The San Jose Mercury News did a piece this week on companies turning to new tools to track consumer opinions on blogs. More and more people are beginning to realize that the right blogs, if monitored correctly, can serve as an early warning mechanism for the PR flacks everywhere. With their finger on the pulse of “the next big story,” the more popular blogs can amplify little known facts and points of view to the point where they can get picked up by the popular media and broadcast to the world at large.

So how does a company keep track of the sentiment of what’s being said in the blogsphere about their product and brand? One of the more interesting tools highlighted in the article is Blabble. Founded by Rochester, NY based web designer, Matt Rice. The concept is called “thought parsing” using natural language processing to aggregate opinions expressed about a set of user-defined keywords to get at overall sentiment.

Existing software products aggregate listings from blogs, but require the user seeking a view of overall trends or opinions as represented in blogs to read through all the blog listings to make that determination manually.

Rice says Blabble goes a step farther by incorporating natural language processing that parses blog listings returned in a search into parts of speech so as to extract from them words, phrases and constructions that indicate opinion. “50,000 people may write about a topic, but you don’t have time to read 50,000 listings,” says Rice. “And I probably don’t care about one individual opinion; it’s the aggregate that I care about.”


UPDATE : as of January 2006, the Blabble service will no longer parse the blogosphere. According to the site, “we don’t know what we’re going to do with the technology.”