Social Listening

Question: How does one measure the value of community interactions and accurately gauge “reputation” of a community as evident from qualitative sentiment?

Note: This metric synthesizes several other metrics that can be derived from trace data, and several process-oriented metrics. Embedded footnotes annotate areas planned for later clarification, and questions for later resolution.


Social Listening is a combination of social listening practices across multiple channels along with a meaningful set of categorizations. The combination of these tactics can lead to systematic community analysis and can inform a community strategy that leads to measurable business value. [1]

Theory and Origin

Social currency or social capital is a social scientific theory. It broadly considers how human interactions build relationships and trust in a community. The Social Listening metric represents the reputation of a community as measured via community trust, transparency, utility, consistency, and merit.

Interpersonal relationships are the social fabric of communities. This is shown in the Levinger’s Relationship Model and Social Penetration Theory. Community members' sense of personal and group identity grows as they interact. Members build shared values, accumulate a sense of trust, encourage cooperation, and garner reciprocity through acts of self-disclosure. These interactions build an increased and measurable sense of connection. The measure of these characteristics is called social currency. [2]


The Social Listening metric is a way to sort through a fire hose of qualitative data from community interactions. A central premise of this approach is that community members' interactions have an impact on the community. The Social Listening metric continually measures the sentiment [3] from those interactions. It illustrates the reputation and level of trust between community members and leaders. [4]


Analyze the qualitative comments in community interactions. Gain an overview of sentiment in a community. Get metrics that show at a glance how a community is and was doing. Use lead metrics from continuous measurements for proactive community strategy development. Instill trust in community members that their thoughts and opinions are valued.


The Social Listening requires the collection of community comments (communication traces), the definition of a codex, and the on-going review of the communication traces. [5]

Set up a Data Collection Platform of your choice as described in the “Tools” section below. Ensure it has a minimum of 4 dimensions and 3 communication channels. Once it is set up, the following method is used to collect, analyze, and interpret results:

Social Listening process as a circle

  1. Collect Communication Traces -- Identify online platforms that your community is communicating on. Set up data funnels from the primary platform to your Social Listening tool. The critical data for the system is user generated content.

  2. Standardize How Communication Traces Should Be Assessed -- Use a codex to define important concepts as a “tracking keyword” or “category” in the focal community. This unified codex of terms ensures consistent analysis as different people read and tag community sentiment. Formalizing the revision and addition structure to this codex on a regular basis is a must. [5]

  3. Analyze the Communication Traces -- Community sentiment is analyzed in the Social Listening tool by tagging data with codex terms. If the tagging is done by a team of people, it is recommended that everyone gets together regularly to discuss trends and ensure consistent tag use. If the tagging is done by an artificial intelligence algorithm, then a human team should supervise and retrain the AI as necessary. [5]

  4. Share and Visualize the Aggregated Analysis -- Visualize the quantitative count of codex terms over time, e.g., in a dashboard. This is where the qualitative analysis results produce an easy to observe dashboard of trends. Share analysis with team members. [6]

  5. Benchmark, Set Goals & Predict Future Growth -- After getting enough data to form a benchmark, take stock of where your community stands. What are its strengths and weaknesses? What actions can be taken to make the community healthier and more robust? Then form community initiatives with well-defined goals and execute on these projects to affect the social currency metrics for next week. [6]

  6. Repeat the Process -- In regular evaluation meetings, discuss the shortcomings of the dataset or collection methods. Come up with methods to address these shortcomings in the future. Work solutions into the system and move forward. Truth is in the trend, power is in the pattern. [7]


  1. Channel: Sort by where the data was collected from.
  2. Tag: Show data based on what codex tags were used to identify sentiment in comments.
  3. Time: Show trends in the data over time and pull specific data-sets.
  4. Most impactful comments: Sort and filter by flags that can be placed in the data to highlight specific data points and explain their importance.
  5. AI vs. Human tagged: Filter by whether tags were applied programmatically or by a person.
  6. Weighted currency: Weight the “importance” of certain comments based on any one individually selected criteria. A resulting weighted view is simply a re-order of information based on weight.


Dashboard visualizing the aggregate metrics:

Dashboard visualizing the aggregate metrics

Example Social Listening tool: On the left, raw community comments are shown and tags are added in columns immediately to the right. On the right, a pivot table shows in numbers how often tags occurred in combination with other tags.

Example Social Listening tool

Expanded comments view: remove the “quantitative” from the fields and provide the best possible way to read the different comments.

Expanded comments view

Tools Providing the Metric

To implement the metric any MySQL, smart-sheet, excel, or airtable-like excel datasheet program works fine. This data should be simplified enough to interact with other data interfaces to ensure that data migration is simple, straightforward, and can be automated (such as google data studio). This requires that systems used to implement the Social Listening metric work with CSV and other spreadsheet files, and we heavily recommend open source programs for its implementation.

Once you have this, create a data set with the following data points: [8]

Data points and description table

Create a second sheet for the Unified Codex of Terms which will define terms. It should look like this: [8]

Unified codex of terms table

The codex is filled in by stakeholders on a regular basis by specific communities and forms the basis for analysis of the data. This is the MOST IMPORTANT part. Without this the subjectivity of qualitative data does not follow the rule of generalization: [9]

“A concept applies to B population ONLY SO FAR AS C limitation.”

Data Collection Strategies

Community member comments are available from trace data. The Social Listening metric ideally imports the comment text automatically into a tool for tagging. Trace data can be collected from a communities' collaboration platforms where members write comments, including ticketing systems, code reviews, email lists, instant messaging, social media, and fora.

Legal and Regulatory Considerations

Points of destruction: Detailed data is destroyed after xx months has passed. Quantitative calculations are kept for up to 250 weeks per GDPR compliance. Data older than 250 weeks becomes archived data you cannot manipulate but can see. Users can negotiate the primary statistic.


Annotated Footnotes

[1] CHAOSS metrics historically is to create standard definitions that can be used reliably across projects to support comparisons. This metric may evolve into a project in the future.

[2] What metrics emerge from this description? Likely included are: 1. community trust, 2. transparency, 3. utility, 4. consistency, and 5. merit

[3] Analysis of sentiment suggests that metric (6) is likely "Communications Sentiment", and the definition may need to include references to common sentiment analysis tools, sometimes called "bags of words".

[4] Measuring how trust trust is instilled in community members, such that their thoughts and opinions are valued is likely metric (7) that will define a process, and perhaps is not measurable via trace data.

[5] A substantial portion of any codex for open source software will be common across projects, and each project is likely to have a set of particular interests that are a subset of that codex. In some cases, their main interests may not be present in an established codex component. In general, the codex, like the CHAOSS project itself, is open sourced as shared metadata to ensure shared understanding across open source communities.

[6] This describes the evolution of a standard codex, and its elements through the process of CHAOSS working groups and projects, characterized in the previous footnote. Likely this will be a process metric (8).

[7] Candidate process oriented metric (9).

[8] Examples of data coded using the open sourced codex, as it evolves, will be essential components for advancing open source software through Social Listening. Implementations will require these examples, and their provision as open source assets of the CHAOSS project will return value as shared data.

[9] Internal and external reputation are likely metrics (10), and (11) arising from the Social Listening metric.