Order out of chaos | FirstRain

Order out of chaos

Katherine Heires wrote an in-depth article on the new space we’re pioneering yesterday – Blogging Filters Bringing Order to Chaotic Content. She’s done a good analysis of the new systems being developed to help investors make money from the web.

As blog postings and other content about stocks, market sectors, products and company actions permeate the Internet, time-pressed portfolio managers, traders and research analysts are finding it harder and harder to keep pace. But a new generation of research providers is working to change that with algorithms and pattern-matching technology that aggregates and analyzes a seemingly impenetrable body of information.

“In a market where prices are changing all the time, the person who has the best information about any event that might impact a trading price has an advantage–and that includes unstructured data that has been filtered for quality, reliability and relevance,” says Patricia McGinnis, research director with IDC affiliate Financial Insights and co-author of a June report on the subject.

Katherine has interviewed me several times now and I was pleased with the section of her article about FirstRain.

“Blogs are where many of the most intriguing questions, trends and ideas first come to light,” notes FirstRain CEO Penny Herscher, who calls them a “blind spot” for institutional investors. “Manually finding the meaningful information from the volume of meaningless chatter is just not practical, even for the largest firms.”

Foster City, Calif.-based FirstRain last month introduced Blog Monitor, which uses an algorithm that looks at “prominence, reach and authority” to identify the most influential sites. A standard search engine relies on popularity as a measure, says Herscher.

“There is a big difference between working with a standard search engine, where you have to put in a query to get a response, and a continuous search service–which is what we do–that is reading all the blogs for you, prioritizing the information, normalizing it and proactively reporting information to you, for example, when there has been a volume change of activity,” adds Herscher.

For the service, eight-year-old FirstRain built a Web-results database, prioritizing and pulling out trends from blogs, according to Herscher, who says the task wasn’t easy. “The Web is so junky and chaotic and full of duplicate information,” she observes, “but now that we have the database built, we can keep adding relevant analytics.” The service, which allows users to select pertinent companies and topics, currently offers impact reports on the investing, technology, energy and health care sectors.