Just as the US is in its last weeks of a heated presidential campaign, Microsoft's Live Labs group has launched a web-based application that surfaces what it considers the recent political articles and documents that are getting the most attention and discussion among web users.
The Live Labs Political Streams application, according to Microsoft, "mines social media content in real time for political discussion," according to a site listing facts about the application.
Political Streams gathers data from blogs, Usenet newsgroups and Freebase, an open, shared online database, to surface news articles and documents that are getting the most attention from and generating the most discussion among web users, according to Microsoft. It also surfaces information about people and places in those articles.
"This related information gives a broader context, allowing the user to understand how both the mainstream and social media are discussing an issue, person or place," Microsoft said on the site.
Political Streams is built on top of Social Streams, another Live Labs project that indexes social media from around the web that is found on blogs, newsgroups, discussions and news sites.
Formed about two years ago, Live Labs is Microsoft's research arm for creating new internet technologies. The company created it in response to Google and other Web 2.0 companies that, unencumbered by Microsoft's size and software legacy, are able to create and release new web-based applications faster than Microsoft.
Political Streams includes lists of the political people, places, news and blogs generating the most activity on the web. On Thursday, for example, the Democratic and Republican candidates for president, Barack Obama and John McCain, unsurprisingly topped the list of people generating the most web activity.
If a web user clicks on a person or topic on Political Streams, the application shows line graphs depicting the amount of attention that topic or a person is getting compared to other people or topics, as well as how much attention they are getting in different regions around the world.