Texting the Fed

I think this is cool.

Prof. Cogley warned us against textual analysis a la Romer and Romer today in lecture. Figuring this is a plot to steer us away from interesting research topics (he wants to keep them for himself, of course), I dove right into the Fed meeting notes and did some textual analysis. Below are some results (using this tool):
fed_freq.JPG

More talk about velocity under Volker, but less talk about inflation and unemployment.

10 thoughts on “Texting the Fed”

  1. Yeah tag clouds are cool… I don’t really get much out of them, but I can see their promise. If you wanted to look at a lot of really dynamic data, this format might make sense… If I were running a customer support center, tag clouds might be a cool way to keep an eye on systemic issues.

    The Fed only has meetings a couple times a year, so the data is pretty static. If I were to extend the analysis, I’d want to see phrase frequency and collocation of phrases (e.g. how many times do the terms “decrease rates” and “contraction” appear close to each other?) or theme analysis (e.g. when did the Fed start talking about stability versus long term trade offs between employment and inflation?).

  2. That can be handled in the visualization too. You can group the tags in different ways. The example I quoted sorts them alphabetically. Sorting by individual word frequency is boring. Clustering by proximity or semantic relationship is much more interesting, and I bet you could monitor themes that way, too. Roll time forward through the samples, watch new clusters emerge, mutate, persist, and die.

  3. Yeah, I’ve come around on cloud tags… Maybe I’ve never seen them implemented on any data that I cared about until now.

    So, I spent all night trying to get PHP 5 working on my hosted account (he.net). I hate Unix. Where’s my install program with its nice GUI? :-)

  4. Ok. I got php working, but I could only figure out how to make it work from the command line… not sure how to get it to work CGI mode. Specifically, how do I get scripts to use my php v5 I have installed my home directory versus the v4 he.net has installed.

    In any case, here’s my proof of concept. There seems to be a silly character limit in the xml text field. If I add all the transcripts (probably a 100 man-hour job) each would have to be broken in to 2-3 parts. That sucks. I’d have to find a way around that.

    Probably I could write a script that converts the pdf files from the fed site directly to the xml format required by the tag cloud generator.

  5. Pretty sure you don’t. Apache has to be configured to run the languages of your choice.

  6. Oh, I’m positive its possible (I’m sure the .htaccess file is involved). I may have to reset the script’s extension, but it must be possible.

    I got this email from he.net:
    “Due to user base installation upgrading to PHP5 is not an option on our
    shared servers. PHP5 has serious compatibility issues with existing PHP4
    code, and all current analysis points to a large percentage of our install
    based breaking after the upgrade. You are welcome to install the PHP5 in
    you account and use it as a CGI scripting language.”

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