The rise of social media such as blogs and social networks has fueled interest in sentiment analysis. With the proliferation of reviews, ratings, recommendations and other forms of online expression, online opinion has turned into a kind of virtual currency for businesses looking to market their products, identify new opportunities and manage their reputations. As businesses look to automate the process of filtering out the noise, understanding the conversations, identifying the relevant content and actioning it appropriately, many are now looking to the field of sentiment analysis. Further complicating the matter, is the rise of anonymous social media platforms such as 4chan and Reddit. If web 2.0 was all about democratizing publishing, then the next stage of the web may well be based on democratizing data mining of all the content that is getting published.
One step towards this aim is accomplished in research. Several research teams in universities around the world currently focus on understanding the dynamics of sentiment in e-communities through sentiment analysis. The CyberEmotions project, for instance, recently identified the role of negative emotions in driving social networks discussions.
The problem is that most sentiment analysis algorithms use simple terms to express sentiment about a product or service. However, cultural factors, linguistic nuances and differing contexts make it extremely difficult to turn a string of written text into a simple pro or con sentiment. The fact that humans often disagree on the sentiment of text illustrates how big a task it is for computers to get this right. The shorter the string of text, the harder it becomes.
Even though short text strings might be a problem, sentiment analysis within microblogging has shown that Twitter can be seen as a valid offline indicator of political sentiment. Tweets’ political sentiment demonstrates close correspondence to parties’ and politicians’ political positions, indicating that the content of Twitter messages plausibly reflects the offline political landscape.