Although traditional search engines have no problem serving us fact-based news articles, they stumble when it comes to opinions. What, for instance, has Alan Greenspan said about the economy over the past year? Jodange Top of Mind is a search engine that analyzes documents, providing digestible graphs and lists showing how leaders' opinions have changed over time. It's a niche area, to be sure, and too expensive for most consumers' pocketbooks. But for students, scholars, businesses, investors, and people who are serious about their news, it's an innovative tool.
First things first: Jodange is free for only 30 days; thereafter, it costs $59 per month, which lets you track up to 15 areas of interest. (The company said that the monthly price could drop once more users sign up.) You cannot see the search interface until you sign up; once you do, the main screen is blue and white with a single search bar, which lists popular and recent searches underneath. In addition to specifying areas of interest that you'd like to track, you can create alerts, the results of which will appear on the main page beneath the search bar. You can set up alerts for opinion holders or for topics, and you can specify whether you want to receive word of positive, negative, neutral opinions, or any combination thereof.
When you first perform a search, you'll see articles in List View, by default. Like any search engine, a list of articles can be overwhelming, so it helps to apply filters, using check boxes on the left-hand side for opinion holder, topic, and news source. You can also see results from the past day, week, month, three months, or six months. By default, you'll see a list of articles with opinions cited, but you can also use tabs in the top navigation area to move away from List View and see a graph, called an Opinion Index, or Doppler View, a color-coded time line of what the top 20 overall opinion holders have said.
If you click on Opinion Index, you'll see a chart showing whether opinions were negative or positive over time (negative opinions appear in red; positive, green; neutral, gray). You might have to wait a few seconds for the engine to analyze documents and generate a graph.
The horizontal (x-axis) of the graph shows calendar dates from left to right (to get the most recent analysis, you can scroll through the results in the upper right corner). You can also see opinions from a given day (say, when negative opinions spiked) by rolling the vertical cursor over the graph.
Graphs vs. Quotes
The graphs illustrate trends well. At a glance, you can see when polarizing opinions spiked, tapered off, and became nonexistent. But clicking on a particular day doesn't yield organized results. You'll get a list of summaries of relevant articles in the right-hand pane, but few quotations. A list of chronologically ordered quotes from the opinion holders in question, similar to what you'd find on the news aggregator Silobreaker, would have been useful. In the end, the graphs say a lot more about general and individual sentiment than simple lists of relevant articles might.
Jodange's concept is innovative: enabling people to track what public figures say and express about important topics. It's a potentially useful tool for students, researchers, and businesses, but unfortunately the generated graphs are far more intuitive than the accompanying documents. The starting monthly fee of $59 is too expensive for most users, and for that kind of money we would expect better ease of use.