October 20, 2008

BackType Adds Comment Keyword Trends to Its Arsenal

In late August, BackType launched to track comments across thousands of blogs, and seemingly nearly as many disparate platforms. The service effectively turned blogging on its head, providing a place where comments were king, and the posts themselves, secondary. With BackType, you can see a single individual's comments from around the Web, and follow multiple people, helping to discover new sites. (My ID can be found here) Today, BackType debuted a new trends application, at http://trends.backtype.com/, based on their API, which shows trends within those comments, including how frequently keywords were mentioned, who said them the most often, and on which blogs those topics came up.

BackType Trends Lets You Search Millions of Comments

The effort to harness large groups of comments and make sense of the noise is not new. Fav.or.it pulled in more than 13,000 comments per day as recently as August, forming the basis for its report on the blogosphere's commenting statistics in aggregate. (See: Fav.or.it Comments On Commenting Statistics) But despite that one-time blip, most comprehensive reports on the state of the Web (yes, Technorati, we mean you) walk right past comments and act as they don't exist. Now that BackType has been pulling in comments for a few months, they're ready to position themselves as the authority on comments, and will be writing about these statistics in upcoming pieces, said Christopher Golda, founder of BackType.

The Presidential Election Has Been a Big Topic of Late

The new trends site, found at http://trends.backtype.com/ lets you graph mentions of keywords or phrases from the millions of comments BackType has pulled from around the Web. The tool can be used to gauge a topic's popularity, based on the total raw number of results, or to see spikes in activity, like with "Joe the Plumber", or the word "Macbook", which, as you can guess, spiked upward around Apple's recent announcement, and then quickly fell.

MacBook Mentions Spiked With Apple's New Introductions

The Trends tool shows results over the last two weeks, graphing the total counts by date, and displaying the top five blogs where the keyword is mentioned, as well as the top five authors of that keyword.

The combination lets you know, for example, that Daniel Pritchett, Robert Scoble and Mark Dykeman are the three most frequent users of the word FriendFeed, and that you're most likely to see FriendFeed discussed on Scobleizer, TechCrunch or Startup News (Y! Combinator).

Who Mentions FriendFeed Most Frequently, and Where? BackType Knows.

Similarly, using the same query, you can find that Twitter is most frequently discussed on ProBlogger, TechCrunch and Mashable.

So what has garnered commenters' interests in the last two weeks? Unsurprisingly, a lot more than just tech, but also, politics and finance. "Obama" clocks in with 80,851 separate comments. McCain tries to match with 69,414 mentions and his running mate, Sarah "Palin" counters with 33,593. On the financial side, you see 7,765 mentions of "crisis", 2,344 mentions of "recession", and 2,681 for "depression".

You can even combine searches using boolean expressions. Searching for "depression OR recession" garners 4,666 responses, but "depression AND recession" only returns 359. Good thing, because searching for these negative keywords has me heading to the medicine cabinet...

What I'd like to be able to do in the future with BackType Trends is compare one term versus another over time, or extend the search over a greater period, or on specific blogs, for example, seeing if Twitter mentions are going up or down at ReadWriteWeb or Mashable. It's also not the most robust, beautiful presentation I've ever seen, but the data is more important than its shell. We're seeing the foundation of what could be a very interesting repository of data, one I'll be tapping into time and again.

Follow me on BackType here: http://www.backtype.com/louisgray.