Reading the pulse

This morning’s Observer column.

One of the few comical aspects of the spending review is the frantic attempts by all concerned to predict how the victims of Osborne's axe will respond. The major newspaper groups and the Tory party will of course be deploying the usual – expensive – steam-age tools: opinion polls and focus groups. The cash-strapped Labour and Liberal Democrat parties may have to resort to cheaper techniques – inspecting the entrails of slaughtered goats, perhaps. In the interests of levelling the playing field, therefore, this column offers them a better idea: intelligent data-mining on Twitter.

It’s taken a while for the penny to drop, but finally the world is waking up to the fact that the phenomenon of social networking might actually tell us useful things about what's happening out there in the world beyond the Washington Beltway and the Westminster village. Not only that, but the resulting data might even be useful for predicting what’s likely to happen…