Monday, December 12, 2005


Here's a recent article on Umbria, a cool company that is also one of GoingOn's strategic partners:

The blogosphere is a vast, unruly, and totally tantalizing mother lode of unvarnished consumer opinion on every product and service in the capitalist universe. But to know what the masses are saying about your product, you would have to dig through 350,000 daily postings on a staggering 20 million blogs worldwide.

Enter Umbria, a market research firm in Boulder that designs software to find useful consumer intelligence on the Internet. "The blogosphere is overflowing with brutally honest opinion," says Howard Kaushansky, Umbria's 47-year-old CEO. "Our goal is to track those opinions down."

Every few hours Umbria sends an application called a spider out over the web to scour the blogosphere for postings about the firm's clients, most of which are big consumer companies, such as Electronic Arts, SAP and Sprint. By analyzing keywords in blogs on behalf of Sprint, for example, Umbria's software can tell whether a blogger is talking about customer service, the company's advertisements, or a particular calling plan.

To figure out whether an opinion is strong or tepid, the applications knows that "awesome" is a stronger endorsement than "pretty cool," and that "shoddy" is less damning than "abominable," thanks to several employees with Ph.D.s in linguistics and artificial intelligence.

Kaushansky claims his software can even identify sarcasm, a useful skill in the prickly blogosphere. It can also estimate the author's age and gender. Elongated spellings ("soooooooo"), multiple exclamation marks (!!!) suggest a teenage female. The blogger is probably a teenage boy if a posting is rife with hip-hop terminology such as "aight" (translation: "all right") and "true dat" ("I agree!").
(full article)

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