Enterprise software vendors have been rushing to build or buy "sentiment analysis" technologies that can analyse the tone of what people are saying about companies and brands on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Such data is also available on public sites such as Amplicate.com, which pulls in relevant Facebook and Twitter messages and also allows users to post their thoughts on the site directly. It assigns comments for a given topic into either a "love" or "hate" category, then scores the overall result. There's also an "action" feature that allows users to "start a movement, engage similar minded people and make a change."
While most of Amplicate's topics concern matters such as consumer products, celebrities and airlines, since its launch late last year it has also developed a robust set of software-related data, including on vendors themselves.
The number-one most-loved software company on Amplicate Friday may not come as much of a surprise: It was Apple, with 66 percent positive ratings out of roughly 282,000.
"Every product is so perfect," one recent comment states.
Microsoft top "Hate" list
Microsoft topped the "hate" list, with 68 percent negative marks out of about 40,000. Many gripes centered on alleged software bugs and performance problems, but one claim even ventured into conspiracy-theory territory: "Microsoft deliberately slows down Windows XP laptops."
IBM scored second on the love list, with 65 percent, but its score was based on only 2,000 ratings. Cisco, music software vendor Ableton and analytics vendor SAS Institute rounded out the top five most-loved.
The last one is perhaps to be expected, given the many "best place to work" awards SAS has received.
But a closer look at the results indicates the current limitations of Amplicate's text-analysis capabilities, with many comments not referring to the vendor at all, and instead to things like the Canadian city of Saskatoon and the video game SAS: Zombie Assault.
Meanwhile, ERP (enterprise-resource-planning) vendor SAP has not fared well so far on Amplicate, with a 93 percent "hate" rating as of Friday. That's behind Oracle, toward which only 72 percent of comments express some form of hatred.
"SAP is a great piece of software (for the 50's)!!!" one of more than 200 negative remarks reads. "If you see the code, the only thing you want is to leave and run away from it. It's the biggest ball of stinky mud I've ever seen in my life," another bemoans.
One of the handful of positive commenters begged to differ. "It's a really stable product. I have worked in a lot of SAP projects, and the problems are always the people ... not the software."
Oracle and SAP also hated
Although Oracle had a lower negative rating than SAP, it stood at number four on the hate list on Friday because Amplicate has collected far more hateful comments, many of which are unprintable.
Some tie into the oft-forwarded notion of Oracle as an evil empire bent on dominating the software industry. "Oracle destroys good open software and sues whatever it can get its greedy little hand on," one reads.
Nearly 900 express love for the company, although in a similar manner to SAS Institute, the results appeared to include many false positives for the word "Oracle."
However, Oracle products such as the PeopleSoft ERP suite fare well in Amplicate ratings, suggesting the individual can be separated from the institution.
The site remains in beta with a variety of improvements and tweaks under way, said CEO Juan Alvarez. But the small, self-funded company is already selling reports based on its data-collection efforts.
"Most of these tools have some level of accuracy," said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. "However it depends on what percent of the population is really on social media."
While Amplicate is clearly reaching many end users, "it's definitely not the entire spectrum," Alvarez concedes.
But that's exactly the point, he argues. It's a question of influence.
"These are the people who have a voice and talk about companies on social networks, so it's very important for companies to follow them and engage with them."