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Volume 23 / No. 1 / 2012
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At Cornell

Through the Lens of Opinions

Claire Cardie, Appinions, Inc.
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Appinions Inc.

How influential are opinions on the web?

Appinions Inc. is a Manhattan-based social media startup that provides software services that let people see the web through the lens of peoples’ opinions. Behind the services is a natural language understanding platform, based on over a decade of research by Claire Cardie, Computer Science, and her students.

Cardie’s research group had been developing statistical machine learning methods to identify opinions and other subjective language in online text, such as news and magazine articles and radio and television broadcasts. Their techniques were designed not only to identify where opinions were mentioned, but also to characterize the opinions according to topic, opinion holder, and sentiment of the opinion (positive, negative, or neutral).

Cardie, cofounder and chief scientist at Appinions (originally named Jodange), is only the first of an unlikely succession of Cornell connections that helped to build the company.

In 2006, serial entrepreneur Larry Levy, Appinions’ cofounder and CEO, sold his latest tech company, the Semagix Group, to Warburg Pincus. He was looking for a new business venture in the technology area when he read about Cardie’s sentiment analysis research in the New York Times.

Levy contacted Cardie numerous times by phone and by email to discuss the research and determine its commercial viability, but Cardie wasn’t interested in commercialization. Levy persisted, and Cardie agreed to meet him in the Duffield Atrium for lunch one day in December 2006.

“Poor Larry,” smiles Cardie. “He drove from the city out to Ithaca on a very snowy day just for lunch. We had sandwiches from Mattins, and I told him all about fine-grained opinion analysis, the natural language processing techniques behind it, and why it wasn’t yet ready for commercialization.” Levy asked lots of questions and described his thoughts on the many ways that opinion analysis might be used in real-world applications.

“Larry asked great questions from the beginning and saw immediately how broadly important the technology could be,” she said. “I couldn’t help but get a bit excited.”

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