As news sites mine social media for data, intriguing challenges lie ahead

Many news organizations are pressing a new frontier of technology in 2012 — training computers to analyze thousands of written messages and interpret how their authors feel.

The Washington Post, Yahoo News, Time and ABC News are gauging social media activity and sentiment in the presidential campaign; The Boston Globe tracks the mood of Red Sox fans; and the Los Angeles Times monitored fan favorites to win the Oscars.

Whatever the applied topic, these news organizations are on a similar quest for a grail-like achievement — a computer system that can process thousands of natural-language messages, determine what they mean, and draw valid conclusions and connections.

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