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Caution: We Know What You Are Thinking

We have twice blogged — here and here — about Moodgrapher, a mood-tracking site built by Gilad Mishne at the University of Amsterdam. It tracks the blog entries of Live Journal users and aggregates their mood indicators to see how a given event (a terrorist act, a natural disaster, an election) influences societal mood. Levitt proposed that corporations might employ a similar feedback device so that CEO’s could know what their employees are thinking.

Now Mishne has written us to say that yes, that’s a great idea, “but it requires employees to continuously report on their moods — and this is unlikely to happen, even if the reports are anonymized.” But Mishne already has a solution — “a new technology,” as he writes, “enables predicting the mood levels just by examining the text being written at a given time … This enables application of your suggestion without explicit reporting from the employees, e.g. by computational scanning of emails (of course, there are privacy issues here, but that’s a different discussion).”

This reminds me of a story, several months back, about how some companies try to gauge customer sentiment by measuring how hard a customer mashes the buttons on his phone while making his way through the company’s automated menus. Here is a demo of Mishne’s latest work, and here is his academic paper on the subject.