the theory of computational sentiments

I don’t doubt that Tim Burke is not incorrect to take a skeptical view of the practice of using sentiment analysis as a market research tool. Sentiment analysis, for those of you who, like me, hadn’t heard of it before, is the use of text mining techniques to determine whether a given body of text – pre-existing or generated by some algorithm – expresses positive or negative sentiments. (For more, see the New York Times article Burke links to.) In the context of market research it seems to be an attempt to use the web as a kind of natural focus group: businesses monitor online conversations in order to see whether a given set of keywords is trending positive or negative.

Burke leaves aside the issue of whether current versions of these techniques are accurate in the first place to take up the question of what businesses will do with the results they get: will they try to identify what might be causing negative sentiment or will they try to counter that sentiment through a public relations strategy of spreading around positive sentiment without changing the product or policy in question?

That’s an important question, but having just finished a computer programming course, I was curious about the sentiment analysis process itself. Most of the services I found were subscription-only or limited to the analysis of searches. And the sample code I found was way beyond my beginner programming skills. But I did manage to find this simple sentiment analysis tool at the UK’s National Centre for Text Mining that allows you to input English text and analyzes it for you.

Being a humanist at heart, I gave it Shakespeare’s Sonnet 145. I suppose that was unfair:

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Although I have to admit, the sonnet is not without some ambiguity of feeling.

transcript and memory

I ran through something like this in my head last fall when I dug up my college transcript to apply for library school. But it hadn’t occurred to me to make a post out of it until I read teo’s look at his transcript.

It’s striking how I narrowed down to taking almost all history courses in my last few terms. I didn’t decide on graduate school until almost a year after I graduated, but you could see where I was heading.

putting the president on the line

I just finished watching Cronkite Remembers, a sort of video memoir Walter Cronkite did back in the late 90s as an eight-part television series. It’s definitely worth checking out, particularly if you’re like me and were too young to remember Cronkite on the evening news. Along with coverage of big events, Cronkite talks about a lot of little things: the kind of stuff people might remember only when someone reminds them of it.

For instance, did you know that Cronkite hosted a phone-in radio show with President Jimmy Carter? Called “Ask President Carter,” it ran on March 5, 1977.
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I guess it was supposed to be the start of a series, but the phone company couldn’t handle all of the traffic. You can get the whole, long transcript here. It certainly looks more interactive than anything anyone has done with e-mail or the web, youtube included.