Monitoring Blogs

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.”


LexisNexis Total Search

Lexis, the legal research division of Reed Elsevier, announced enhancements to a product called Total Search. Included in the enhancements is the ability to hook into a firm’s document management system and bring back an aggregated set of search results.

LexisNexis Total Search also identifies, correlates, and links case citations appearing within internal work product and LexisNexis search results. These citations are noted, and access to the internal work product is provided, through a “correlation” icon appearing next to a particular case or code citation within an internal document result, LexisNexis full-text document or in a LexisNexis cite list.

Not clear from the literature how easy it is to integrate Total Search as either an outbound feed to downstream search engines or as a platform to receive and integrate inputs from other systems such as email and newsfeeds.


The Independent on Search

Charles Arthur, who writes for the UK paper, The Independent puts the Search conundrum in plain English,

Yet it’s strange that it’s a lot easier to find something on the web than on my desk; and easier to find something on the web than on my computer. You would think one would store the things that are most important in the closest, most accessible locations; after all, you don’t leave your wallet and car keys at the bottom of an unlit stairwell locked in a safe while keeping your entire wardrobe within arm’s length.

Instead, Google, halfway around the world, is the default for a lot of the horsework, looking up phone numbers, checking facts, finding references…. But why do we let computers make our lives hard for us? Partly because we”ve let them remain stupid. The graphical user interface, with its metaphors of “files and folder and desktop”, has remained unchanged since 1983 when Apple introduced it with the Lisa. . .

I believe it was Bill Gates who once admonished his developers that it was ridiculous that it took longer to find a file on a local hard disk through Windows than it did to find a document among billions on the open web via Google. This became the rallying cause behind including a SQL based file system for Longhorn.


Search, not Sort

Wired files this story on Apple’s announcement of Spotlight.

In Jobs’ scheme, the hierarchy of files and folders is a dreary, outdated metaphor inspired by office filing. In today’s communications era, categorized by the daily barrage of new e-mails, websites, pictures and movies, who wants to file when you can simply search? What does it matter where a file is stored, as long as you can find it?

Microsoft is already doing this with something called “Search Folders” on Outlook 2003, Apple is extending that paradigm to the entire hard drive and indexing in the background to improve performance.