I'm trying to put together a post on the reaction to BlogPulse's recent launch which includes a site makeover and the introduction of a number of powerful new features. However, in getting some comments together on the context in which the launch took place (IceRocket's pending launch of 'BlogScour', the visibility of two new services - BIRG and CustomScoop, discussion of Technorati's service, Umbria Communications site makeover - no doubt anticipating something new coming from them) I got held up reading this post from InterAdvocacy (profile).
Chip Griffin (found partner of CustomScoop) wrote of CustomScoop's trending demo:
Basically, it's a free service that let's visitors see how two search terms do in head-to-head competition in the online media (including newspapers, mags, blogs and more). Obviously, it serves as a teaser for the full CustomScoop service, but it also generates interesting results in its own right -- not unlike Intelliseek's Blogpulse Trends, except that we have a more balanced mix of coverage where they are exclusively blogs.
It is always encouraging to see how people are taking the notion of trend search (which BlogPulse popularized, though we can't claim to have invented the idea of the time series ;-) and applying it in different areas. However, the idea that you can take a set of different types of data and count results over them to produce some insightful and actionable intelligence has more than a few problems.
Firstly, absolute count versus normalized count. Showing a graph of absolute count can tell you little. You have to factor in the volume of posts on the day (or whatever the granularity is).
Secondly, the type of document being counted has a huge implication as to the interpretation of volume from that content source. A single post in the New York Times is quite different from a single post in a LiveJournal blog.
Trend graphs have great potential, but they have to be handled with care. In addition, the type of data being counted and the way in which you mix the results has to be very transparent otherwise the results can not be used. Yes, it is true that CustomScoop is getting data from a number of different sources, but there is considerable value in knowing that BlogPulse's graphs are exclusively over blogs.
It will be interesting to see how free, self service portals like BlogPulse and CustomScoop deal with the complex issues of multiple data types. These are already being handled by fee based products (like Umbria's Buzz Report and Intelliseek's BrandPulse).