Heard an interesting use of computer searching / news stories on Marketplace the other night:
They report that "... Reuters is taking its core product, providing the news, and turning it into an investing tool. The company's rolling out a software system aimed at institutional investors like mutual funds. It'll scan Reuters articles for positive or negative words about a company, give the article an overall score, zap it to the client, and within milliseconds that information can automatically trigger a trade."
The Wall Street Journal also reported on this ("Moving the Market: Reuters to Launch Trade Software; Automated Share Action Set by Tracking Direction Of Coverage in Media." by Aaron O. Patrick. Apr 30, 2007. p. C.2; abstract). Apparently it's big in London -- "[m]ore than 40% of trades on the London Stock Exchange are ordered by computers, Reuters said."
Sounds like an interesting idea, but anyone who's used news alerts would see some of the potential problems with this. What about words that are used with irony, or with a negative (or positive) qualifier? Words are not perfect -- neither are people, but people + words in a search are ideal.
By people, of course, I mean trained researchers, possibly even ... librarians.