Summize: A powerful idea from ex-AOLers

The other day I ran into Jay Virdy, a former colleague from AOL Search. He’s signed up to be CEO of Summize, the brainchild of a bunch of smart AOL refugees.

Summize has an innovation, now in beta, that’s both compelling and applicable to local search.

In brief, Summize scours targeted sites for reviews on various items — digital cameras, for instance. It extracts the sentiment of each review and then summarizes its findings in a tremendously compact form, which they call a “snip.” It looks like this:

This is far more useful than an average star rating — although Summize offers those, too.

The concept pretty much speaks for itself. Still, consider two products: For the first product we have a one-star review and a five-star review, indicating radical disagreement, while for the second product we have two three-star reviews, indicating a rough consensus.

Both products get a three-star average rating, which is misleading. Summize’s snips for the products, however, would look very different from each other, offering a much better summary.

I’m enamoured of this approach, which like many good ideas seems terribly obvious once you see it. I’m campaigning for them to offer it for business listings so I can use it on Loladex.

BTW, Summize is also promoting the meme of “review fatigue,” a malady for which it (naturally) offers the cure. It’s a phrase that neatly evokes the problems of proliferating rate-and-review sites, about which I’ve previously railed.

Summize says the solution is to create a digest of many opinions, and that’s definitely powerful. At Loladex, however, I also want to differentiate between, and prioritize, the sources of opinion — and I’d like to help them become more plentiful and diverse, rather than just harvesting them.