3 Quick Steps for Using External Links to Enrich Your SAS Visual Analytics Report

sas visual analytics twitter report

If you read my Thanks for the Negative Tweets Josh post on LinkedIn then you know that I’ve been working on some Twitter reports in SAS Visual Analytics. My goal is to have a set of reports that I can use for demos, training, blog posts, web-inars, and even eBooks.  In my current draft the biggest challenge is determining what Twitter data tells an interesting story and provides the viewer with a takeaway. When exploring data, viewers need to start with a bigger picture and move to details, which can include linking to external sites.

Building a Web Report in SAS VA

What you want is to create a report that reveals more detail with each click or allows the user to explore the data in more detail. Each report section allows the viewer to learn about the data from a different viewpoints. If it’s Twitter data, we want to examine the tweet arrival, tweet body, and even who is tweeting. Here’s the mock-up for what I think are some valid things to know about the Tweeters.

sas visual analytics twitter report
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Possibly the viewer would like to know more about the individual Tweeter. For the Twitter report I focused on they keyword “cyber security” but maybe these Tweeters talk about other things. Maybe the ones with a lot of followers are subject matter experts on cyber security or maybe just a news site (ie Reuters)? I can imagine lots of questions about these folks and instead of trying to build a page that might be difficult to maintain, how about I just link to Twitter and search for the Tweeter?

3 Steps to Creating External Links

Use the following steps to create an external link from your SAS Visual Analytics Report to an external site.

1. Know Your Data

My data was downloaded from Twitter using SAS Visual Analytics feature. I’m not worried any of my links will fail – mainly because I have the top 10 for the category meaning the Tweeters have sent more than 50 tweets in the past few days – generally someone who active is not just going to abandon Twitter. If they have abandon Twitter than the search will return nothing. Also since the user name is from Twitter I feel confidant that the spelling is correct (even if it looks wrong to me).

You can load the data source through the Data pane. You will need a Twitter account before you can download information and there are some limits such as only getting 18000 at a time.The SAS wizard guides you through the process. The SAS Visual Analytics User Guide has an appendix that explains the Twitter data set.

Author is readily available in the data but needs a slight modification of having the “@” sign added to indicate its an author ID. Use a calculated data item to create it.

sas visual analytics twitter data
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2. Know Your Link

Since I want to search an external site, I have to understand how to do it. From the Twitter site, I did a simple search for Reuters to see how Twitter would build its link. Twitter uses the same structure that Google and Bing use – which is q= parameter. It really looks similar to how SAS builds prompts as well.

sas visual analytics twitter parameters
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3. Build Your Link with the Parameter

When you want to add an external link, use the following steps in SAS Visual Analytics Designer:

  1. After creating the object and adding the data (make sure you use the data item that can be used in the parameter), right-click on the object and select Add Link.
  2. Select External Link which causes the External Link window to display.
  3. Complete the External Link window:
    • Create a label that explains to the user what the link does
    • Add the URL based on Step 2 above
    • Add a new parameter and select a source and the Target search item.
sas visual analytics external link
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Time for the Reveal

I created some additional links for Google and Bing but these were created the same way. When the viewer clicks the bar chart, she is presented with the choices for research on various sites.

sas visual analytics external linking

Then you can see that it leads to the Twitter site that shows how Twitter was able to decipher my link. It was easier to create this example with an author but a hashtag might be more useful so you could understand how popular the hashtag or term was on Twitter.

sas visual analytics external linking
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Other Ideas

You could also use this technique to pass parameters to internal databases. For instance where I use to work the software bug database had an external link that only required the issue ID number. This would be a way for the user to drill-down to another database to see details on an issue. The same trick could work for other databases. In that case, the user was not required to authenticate before viewing the data. You might need a stored process to set up something a little more complex.

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