Let’s say you have a problem. Your boyfriend’s acting distant. You think someone likes you, but you’re not quite sure. You can’t decide where to go to grad school or what to do tonight or whether that yogurt is safe to eat. What do you do? Be a responsible person and decide for yourself?
You may not get the best advice, especially if you ask any forum dedicated to giving you bad advice, but if you’re looking for opinions, it turns out that asking Twitter isn’t a terrible idea. The entire Twitter community doesn’t care if those pants make you look fat, but if you’re after public opinions like Facebook’s erosion of privacy and whether the iPad is a huge iPhone, go ahead and ask Twitter. According to a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University’s computer science department, Twitter sentiments correlated with the results of public opinion polls whose results you hear all the time. Think Gallup here.
This method isn’t perfect, of course. Computers still aren’t great at reading sentiment. Retweets and articles linked with just a news headline and no opinion by the user would have to be either taken into consideration or eliminated entirely. A computer wouldn’t know whether the user approves of the message from a retweet or the link alone. Despite Twitter users coming from all walks of life, Twitter’s main demographic may affect the result, although slightly.
Speaking of which, I have some yogurt in the fridge. I wonder if it’s still good.