The Wall Street Journal’s Marketplace section today has an interesting article (subscriber only, sorry) on a computer program called “Seer” that tracks web reactions to various products. Not only does it provide the usual clippings, it analyzes trends, organizing the info it provides by reach, authority, content/topic, and other helpful metrics. The article doesn’t give any idea what it costs for the service, and I’d guess it’s somewhat expensive. But I wonder when products like this will be cheap enough to find their way into the political realm. Right now, as far as I know, political reactions on the net are, for the most part, tracked either by staffers that read a bunch of blogs or by paid outside organizations that that have their staffers read a bunch of blogs. Sure, they might use basic services like Google alerts for tracking, but, as I understand things, it’s largely a manual operation.
But with the incredible volume of political opinions and responses being traded on the internet these days, it seems like it will eventually become possible to use software to track opinions on a pretty wide variety of subjects in more-or-less real time. Yes, online commentary is often skewed toward particular unrepresentative segments of the population (look at the outsized internet popularity of Ron Paul), but pollsters have refined methods for figuring out how their results can be weighted to get fairly accurate results. I don’t see why that shouldn’t be the case here. Technologies like these open up the possibility of a (fairly near) future in which politicians (or whoever can pay for it) have an almost instantaneous gage of public opinion on pretty much everything without having to do much actual polling or manual information gathering.