Thursday, February 15, 2007

wefeelfine.org -- Addictive Visualization of Collective Sentiment

The O'Reilly Radar pointed to an interesting new site called wefeelfine. What's it about?

"Basically, blog data is collected and searched for variants of the phrases 'I feel...' or 'I am feeling...' One of 5,000 predefined feelings is associated with the post and the other database attributes are loaded. The 'mobs' has options to display 'most common' and 'most salient' characteristics of the data. The animation is done in processing." (...)

The interface to this data is a self-organizing particle system, where each particle represents a single feeling posted by a single individual. The particles' properties - color, size, shape, opacity - indicate the nature of the feeling inside, and any particle can be clicked to reveal the full sentence or photograph it contains. The particles careen wildly around the screen until asked to self-organize along any number of axes, expressing various pictures of human emotion. We Feel Fine paints these pictures in six formal movements titled: Madness, Murmurs, Montage, Mobs, Metrics, and Mounds.

At its core, We Feel Fine is an artwork authored by everyone. It will grow and change as we grow and change, reflecting what's on our blogs, what's in our hearts, what's in our minds. We hope it makes the world seem a little smaller, and we hope it helps people see beauty in the everyday ups and downs of life.
When I first read this I thought: "Interesting stuff, good idea, nice visualization techniques. A visualization freak-colleague loves this and I'll mail the link to him." But I gave it some more thought. wefeelfine reminds me of an HBR article I read some time ago. It was titled "Leading Change When Business Is Good: The HBR Interview--Samuel J. Palmisano". (Publication date: Dec 1, 2004) This article was about how Palmisano redefined IBM's corporate values. What he did was set up an open digital forum. Then he gave all of IBM a couple of days to participate in this forum and tell what they thought their corporate values were. And if and how IBM-ers lived according to the values. With intelligent IBM text mining software they went through the posts and showed IBM what the patterns were that could be seen in the posts. Then IBM-ers were allowed to respond to those patterns. And in this way IBM defined their new corporate values!
This relates to wefeelfine in that sense that IBM tried to connect to their employees and what they think (feel) of IBM and murmur about. This resulted in values that go from the IBM board to the work floor and back.

But with the wefeelfine-approach you could also do this dynamically. Just tap into the corporate blogs (and memo's and internal reports?) and organize what's in there in a wefeelfine-way. This is interesting input for HRM, for manager and for colleagues. It could give the company more insight in itself. What are we murmuring about?

Samuel

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