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Bing Pulse Aims to Give Real-Time Public Reaction to SOTU

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, February 12 2013

Tonight during President Obama's State of the Union speech, Microsoft's Bing search platform will be offering users a potentially intriguing way to register their response to the President's words: a real-time sentiment tracker that will produce an aggregated trend line of people's reactions, called Bing Pulse. "It's almost like an online dial group," says Adam Sohn, Bing's general manager. "You'll be able to vote every couple of seconds, positive, neutral or negative. And we'll be showing that on a live ticker at bing.com/politics, alongside the speech."

Obviously, if you've watched CNN during any big political speech or debate, this kind of live "dial-group" isn't all that new. But those are done with small, pre-selected samples of viewers sitting in a CNN studio. What's new here is that Bing Pulse will be open to the whole web.

In addition, as this sample screenshot below shows, users will be asked to identity themselves as Democrats, Republicans or independents, and to give their gender. So if you want to see how Obama is doing with self-proclaimed female Democrats or male Republicans, you should be able to choose that button and see the results for just that group.

Sohn says that Microsoft has been promoting Pulse in partnership with Fox News, which has been promoting the site since last weekend. He also said that Microsoft's Washington DC office was reaching out to various interest groups to alert their members to the opportunity to chime in. In addition, MSN.com will also promote participation from its home page

Obviously, we should take the resulting trend lines with a big grain of salt. But as television and the web move closer together around shared experiences, this sort of interactive display of some opaque version of "public opinion" is becoming more the norm than the exception.

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