Blue Mountains © Gary Hayes 2006

Make sure no one is listening, I am going to give an opinion now. Having this blog trawled for my views on products and services which end up making money for third party companies – without my consent, is not a good thing for the general perception of profiling and personalization. So it is with some disdain that I find out via a Washington Post article entitled “Blog Buzz helps companies catch trends in the making” that Nielsens BuzzMetrics have teamed up with Intelliseek last week to offer a service that has ‘some’ privacy concerns.

To capture the chatter, Nielsen BuzzMetrics, a giant in the industry, uses software that collects hundreds of thousands of comments a day. The technology can scan for specific companies, products, brands, people — anything searchable. It can slice data into a range of categories to quantify the number of times a subject was discussed online, the individuals who mentioned it and the communities where it appeared.
The company, formed last week by the merger of BuzzMetrics and Intelliseek, also can assess the tone of opinions by analyzing writing style and even individual words used. For example, if a blogger is discussing a new sport-utility vehicle and says he loves it but isn’t pleased with how it handles, the software is clever enough to score the posting as an overall positive with a negative on the handling.

OK, hats off to the wonderful bot algorithms at work to enable the subtlety implied above and of course it should be anonymous profiling, “the individuals who mentioned it”! What is going on – that is indeed overstepping the mark. I suspect when large numbers of bloggers get wind of this sort of thing they will be very reticent about stating their opinions, and of course the whole thing is open to abuse, with phantom blogs? But the whole thing is very suspect, not unlike a party where everyone is freely chatting and exchanging information then occassionally some suited stranger walks into the conversation with a clipboard, scribbles something down, doesn’t say anything then goes onto the next group? Pretty anti-social behaviour, and we are talking about ‘social networks’ here.

My view is that many blogs are vanity publishing, by people feeling cut off from remote family, friends and niche interest groups, and for various other social reasons such as personalizing the internet, keeping in with their peers, a big area to be further explored by me sure – “why people blog?”, here a couple of random links – personal view, academic view. Whatever the reason one could call blogs ‘viewpoints, ideas, journals’ in the public domain. The equivalent of giving your opinion at a generic ‘speakers corner’ for anyone and everyone who is passing to hear. So why can’t people use those opinions to make money (or academics to cite or use for research for their ‘original’ papers)?. Sure they can for the moment, but like any commercial layer imposed on something that is organic and democratised, it will be alterred, corrupted, as the electron microscope inherently changes and even destroys the thing it is looking. But there is the good side to the ‘buzz capturers’

Hewlett-Packard, the computer and technology company, lately has picked up from cyberspace that customers really hate leaving their computers at shops for repairs; far better, the company learned, is having technicians repair the machines in homes. “What that makes us do is that when we think about investing more in that area, we say, yes, it’s positive to do that,” said Rickey Ono, business strategy manager for HP. “We drill into the individual comments and it helps to justify our expenditure on in-home repair.”

Funny that, so now the bloggers who stay at home all day stating how they can’t live without their computers will have HP technicians knocking on their doors. And if you are listening to this blog post, ‘BuzzMetrics’ people, please keep a low profile and don’t spoil the blogosphere, thanks 😉
Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006