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“Google with Judgment”

A fascinating opinion piece from the Washington Post by David Ignatius [via Dave Farber's IP list]:

Imagine for a moment that you could study the ebb and flow of public discussion about American politics as if it were a computer graphic. What would this database of "aggregated thought" tell you about the presidential campaign debates?

It happens that a former Republican campaign strategist named Charles M. McLean has created just such a database....

Like the conventional pollsters, he rated last Thursday night [30 Sep] as a giant victory for John Kerry. The difference is that McLean's methodology allowed him to see this shift coming. His "tonality" measure for Kerry began to move up sharply just after Kerry gave a speech Sept. 20, outlining a four-point plan on Iraq. When Kerry performed well Thursday night, he was pushing on an open door....

McLean has applied his intriguing approach to the Middle East...

So what does McLean's survey of "aggregated thought" in the Islamic world tell him about the possibility of terrorist attacks? The likelihood of an attack on U.S. soil now stands at 46 percent, the highest level since Sept. 11, 2001. But the risk is even higher, at 54 percent, in the six months after the November presidential election. And for better or worse, McLean sees a high likelihood (68 percent) that radical Islamists will make a political push in Iraq — perhaps focusing on winning next January's elections.

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