In 2011, at events and conferences around the world the world seemed to be on the edge of a new world, a world where automated coding, and in particular automated sentiment analysis, would allow researchers to tackle megabytes of open-ended text. A great example of that confidence was the ESOMAR 3D Conference in Miami.
What a difference a year makes. Last week in Amsterdam the news was all about researchers manually coding vast amounts of open-ended comments, because the machines would not deliver what the researchers had hoped they would deliver. The prize, undoubtedly, went to Porsche and SKOPOS who reported on a social media study where they captured 36,000 comments, mostly from forums, and ended up coding the comments manually.
I remain convinced that automated techniques will continue to develop and will soon open the door to large data sets. But for the time being, much of the material that market researchers handle will need to be, at least partly, coded by hand.
My suspicion is that Twitter will prove to be less useful than blogs, open-ended comments in surveys, and conversations in MROCs. When I work with Twitter, my feeling is that the grammar is to unstructured, the prevalence of irony too high, and the error by people tweeting too high to render even manual coding useful.
I think the swing back in 2012 was probably a response to the over-claims by many of the providers in 2011. I suspect that 2013 will be characterised by very specific examples where text analytics will have been applied successfully to a market research problem.