Miley Cyrus News
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Okay, interesting enough, but Trending Topic? Hardly! At the time of this writing, there were only twenty postings that matched on a query of 'skateboarder wanted.' So how does a topic with so little interest become a Trending Topic?
To answer this question, let's start by taking a closer look at the results. Of the twenty matching posts, four of them were tweeted by a human, and the other sixteen were tweeted automatically from a feed service such as TwitterFeed.com. TwitterFeed is a terrific free service that Twitalytics uses to automatically submit our blog posts to Twitter. The way that it works is you set up an account with TwitterFeed and provide your Twitter account name and password. You set up a new feed by providing the address of the RSS feed you want to post from. You then set the frequency that you want TwitterFeed to check for new posts. Set it and forget it. It really is a very useful service.
But, as with many things, it is pretty easy to abuse this service. You see, even though the spirit of TwitterFeed is to enable you to tweet *your blog* -- you actually can tweet any blog or RSS feed. So let's return to our wanted skateboarder. That story was posted to Digg where it got enough interest to make it into the RSS feed for popular Digg stories. Now imagine a Twitter account whose only purpose in life is to re-tweet stories as they get published via RSS feeds from major sites such as Digg, TechCrunch, NY Times, CNN and so on.
Here is an example of four such accounts. @headlinenews, @headline_news, @top_news and @breaking_news. There are many others but I chose these as really good examples. What each of these has in common is the intention of tweeting news headlines from major news sources. The aggregation of the disparate sources combined to make a somewhat useful Twitter account. You can imagine that if you followed any one of these, you'd be getting a good cross-section of news stories as they occur.
The problem occurs when many people act on this idea and set up Twitter accounts for automated re-tweets of the same news sources. In the case of the skateboarder story, once the headline made it into the Digg feed, fifteen accounts (in addition to diggupdates who also tweeted the headline) re-tweeted the same exact headline. This barage of tweets dealing with the same subject in a narrow slice of time caused the phrase "Skateboarder Wanted" to achieve the status of a Trending Topic (though that didn't last very long). It really wasn't a hot topic nor did it ever become one (at least not on Twitter).
This phenomenon, which we're referring to as "Twitter Echo," occurs for most of the major news sources. The articles get published in their RSS feeds and then re-tweet accounts automatically multiply the post causing the terms in the headline to immediately spike as a Trending Topic. [Note: the phrase "Twitter Echo" has been used before but hasn't taken hold, so the terminology seems to remain up for grabs.]
Is Twitter Echo bad? Well, it creates additional noise in the system that for the most part isn't resonating with the Twitter audience. The four Twitter accounts mentioned above have a combined following of 516. That's not much. Twitter makes it very easy for a user to sign up for tweets from the news sources of interest that the user cares about. Is there really much added value from someone doing the work of news source aggregation? It's hard to imagine that there is.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Another exceptionally powerful tool is Twitscoop. This description is lifted from their about page: "Through an automated algorithm, twitscoop crawls hundreds of tweets every minute and extracts the words which are mentioned more often than usual. The result is displayed in a Tag Cloud, using the following rule: the hotter, the bigger (no joke here)."
Twitalytics could not do what it does without Twitscoop. And using Twitscoop inside TweetDeck is a very handy combination of functionality. One more tool that deserves mention is Twitstat which also offers a tag cloud of hot topics. To be sure, there are other Tweeters out there who are also using the tools described here to report back on the hottest topics such as @twitgeistr (uses Twitstat) and @trendingtopics but @Twitalytics aims to do something much more than just report the hot topics.
Regardless if you're looking at Twitter Search's Trending Topics, or Twitscoop or Twitstat, you're never getting the back story. If the word "earthquake" happens to be hot right now, do you know why? A hot word or phrase is actually of no value to you unless you know what is causing so much interest in that topic.
What all of these other services have in common is that they are powered by automation. Sophisticated algorithms comb through the Twitter stream culling out words and phrases that are occurring at an unusually high rate relative to all other words. Whether this gets reported back as a tag cloud or a simple list, the best that these algorithms can offer are the spiking words, not the understanding to explain the reasons for the spikes.
Twitalytics provides a service whereby a human rapidly performs enough research to quickly determine whether there's any importance to a spiking topic or is it just a statistical anomaly that's of no consequence. Then, upon determining that a hot topic merits the attention of our audience, we put an editorial voice to what is happening and explain why anyone should care.
Our Tweets are written as if our followers are getting these as SMS text messages on mobile devices. The goal of each Tweet is to provide enough information with the allotted 140 characters that we alleviate the need for the reader to have to visit a Web page to become informed. This is very different than how news services operate. They Tweet a news headline that usually provides a teaser but not enough information to offer understanding. This forces the user to visit the accompanying URL to get the complete picture. Twitalytics aims to deliver understanding, not teasers.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Yesterday, Paul Glazowski posted It’s Time to Give the Best of Twitter Some Pulitzers on mashable. The basic premise of his message is that amongst all of the millions of tweets are some real gems and they should be rewarded for their literary merits, their ability to entertain or their ability to inform. Absolutely agree! The benefit of any award program is that it encourages good behavior. In a world (a nod to Don LaFontaine) where people can write whatever they want so long as it is less than 140 characters, it becomes very difficult for the really good stuff to be heard above the noise.
It is the mission of Twitalytics to help pan the Twitter river for the gold nuggets that lie there if you just know where to look for them, or how. But once found, there really isn't an effective way to promote those who add genuine value to the overall experience. Paul mentions a site that is also attempting to reward good tweeting - Twitties.com and a commenter also notes Twitterbash.com. These sites have the right idea but not the visibility or traction it's going to take for the simple reason that they are disconnected from where the real action is taking place.
If a user is going to cast a vote for a tweet on any measure of value, they will want to do it immediately next to the tweet they just read. They should haven't to make a side trip to comment or rate a tweet ... it has to happen right there and in that instant. A no-brainer feature that I'm sure would catch on like wildfire is a link that lets you forward the tweet (retweet) to your followers. Like the Tweet? Just click the "retweet to your followers" button and boom it's done. You're followers got something you recommended. Perhaps an option can be offered to follow the tweeter that was passed to you with another click.
Tweeters whose posts are continually getting forwarded should get credibility points or "twitterbucks." These points could earn you special privileges such as more visible tweets, more interactive avatars or 20 extra characters per tweet? Options are endless.
Perhaps you can do a search of Tweets posted on a particular subject where the author has earned a certain number twitterbucks. This helps give some special recognition to those tweets viewed by the community as noteworthy.
And now for a shameless plug: in the category of most consistently helpful Twittering across the largest spectrum of subject areas, our nomination goes to none other than us Twitalytics.com, e hope you've been enjoying these tweets but as always want them to be more useful to our small but growing community.
Monday, September 1, 2008
2. msorensen: Spending my Labor Day working in the yard · View Tweet
3. rhjr: Spending Labor Day doing things I don't really want to do. And yes, they do involve labor. · View Tweet
4. jgderuvo: US turns over Anbar to Iraq. And nobody notices. · View Tweet
5. stevegrossman: is spending a half-productive, half-restful Labor Day. · View Tweet
6. formerglory: Spending Labor day laboring to put up shutters. Damn you Hannah. · View Tweet
7. starrynight256: Spending Labor Day watching Netflix movies, listening to NPR and playing poker. :) · View Tweet
8. tomhoobyar: Spending Labor Day in a Santa Cruz California coffee shop with my wife and my laptop, writing. · View Tweet
9. rebeccaburch: Is it ironic that I'm spending Labor Day frantically running around, trying to get stuff done that I don't have time to when I'm working? · View Tweet
10. Armano: Spending the remainder of labor day at beach and BBQ. As it should be. · View Tweet
11. foolishgames: i can't believe i'm spending my labor day cleaning house. : · View Tweet
12. LesleyRealtor: Spending Labor Day on Cape Cod. Beautiful day, hope you enjoy yours! · View Tweet
13. annabethblue: I'm going to spend my Labor Day spending all the money I've labored to get....on bills. :-\ · View Tweet
14. the_mighty_emem: spending labor day watching the monk marathon on usa. whoo hoo! no, seriously! · View Tweet
15. treesaregreen: kicking off labor day sans labor as it should be. · View Tweet
16. SamKnoll: While the rest of NC is spending Labor Day at the pool... we are going ice skating. Keeping cool either way! · View Tweet
17. garrettandjoy: Garrett is golfing with dad and two brothers (rarely happens), spending Labor day with Nudd families with picnic food, yum! Watching Gustav! · View Tweet
18. donhornsby: I am looking forward to spending time with extended family - and driving in the local Labor Day parade... · View Tweet
19. cherbert: Spending Labor Day here in London by going to work but hopefully some barbeque & beers later tonight. · View Tweet
20. s5: looks like I'll be spending Labor Day laboring. workers of the world, unite! · View Tweet
21. jasoncdukes: is watching the NASCAR race with Caleb. His friend Caleb is watching it with us & spending the night too. Happy Labor Day to all. · View Tweet
22. ToThink: Spending Labor Day weekend looking for labor. Updating resume, linkedin, etc. · View Tweet
23. jdcoffman: Want to know what's fun on Labor Day? Renaming your blog tags and adjusting the taxonomy on your blog. :-) · View Tweet
24. bluedepth: The Zoo was a wonderful way to spend Labor Day. Fueling up and Soda'ing up. No burns, hooray! · View Tweet
25. dougblackjr: is noticing no one really twitters on Labor day! · View Tweet
(editor's note: see above)
Search for more tweets on how we spent Labor Day on search.twitter.com