The news broke last night that Twitter is going to buy Summize, which I think is fantastic because it's such a great service which really adds a ton of value to Twitter. Om, in his jetlagged state, wrote about why it's important here: the idea is that analysis of conversations is good for contextual advertising, etc. "We monitor collective attitudes being expressed right now on the web".
That's great that Summize thinks of itself that way, as I've personally thought that's been the best part of the service - and something I've used daily for the past couple weeks. The "Trending Topics" link section on their front page is really, really cool - much moreso than the search stuff. (I wish in fact there was a feed of just those links so you could see topics as they bubble up to the list. I'd also love to see them expanded on as well - a bigger top 100 list per day for example.)
The reason I think they're so cool is that you get to take the pulse of a thousand conversations from a million people or so and find out what they're interested in at any given moment. This is pretty great for someone like myself that tends not to be aware of popular issues outside my little tech bubble I live in. For example, lately I've learned that the Bachelorette was coming to the end and seemed to be something lots of people were interested in. (I had zero idea the show even existed). Also, I've seen movie reviews pretty consistently, and news topics as they pop up. Right now, because of the population of Twitter is left-leaning alpha-geeks and power users, the topics tend to be on that side of things with "Obama" being a semi-permanent member of the list, as well as navel-gazing type links - "Oooh, boy! Another AIR client for Twitter!" - and technology stuff like this morning's Drobo 2.0 announcement. But as the user base expands, the topics should get much more broad, and it'll be interesting to see what they are.
It's like those year-end zeitgeist reports that Google and Yahoo! do where they list the most important search terms of the year, but live and constantly updated. And more importantly, I don't just see that people are searching "about" something, but I get to see their opinion on it as well. Do they like the thing they're mentioning, or do they hate it? That's a key differentiator from a "popular search terms" list we've seen up til now.
I think if Twitter doesn't end up buying Summize, or even if they do that they should re-focus a lot of their effort in this area as this stuff is valuable to a ton of other services out there. (This was no doubt Summize's original business plan...). I just have that gut feeling of its inherent value, and it seems huge to me. Imagine a "topic engine" that did nothing but scour the latest blog posts, tweets, forum posts, etc. and created live topic lists for tons of areas? Like Nielson on steroids. It seems to me it'd be a really valuable position to be in: "Why is that important? Oh, Summize said it was."
All that said, it seems like something that Google or Yahoo! could do in a heartbeat since they're already spidering so much content out there. I wonder if we'll see something from them sometime soon now that it's been pointed out?