FestBuzz: Crowdsourcing reviews from Twitter
The 2009 Edinburgh Festivals are all about tweeting as newspapers cut back on their reviewer staff. Earlier this year in my work at 4iP I commissioned FestBuzz, a really clever piece of artificial-intelligence-sentiment-detection-twitter-search, to make sense of what people were tweeting about each show in all seven Festivals.
Go help a great Edinburgh startup by telling all your mates about it and, if you're at the Festival, tell us what you think of the shows you're at ;-)
FestBuzz analyses what Twitter users are saying about Festival shows and creates crowd-sourced reviews and "five star" ratings that are available on the site or through its API. As printed reviews in traditional media start to emerge, the site will help users identify the differences between the views of established reviewers compared to the Twitterer on the street using its combination of reviews and star ratings.
It allows users to get to the bottom of the ‘word on the tweet’ and get honest reviews of shows by the people who have forked out cash to see the show.
Fresh features are being tested and will be released in the remaining three weeks of the Festival, and provide a means for 4iP - and others - to test how this kind of technology is used by the public, and their demand for it. So far, #edfest tweeting is proving, in some cases at least, to be as entertaining as the shows our twitics are watching.
Why is 4iP investing in FestBuzz?
The site and API is being produced by Affect Labs Ltd, a small Edinburgh University-based startup led by founder Jennie Lees. It was funded after a call-to-action earlier this year around how the artistic spread of nearly 70,000 performances in August could be made easier to navigate. Thanks to its unique back-end technology, FestBuzz is able to accurately work out what shows Twitterers-turned-critics are talking about and how they feel about them with even the most sporadic, misspelt of Tweets.
In addition, users who join FestBuzz don’t need to use special hashtags or keywords to have their messages picked and turned into a star-rated review, making the site incredibly easy to use and picking up the maximum number of tweeted reviews automatically.
As well as the chance to make the Festivals more accessible, FestBuzz is amongst a couple sites putting the traditional notion of the "Expert Critic" under the spotlight. 4iP is also investing in a small, young startup getting its technology out into the public domain for the first time, and hopefully helping to stimulate some more action in the future from this and similar companies.
"FestBuzz was set up specifically to identify hidden gems, looking for hotbeds of emerging talent that are generating buzz on Twitter but slipping past professional critics," says Affect Labs' Jennie. "Our aim is to help people discover shows that they might otherwise overlook, and provide a true, honest opinion that reflects the thoughts of the masses, not just a few people. Having produced several Festival shows in the past, I'm all too aware how a published review can make or break a show; we're trying to level the playing field."
Crowdsourced reviews and revenue potential
FestBuzz is the first live application of Affect Labs’ core sentiment detection technology and, like all 4iP projects, we were keen that it have the potential to support itself into the future. The application can generate revenue through an analytical dashboard that shows performers, venues or show management how their performances were received each day. Affect Labs is also happy to make the API available to partners who want to use it in interesting ways on their own sites and services.
FestBuzz is one of several Twitter-related offerings that have sprung up in the days before the world’s largest arts Festival in the Scottish capital. Some only go as far as showing you pretty simple ‘thumbs up, thumbs down’ stuff around shows, or providing summarised reviews from the many tweets we’re expecting throughout the Festival. Any activity FestBuzz or these other sites stimulate around critiquing shows on Twitter only helps make the aggregated reviews better. Critically, though, the age of crowd-sourced reviews has arrived and is being lapped up by Festival-goers.