Archive for June, 2009

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Could Twitter apps be worth paying for?

June 18, 2009
What does the future hold for Twitter?

What does the future hold for Twitter?

Today, I discovered TweetPsych. It applies linguistic word theory to some of your past tweets to tell you something about your personality.  It still has a way to go, in my humble opinion, but it brilliantly gives a snapshot of where Twitter apps are heading – they are going to get deeper, and provide information that is really useful.  In fact, you may even pay to use them – and wouldn’t it be nice to know people are paying to use Twitter?

As an test, I put CNN’s breaking news feed (@cnnbrk) into TweetPsych.  I discovered CNN expresses lots of negative emotions – or, in other words, bad news. Is this proof that the mainstream media are obsessed with bad news? Or just that there is a lot of it about at the moment?

TweetPsych is a great start – a way of adding value to Twitter. Here are some suggestions for Twitter apps that I would happily pay for. Please let me know what you think, and add others in the comments, if you feel inspired!

User analysis

1. Tweeter bias test. During the recent Iranian election, it became clear that Twitter contained more useful evidence about what was going on than the mainstream media.  The only problem was, it is impossible to know how objective individual tweeters are.

But a check on the content and tone of previous tweets could reveal political or religious bias, giving you a better way to judge the value of individual tweets.

2. Tweeter preference finder. I sometimes wonder who the people are that follow me.  I would love a tool that could help me sift through my followers to identify those who feel positively towards a certain subjects, based on an analysis of their tweets.  So if I was arranging an event centred on a specific issue, I could simply DM the right followers and offer them an invitation.

Power search tools

3. Ask Twitter. Twitter is great at providing answers to questions.  If a question has been answered once, the Q&A still exists.  Why not develop a tool that offers previous answers, based on a linguistic analysis of any question posed?  Users could rate suggested answers, and the tool could “learn” over time to improve the identification of best responses.

4. Twitter Picture Viewer.  This would allow you to search for and download twitter images using hashtags, key words, or a user name. It could also use search filters along the lines Microsoft has used in Bing image search (colour vs. b+w, head shots vs. landscape) and potentially additional functions such as geo-locate used in iPhoto ’09 to make the tool even more powerful.

5. Twitter Local Trends.  This would allow you to analyse all sorts of things based on tweets within a specific region.  For example, it could help locate the source of slang, or reveal local attitudes towards key words or phrases based on tone of tweets, e.g. how does popularity towards the Olympics vary across the country?  Could be a nice research tool, giving realtime changes in attitude.

And there must be more! What Twitter app you would design, if you had the chance? And would you pay for any of these?

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Iran elections and an argument for making Twitter sustainable

June 14, 2009
Twitterfall stream for #IranElection

Twitterfall stream for #IranElection

In comparison with the mainstream media’s coverage of the events unfolding in Tehran today, Twitter has proven that it is able to deliver rich and diverse reporting faster and more powerfully than the traditional media.

Twitter offers reporting that places immediacy over analysis, a raw set of primary-sourced evidence that you can use to draw your own conclusions.  As an example of how it can be delivered, I used Twitterfall to get a quick snapshot of what people were tweeting about the Iran election.  I quickly identified the most widely adopted hashtag (#iranelection) and set it up.

What struck me immediately was the depth of information available about the situation in Tehran.  Right now, there are people tweeting direct from Iran, including @abbaspour, @mahdi*, @keyvan*, @Gita*, @y_shar, @tehranelection, @Change_for_Iran, @martianboy, @azarnoush, @mohamadreza and @farnamb. (* these are locked – just ask to follow).

Then there are many people analysing the mainstream media’s response and coverage of the situation via blogs and on Twitter.  The general view is that the mainstream media are not doing a good job, with hashtags such as #mediafail and #CNNfail being widely used.

And finally, there are people just expressing their views, showing the level of support there is in America, and around the world, for the people of Iran.  Of course, there are other views being expressed – some say working with Iran is futile and this election proves the Obama administration’s emerging Iran policy is doomed.  For the record, I could not disagree more, but it’s good to see a variety of arguments being expressed.

Making Twitter sustainable

OK – so there are people all over the world tweeting and blogging about the Iranian elections.  But does this really add value, given there are no checks and balances at all in what is being written, and rumours and gossip could easily be circulating, masquerading as authentic reportage?

Spotting authentic posts and tweets seems not to be an insurmountable task. It is not so different from trying to work out whether someone you have just met is telling you the truth – there is no failsafe method, but we’re all born with the ability to do it very effectively.

The evidence circulating on twitter is an unchecked primary resource – you can apply your own analysis to it, and draw your own conclusions.  This is conceivably better than having to sift through the skewed analysis of a reporter to backwards engineer the full picture, which is what reading a newspapers is often like.

There is a concern that useful tools like Twitter could wither away if not financed sustainably.  Today’s success provides a compelling case to protect the service, and even to promote its use more widely.

I have argued before that I would happily pay for Twitter – but perhaps a better model will be to pay for useful tools, such as Twitterfall, and the more advanced and powerful next generation twitter apps that will undoubtedly come to the market in the next few years.

The key to Twitter’s long-term survival might yet lie in the ecosystem of apps that is growing around it – let’s hope we begin to see a more powerful type of analytical tool emerging soon.

UPDATE | 06.44 (BST) | 15 June 2009: here is a great example of a nice site that uses Twitter and other social and mainstream media to create a one-stop shop on the Iran elections

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New York Times Gets Daily Show Treatment

June 12, 2009

In case anyone is in any doubt that newspapers are not going to be made of paper for much longer (I know this is a debatable subject, but I’m sticking to my guns – the writing’s on the wall), just check out the lack of awareness about what’s actually going on in the world in this report on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

(Not sure you can embed Comedy Central videos in WordPress yet – if I’m wrong, please let me know)