Monthly Archives: January 2009

Topics on a rise? Launch of FeedVis certainly suggests so.

Before I speak any further about a possible “competitor”, I would like to clarify my personal position in this whole mess a little: Although the Topify project aims to provide its’ users with a perfect topic exploration experience and blow all the competition away, *grin*, we also want to see more linguistic tools used on the Web, especially when it comes to dealing with natural text. Accordingly, we welcome and encourage every idea that tries to use NLP tools to make sense of human-generated texts. Again, as I said before, tagging is an amazing idea and currently the most efficient approach to finding relevant information on the Web, but I deeply believe that natural language can bring so much more to the scene.

That clarified, I would like to express my sincere joy at seeing a company try and use some kind of (albeit very simple) structural approach to “track hot topics“. FeedVis doesn’t do much more than count word ocurrency frequencies in blog posts and put these together to possibly detect the most important and/or currently trending topics in a thematically connected set of blogs. This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a great start already, although probably with a couple of misconceptions.

What we see in the FeedVis “tag cloud” is in my opinion not precisely a set of topics, but rather a specialized base vocabulary of the selected area. If, when and to what degree the one word or the other is actually a topic is hard to say from such a generalized statistic though. The word “learning” might appear once in _every_ post, whereas some others, which are much lower down on the absolute count, can appear several times in a single post. For me, the first case would not be a topic, but a general theme-defined word which doesn’t really help us understand what the current trends in the area are. The second case, however, is a real topic, which gives strong clues about the main motifs in an area at the given time.

All in all, it’s nice to see a service like FeedVis, that goes beyond the common tagging approach and tries to extract some sense out of texts without relying on anything really. Will be exciting to compete with you once Topify is running. You get a head start anyway :)

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