Microsoft Blews Brings Back Memories Of Rocket Pops At The Beach

Ok, so that isn’t an actual picture of the new Microsoft Blews news aggregator that was announced by Microsoft Research today, but tell me that the screen shot (see below) doesn’t bring back memories of eating Rocket Pops on the beach as a child (or wherever you ate them).

But back to Blews. It’s a news aggregator (see Techmeme and about 45 others, including this gem), but it goes beyond mere clustering of stories to show what’s important right now based on who’s linking to what in near real time. Blews, which is only looking at political news, also tells you the bias of the links in to a story:

BLEWS uses political blogs to categorize news stories according to their reception in the conservative and liberal blogospheres. It visualizes information about which stories are linked to from conservative and liberal blogs, and it indicates the level of emotional charge in the discussion of the news story or topic at hand in both political camps. BLEWS also offers a “see the view from the other side” functionality, enabling a reader to compare different views on the same story from different sides of the political spectrum. BLEWS achieves this goal by digesting and analyzing a real-time feed of political-blog posts provided by the Live Labs Social Media platform, adding both link analysis and text analysis of the blog posts.

Here’s what all that looks like:

Liberal links are blue (rasberry) and on the left, conservative links are red (cherry) and on the right. The middle is the story itself in white (lemon). The dots around the edges suggest the emotional charge of the commentary, which can drip off of the Rocket Pop in very hot weather.

I note that no one on the team (Michael Gamon, Sumit Basu, Dmitriy Blenko, Danyel Fisher, Matthew Hurst and Christian Konig) is a user interface specialist or web designer.

Putting aside the UI, which is hard to do, the artificial intelligence behind Blews could be interesting. It is very hard to get a machine to decipher emotion and meaning from raw text unless they are doing mere keyword searches (see, for example, Powerset). Microsoft is calling this hard bit “detecting emotional charge.” If they’ve got it right, or are close, there are an unlimited number of potential applications for the technology.

As an aside, this somewhat reminds me of ScoutLabs, a startup we wrote about last December. Scout Labs helps brand marketers track commentary on their brands, and tries to decipher emotion towards that brand as well.