Public Sentiment, a new site designed to help provide an unfiltered view of opinions on a specific topic, could be the very lens needed to accurately analyze those varied opinions. Its inaugural experiment, "Farewell W, Aloha Obama," demonstrates the potential of the service.There was a time not so long ago when traditional media provided the primary vehicle for voicing "public opinion," how the average person felt about the world at large. But, today, as more and more people move online and begin sharing opinions, the "man on the street" has largely been subsumed by "the man or woman on the Web." Which is a step in the right direction. The problem now? Finding and aggregating those opinions.
Designed to solicit opinions about the change in the United States presidency and make them accessible without editing or additional bias, "Farewell W, Aloha Obama" allows anyone to compose a short message that wishes outgoing President George W. Bush farewell or welcomes incoming President Barack Obama into office. The response format allows for both positive and negative sentiments to be directed at either politician.
What is the site hoping to accomplish with this offering?
"[W]e hope to reveal and share the spectrum of people's unedited, raw opinions about certain current events. We hope you will participate by contributing your own sentiments and reading the sentiments of others.... This is not intended to be an authoritative source or official opinion poll, but we do hope that this venue can be an outlet and repository for individual, independent voices."
And what better time to begin soliciting this feedback than the changing of the resident of the White House?
Users can submit short messages to the service via Twitter, by composing a message directed to @georgewbush containing the word "farewell" or to @barackobama containing "aloha." But it's not only Twitter users who get to participate. By visiting Public Sentiment and using the submission form - which offers both a short message or long letter - anyone can share their sentiment on the topic. The form also offers the opportunity to declare political leanings and for whom the respondent cast his or her vote, if desired.
While this version of Public Sentiment focuses on the United States political process, the concept could be easily extrapolated to any number of subject areas. It will be interesting to watch how the first Public Sentiment experiment proceeds - and which topics they select for soliciting opinions in the future.
At the very least, spending even a short amount of time browsing through random sentiments provides a far more interesting assessment of public opinion than a "satisfaction poll" ever could.