Last winter, shortly after joining Lenovo, an old friend, Mitch Ratcliffe, pinged me to see what I was up to in the role of VP of Global Web Marketing. A lot of former journalism colleagues were surprised to see me join a “vendor,” but most, like Sam Whitmore, saw the point that everyone is media in this day and age.
Mitch, who is a perpetual fountain of cool ideas (Audible, On24 to name a couple), asked if I’d be interested in checking out his latest project, a tool for monitoring blogs. Being more a blogger than a blog monitor, I was mildly interest, but had arrived at Lenovo with blog management — both our own and the sentiment externally — in my portfolio of responsibilities. As I’ve blogged before, I monitor blog discussions about Lenovo and ThinkPad through a simple RSS feed on those terms out of Technorati into Bloglines, doing the same with Google’s blog search. This is cheap (free) and powerful enough that I can satisfy my curiosity many times during a day without waiting for an analyst or third party to alert me.
The crucial thing in blog monitoring is to get everything, not just what someone else feels is critical, but the whole feed, all the time so one can make one’s own decisions.
Mitch was involved with a Bay Area startup called BuzzLogic. I signed onto the beta program, was briefed in a teleconference by the execs,and given an account to start tracking things with.
Buzzlogic does a few things differently. First off, I won’t go into a tedious description of blog search. That topic has been pounded to death by others and crawler and spider technology doesn’t interest me very much. What does capture my attention is cartography and dashboards, both of which BuzzLogics delivers on top of a very capable blog search mechanism.
Mapping a discussion is a very interesting and powerful tool for tracking down the spread of an online meme or rumor. Tracking back to the source of an original concept isn’t very easy. Example: I may detect in a regular blog search, a post that quotes or references a news article or an original blog post. Getting to the source — where the idea was born — isn’t easy, not very precise. But more interesting is the role that “amplifiers” play along the way.
Amplification is an interesting concept, but one that is very important as you try to ration one’s finite resources in paying attention, and in some cases, reaching out to bloggers with an audience and a platform to spread a meme. Amplifiers may not make the news, but they can give it legs, and in many cases are as important as the original source poster, who may not have the audience and reach, but has the original meme. Case in point, Boing Boing — if Boing Boing points at a blog post, as it did this morning with a blogger who reverse engineered his favorite New York Pizza — they essentially hold up a megaphone to a small voice and instantly turn it into a very loud one.
Buzzlogic’s mapping capabilities allow one to graphically map the interconnection of posts, trackbacks and comments and follow that spread, over time, through the blogosphere. Right there they have a winner.
But place on top of that a dashboard that permits an operator to encapsulate a blog event and build from it a report suitable for forwarding to a busy exec who needs an at-a-glance window into an incident.
I used BuzzLogic to identify Rick Klau’s problems with his ThinkPad, reached out to him based on the hit, but was able to follow the aftermath as he posted about his experience and that in turn was picked up by other bloggers.
BuzzLogic has a winner, one that promises to do for brand communications and customer satisfaction, public relations and press relations what web metrics has done for online advertising. It builds amazingly precise and quantifiable measures of impact and influence into a world once characterized by clipping services that delivered stacks of “press” hits to PR managers.
I think BuzzLogic is the first blog monitor with the capability to truly enable my vision of proactive customer relations — where the operator can use the discoveries from the tool to drive change internally and externally in nearly real time. I wish them the best of luck with their debut at Demo this week, I think this is a service with a strong, strong potential for success.
BuzzLogic is seeking other beta testers. You can apply here at buzzlogic.com
[full disclosure: I am not paid by Buzzlogic, have received no consulting fees, options or shares.]
[update: Dan Farber at ZDNet has better details.]