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This post comes to us from soon-to-be Brown University student, Sam. Sam joined ChatterBlast as an intern through a partnership with Germantown Friends School, and returned to work with us for the summer. We’re happy to have him as part of the ChatterBlast team!

A few months ago, I was Facebook stalking future classmates on the Brown Accepted Students group, and came across Christian Hanson. Christian was urging his classmates to check out his site that promoted an “opinion based community,” Pulse Populi. My interest was immediately piqued because let’s be honest, is there any demographic more eager to share their opinions than a bunch of teenagers who think they’re smartest person in the room?

The central idea behind the recently-launched Pulse Populi is that it associates a sentiment with each and every post – either positive or negative. I was struck by the power of co-founder Christian Hanson’s initial description of Pulse Populi as an “opinion based community.” After connecting through Facebook or Twitter, Pulse Populi allows users to“share, discover and amplify” their opinions. Opinions are posted on topics posed by users (#BarackObama, #NFL, #ChatterBlast), with the ability to track opinions of topics, to follow topics and to develop lists of topics like Recent US Presidents. One can pose a topic, post an opinion or respond to someone else’s opinion. Either way, every posted opinion must have either a positive or negative sentiment.

All of this got me really excited and here’s why: I began to realize, as a social media native who grew up with Facebook, Twitter and the rest, there is something distinct about Pulse Populi. Although standard social media is empowering – organizing social revolutions around the world – Pulse Populi is amplifying that power by allowing users to cut out the noise and to zero in on what they care about the most. I had this in mind when I met with Hanson to get the inside scoop on Pulse Populi, what they are about and where they’re going.

The Story
A few years back Hanson and his dad were playing with the idea of judging the sentiments of Tweets and graphically displaying them to track the change in opinions over time. The problem was determining a clear sentiment from a Tweet required a lot of guesswork. So the idea was born to have a place, where, like Twitter, people could openly share their opinions on a topic, but where each post was accompanied with a sentiment and each topic was accompanied with a visual component.

What Sets Pulse Populi Apart?
As I mentioned, Hanson stressed the importance of “indicating a sentiment” with each post, and described the easy analysis that comes out of this. This provides data (percentages of positive vs. negative opinions) and useful graphs that are displayed on the homepage of each topic. These graphs track public sentiments over time.

As Pulse Populi grows these graphs will become a meaningful representation of public opinionCNN should take note. Instead of a Twitter feed aggregating everything being said about #TheNextBigNewsStory, they could have a Pulse Populi feed complete with a graph that tracks not only what’s being said, but what’s being felt.

Let’s be Practical: Pulse Populi’s Uses
Beyond its personal uses, I see Pulse Populi as a powerful marketing tool. When asked about this, Hanson again stressed the Pulse Populi vision of a “topical, opinion-based community” but was quick to add that he “wants the users to take their ideas and run with it [Pulse Populi]….to use Pulse Populi as a tool.” In testing, they set up hashtags about Brown University (#BrownNightLife and #BrownDining) to gain feedback about that university. They’re doing similar testing for the communications company InTouch (#InTouch #InTouchCustomerService). Once these hashtags are set up companies can trace what people are saying about their topics with Pulse Populi’s built-in analytics.

Where Do You See Pulse Populi in 5 Years?
Hanson recognizes that there is still work to be on the usability of the site, but he envisions Pulse Populi as an eventual competitor to Facebook and Twitter. Hanson’s vision is that Pulse Populi becomes an important piece in our society’s discussion on relevant, important topics, providing a back and forth discourse and a true discussion.

Of course, the popular social media platforms provide plenty of space for opinion sharing, but the organization of Pulse Populi is heartening for those who grew up wading through piles of social media noise and spam to find those nuggets of valuable human connection and interaction. Pulse Populi not only gives their users a voice, it ensures that this voice will be heard and responded to by fellow users who care about the topic. Pulse Populi has the potential to affect both mainstream and social media, resulting in a more widespread influence than other social media platforms. It adds another dose of individuality to your social media experience.

As Pulse Populi grows, it could be used to pinpoint when the public’s “pulse” changed. This provides opportunities for individuals and companies to draw conclusions about what made people shift, creating a unique space that encourages meaningful discourse. Pulse Populi is moving the needle forward and helping social media to become a place where creative people can innovate and transform our world.


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