aggregate the relevant documents on every dimension, and show a map for locations encountered, a timeline representation of the news, and a network visualization for the remaining dimensions (Fig.2).
Getting Started with News Explorer
In this tutorial we will learn how to work with the News Explorer, a web application powered by Bluemix, designed to gain insights from the latest news articles. The application is composed of a number of areas that work together to help you get an overview of what is going on and focus in on articles of interest.
The News Explorer is composed of a number of areas that work together to help you get an overview of what is going on and focus in on articles of interest. These areas expose relationships between entities that appear in the news: companies, organizations, people, articles, locations, concepts, and time. Relationships are expressed in data visualizations, and can be explored through a series of interactions custom-tailored for those entity types.
To make the best use of the application, we recommend using full-screen mode in Chrome or Firefox browser at a resolution of 1024px or wider.
Try out the application in your browser now: Launch News Explorer
Using the Application Areas
The Investigation Bar is where you will make queries. To start out, enter the name of an entity (e.g. “IBM”) in the first text field. Next choose the entity type from the drop-down (e.g. “company”). In the field after this, you can enter the time frame for your query. Finally hit “investigate” to make the query. Upon doing so, the Watson icon will pulse, signifying that a query is taking place. The News API is accessed, topics are identified, entities are extracted, relationships established, and seconds later the visualization areas begin to populate with data. After your are done exploring the results, you can always go back and perform a new query at the top or you can double-click on any entity from within the News Network area, whereupon that entity will become the subject of a new query.
Another option for exploration, called Connections, involves entering two different entities (e.g. Stephen Hawking and NASA), and visualizing the relationships between them. To access this feature, simply click the “connections” toggle to right of the “investigate” button. After clicking the “investigate” button, a network will be rendered showing paths of articles that connect the two specified entities. These can either consist of single articles that mention both entities explicitly, or multiple articles that refer to common entities that form a path between the two specified entities.
Finally it’s worth noting that the parameters of an exploration are automatically displayed in the URL (e.g. http://news-explorer.mybluemix.net/?query=IBM&type=company), so that you can share it or save it into a browser bookmark for future access. Remember, though, that the news is constantly changing, so returning to a saved URL will not return the same results that were seen earlier.
The Details area is the first area to populate with data. By default it will display all article titles returned by the query, rank ordered by their strength. Scroll through the article titles until you find one of interest to you. Clicking on the title will provide you with more information, such as the news category (if available), date, article clipping (if available), and finally any entities that show up in that article. These entities are also clickable. Clicking one will pull up more information at the top of the Details area. Another result that you may notice when clicking an article title or entity is that other areas in the application will change and shift accordingly, as appropriate.
The News Network at the center of the aplication is one visualization area that will respond to clicking article titles from Details. It does this by automatically zooming and panning to that article where it occurs in the network and selecting it. From there you can pan around by dragging the mouse or zoom in and out of the area manually via mouse-wheel, two-finger scroll or the zoom buttons built into the area, to get a bigger picture. Upon doing so, you will see a broader network or entities, namely more articles, people, organizations and companies. The network is built around the articles and the entities which they refer to. For example, a company entity might appear in two different articles, so its entity has a link or line connected to each of those articles. In any case, you may click on an entity to highlight all the links in its local network. You can then mouse-over each connected article to quickly come to know what they represent.
The Locations area is at the top-right of the application, and lists all locations found in the articles, and also attempts to display any that it can onto the world map. For a location to be on the map, it has to have a recognized country name or be a city with known geo coordinates (cities are represented by dots). In either case, a location’s name or map element can be clicked to pull up more information on it in Details, as well as highlight it on the News Network and along the Timeline (for the articles in which that location occurs) with a green outline. Throughout the application, green color always signifies location.
The Topics area at the bottom-right of application includes a word cloud that list all the main themes from articles within the query. Topics are returned by Watson from the articles, based on what it thinks articles are about in a broader sense.. The Topic cloud is also clickable, and upon doing so, you will notice that entities in the News Network and articles in the Timeline containing the selected concept are outlined in Magenta and the network visualization will zoom in on the region containing articles related to that topic. An additional feature of the Topics area is the ability to see related concepts within certain selections. These will show up in violet and can be clicked as well for further filtering. When you’re finished using Topics, you can always click on the empty white space in the Topics area to clear the topic selection entirely.
Last, but not least, is the Timeline area, which organizes articles temporally along the bottom of the application. Each column is a window in time, and scanning left to right, you will notice that that frequency at which query results were found varies over time. Thus far we’ve only discussed how the timeline responds to interactions from other areas, but the timeline is also interactive. To use it, mouse over any of the colorized cells to reveal a title and date of an article. Note that the darker teal that the cell is, the more entities are linked to it—this will help you target articles that are more hooked into the network. Note that if there are more than 10 articles in a given time window, a dark gray cell will be rendered on top, which can be moused over to reveal the total in that time window. You can also click on a cell to select any article, highlighting it in black. You will notice that Details and the News Network will automatically travel to that article in their respective areas. Furthermore, if the article includes recognized locations, you will see them highlighted in dark green in the Locations area.
You should now have a foundational understanding of how to use the News Explorer. Feel free to make as many queries as you like. Each one will return a very different result. Remember to come back and re-query too, as news will change over time, thus exposing more insights. We look forward to incorporating more exciting features in the future, as they become available. Should you have any further questions about the features of the News Explorer, feel free to contact us.
TeamManager: Mauro Martino Lead Developer: Steve Ross Designer / Developer: Tim Stutts
Updated 2016: Half a year after the launch of News Explorer, we published a second blog post announcing exciting updates.