Netscan is a site I have a look at every few months, and since I’ve just noticed it’s had an upgrade (although this could have happened a while ago) I thought it would be worth a blog entry:
As you can see, it’s a very good example of a web-based dashboard providing information/stats on newsgroup postings. The one new feature I was particularly impressed by was the graphical representation of the life of a newsgroup thread – expand one of the nodes in the ‘Thread Tracker’ section to see this; in my opinion this is exactly the kind of creative use of graphics which helps people understand data much more efficiently than a dry text-based approach. I wonder what technology they’ve used for it all? I would guess the UI is custom-coded, but I’m sure you can do something very similar with RS2005 and the rest of the SQL BI suite.
It’s also interesting from another point of view in that for a change the data is something that has relevance to me, as opposed to being some customer’s sales figures or accounts data. I’m there listed at #5 on the ‘Author Tracker’ rankings (using my onlyforpostingtonewsgroups hotmail account) for the whole of 2005, although if you were to rank on number of replies instead of days active I wouldn’t do quite as well; Deepak comes in at #1 on any measure though and you can understand why he’s the MVP given the amount of work he must put in. Also compare the data for Quarter 3 and Quarter 4 2005: in the ‘Report Card’ section for Q3 you can see that most measures were down lots compared to the same period 2004, whereas in Q4 the measures were way up. I guess that’s because AS2K is a mature product so the people working with it have less need to ask questions, or perhaps all Microsoft BI projects were put on hold for SQL2005; certainly I’d say that the increase in the Q4 figures must be due to the release of SQL2005 and people having to come to grips with the new functionality.

2 thoughts on “Netscan

  1. Thanks for posting this link, Chris – I can tack it on to my CV! As you speculated, it would be interesting to know what underlying BI technologies are used (there\’s got to be OLAP cubes and data mining lurking there). If, as the URL suggests, this is a Microsoft Research project, is there possibly any published info about it?

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