Are stock investors bearish on Facebook?
Will the Australian dollar ever regain its strength?
How do Canadians feel about the upcoming elections?
What do Americans think about Donald Trump running for president?
What is the latest social trend amongst kids these days?
What about pop culture?
These questions are all about feelings of the population as a whole. But even though we live in this age where everyone has opinions on the internet, it is still really hard to find answers to higher level questions about sentiment. Individuals make posts on Twitter, communities have discussions on isolated forums, influencers are writing up articles for their blogs and thoughts from all over are constantly being uploaded into this online soup. But nobody ever gets a real taste of this online soup, because it’s so hard to get a complete picture.
Of course there’s the best search engine ever. We want to know how the Facebook stock will perform in the next month. Here are some articles that might answer the question. But wait, those articles are written by individuals, who either formed opinions of their own or did some research to gather as much information as humanly possible to write those articles.
Regardless of how many articles we might read on a subject involving the population’s sentiment, we can only get a vague picture at best. If lucky, that vague picture extrapolates well into the actual picture and we make good decisions. If not so lucky, then we’ll just have to deal with it. No matter the outcome, to make any kind of decision based on population sentiment is nothing more than an educated gamble. This is of course, assuming that only technologies available today are used to survey the population.
Many companies employ market research teams. They want to make better decisions based on real data, so employees gather information from all over and do analysis to build a nice report. The same problem about population sentiment still exists if the question follows along the lines of “how many customers are we losing because we do not have a healthy salad option on our menu?”. But giant corporations like McDonald’s have less of a problem here since they have a nice big team researching that question. Not everyone that needs market intelligence can afford one.
We live in a world full of everyone elses’ opinions. If we as individuals, groups, or organizations can get a good grasp of what all these opinions point toward, then we’ll start making more informed decisions and less gambles. Idea for my next project? I’ll try to prototype some kind of sentiment engine, starting in stocks and finance.