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The evolution of social media has led to individual users freely providing views online about any given topic. The aggregation and analysis of these opinions into big data sets has created big business. Brands and marketers have developed a voracious appetite for such user sentiment data, as it is called.

Predicting user preferences can be used to drive critical business decisions. One example of this is a well-documented case involving an advertising campaign released by Expedia Canada. One McKinsey study estimated that analyzing big data could improve operating margins by up to 60%.

The challenges in big data

The availability of online user sentiment data is ever expanding. However, the ability to capture, store, analyze and verify such data continues to be challenging. There are huge costs involved in the computing firepower and storage capacity needed to fuel sentiment analysis. Meaningful user sentiment data is therefore currently held by a few big companies, who proceed to sell i...

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