It is very clear by now that the US presidential election is going to be fought on social media as much as on the real ballot box. While twitter was in its early stages of development in the last election, this time round the micro-blogging giant wants to be at the thick of action. It launched a political barometer of sorts with to measure and compare the chatter in twittosphere about Obama and Mitt Romney. The twitter political index or ‘twindex’, launched this week, is powered by a company whose co-founders hail mainly from Asia.
Topsy Labs, the real-time social analytics provider behind the twindex, measures and live-ranks links, comments, pictures, videos and web pages from millions of social posts to generate metrics from the social web.
Twindex measures twitter users’ feelings towards the Presidential contenders. This is made possible by 'sentiment analysis' of billions of tweets as also the use of the presidential candidates’ last names and their official Twitter accounts within that chatter. As of today, @barackobama has over 10 million followers compared to 785,000 for @mittromney. Terms used in tweets are evaluated for their positive or negative sentiment, and a sentiment score is created based on how much positive tweeting each candidate gets.
The values from ‘sentiment analysis’ is quantified and shown as numbers within the range of 0 to 100 as also graphs resembling the stock market index.
Besides Twitter, two respected polling firms have joined hands with Topsy for creating the daily index. The Mellman Group and North Star Opinion Research validate the algorithms generated by Topsy’s tweet analytics.
According to Topsy, the 'trending' of Obama often coincided with the percentage points of his approval ratings from Gallup polls. That probably should give the twindex some credibility.
Topsy's founders are mostly Asian serial entrepreneurs.
Co-founder Vipul Ved Prakash, also Topsy CTO, is the founder of Cloudmark, a spam filter service. A multiple patent holder in document classification and anonymous data pooling, Prakash was named one of the Top 100 Young Innovators in the world by MIT Technology Review. The former engineer at Napster also co-founded Sense/Net, a popular ISP in India, and worked for Silicon Graphics, NIIT, BPL and TradeIndia.
Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, the co-founder and Chief Scientist at Topsy, started “First Monday,” the peer-reviewed journal of the Internet, in 1995. He started the Collaborative Creativity Group, the research group on open source software, Wikipedia and other collaborative innovations. He has published extensive research on online communities in collaboration with Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge and Tsinghua Universities.
Gary Iwatani, the co-founder COO, is a 20-year veteran of operations and finance. He was President and COO of Cloudmark and the senior vice president and chief financial officer of digital music company Liquid Audio, Inc. Iwatani was also chief financial officer of consumer software publisher Berkeley Systems. Prior to that, he held management positions in Ernst and Young, US West and Insignia Solutions.
Scott Banister, the other co-founder, was also behind IronPort, an email appliance provider acquired in 2007 by Cisco. Banister was also an early advisor and board member at PayPal.
Topsy CEO Duncan Greatwood was founder of PostPath, an enterprise-email-software company acquired by Cisco Systems. Previously, Duncan held executive positions at Virata, GlobespanVirata and Conexant.
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