Sometimes reading online product reviews can be a real time sink. There are so many opinions out there—from CNet to Amazon to blogs. It can take a long time and a lot of sifting to figure out what people really think. But now there is another way. If you want a snap shot of popular sentiment about a book, movie, CD, or gadget, type its name into Summize.
Started by two AOL expats a year ago, and launched in a public beta last month, Summize does sentiment analysis across dozens of review sites and more than half-a-million blogs—what CEO Ajaipal Virdy calls the “reviewosphere.” These include review-heavy sites with ratings, reviews, and other structutred data like Amazon, CNet, IMDB, and Epinions, as well as active blogs filled with unstructured, unfiltered opinion. In that sense, it is a cross between CNet’s Metacritic and Blogcritics. Explains Virdy:
We algorithmically analyze the review text to learn the polarizing words that correlate with user-assigned star ratings. We use our knowledge of polarizing words to extract the opinions from unstructured blog posts, and algorithmically assign them ratings.
Summize harvests all of this opinion and boils it down to a single heat map that it calls a “snip.” This is a horizontal bar with colors ranging from red (wretched) to yellow (so-so) to green (great). It attempts to capture the collective sentiment about any given product at a glance. For instance, out of 21,021 opinions about the band Radiohead, 67 percent are “great,”, and only 10 percent are “bad” or “wretched.” The band’s most reviewed album is Kid A, the most liked is OK Computer, and the most buzzed about is their recent online pay-what-you-want freebie In Rainbows. There are links and excerpts from recent blog posts about Radiohead. And, in a nice twist on Amazon-like collaborative filtering, every product has a list of related products. In this case, “bloggers who discuss Radiohead also discuss” Band of Horse, The Pixies, and Idelwild.
The site feels a little thin for some products, especially newer ones. But the approach is promising. Summize plans on adding other categories such as travel and restaurants in the future.