Social Networking News

CrowdEye provides real time social search on Twitter

Thursday, June 18, 2009 12:34 - by


The former head of Microsoft’s search team has created a new search engine, CrowdEye, to help people sort through Twitter and find what’s popular.

Twitter’s trending topics are a helpful place to start if you want to see what people are talking about on the Web. The problem is that there are some many tweets under those trending topics that it is hard to make sense of it all. A popular topic could have hundreds of tweets coming in every few seconds, and that’s just too much data to try to process.

CrowdEye hopes to alleviate this problem. It was just released into beta and has some bugs, but it is a very useful tool for certain situations and should hopefully continue to grow in the coming months. Here is what CrowdEye’s about page has to say about the new service:

By tracking discussions on Twitter, we can help our users find out what’s important to them right now in real time. CrowdEye has created innovative technology to scan through tweets, retweets, twitter links and more. We then provide you with powerful yet easy ways to slice, dice, summarize and categorize the data to answer your questions.

CrowdEye is especially helpful for finding relevant content and context about subjects. For instance, #IranElection has been the top trending top on Twitter for days, but it is filled with so many tweets that it is hard to follow. CrowdEye will show you the most tweeted links on a particular topic over the past 12 hours, day, two days or three days.

In addition, CrowdEye also breaks down hastags like #IranElection into popular topics like Mousavi, fraud, protests, Ahmadinejad, etc. If you want to see popular links and recent tweets under the #IranElection hashtag that mention protests, CrowdEye makes that easy.

Even cooler is that CrowdEye provides unique tags for each topic under a hashtag. Some popular tags for Mousavi are logo, march, rally, opposition, etc. Some Popular tags for Ahmadinejad are Photoshop, rejection, fear, hardliners, diverse, etc.


It gets even better. I can then dial in and find popular links being shared under the #IranElection hashtag that mention Ahmadinejad and Photoshop. The image below shows the most popular links in the past day that talk about the Photoshop controversy surrounding President Ahmadinejad:


Not everything is rosy. The recent tweets are fairly worthless and show no clear weighting right now. The service was just launched in beta and this may improve in the future, but as of right now, it’s not nearly as useful as tracking which links are being shared.

CrowdEye is off to a strong start and could really be a great tool for people trying to make sense of it all on Twitter. The service is a bit rough right now, but it’s still quite useful.

Pew: 11% of U.S. adults use microblogging services like Twitter

Thursday, February 12, 2009 13:38 - by

According to a new report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project studying the use of Twitter and social media services that allow status updates, 11 percent of U.S. adults update their status online.

Twitter is the most popular and best known of the dedicated status update sites. Facebook is a much larger network that added a status update feature last year. Many reports on the Internet are stating that 11 percent of U.S. adults have used Twitter. That appears to be incorrect as the report looks at Twitter and similar services.

The most interesting findings:

  • The median age of a Twitter user is 31, older than the median age of a Facebook or MySpace user
  • Twitter users are more racially and ethnically diverse than the full U.S. population, because the average Twitter user is younger than the average American
  • Twitter users are more likely to live in an urban area. 35 percent of Twitter users live in one, while 29 percent of Internet users live in an urban area
  • Nearly one in five (19 percent) online adults ages 18 and 24 have ever used Twitter and similar services
  • 20% of online adults ages 25 to 34 have used Twitter and similar services 
  • Use drops off after that age bracket sharply. 10 percent of those ages 35 to 44 year olds have used microblogging services
  • 5% of 45 to 54 year-olds have used microblogging services
  • Just 4% of 55-64 year-olds and 2% of those 65 and older use Twitter.

Pew concludes:

“In conclusion, Twitter users engage with news and own technology at the same rates as other internet users, but the ways in which they use the technology – to communicate, gather and share information – reveals their affinity for mobile, untethered and social opportunities for interaction. Moreover, Twitter as an application allows for and enhances these opportunities, so it is not so surprising that users would engage in these kinds of activities and also be drawn to an online application that expands those opportunities.”

Why you should check your site analytics daily

Thursday, November 20, 2008 17:14 - by

Site analytics are not just for Web developers, advertising execs or managers.

No, they are especially important for content producers. I’ve heard many people say that they never check site analytics of that they only check them on a monthly basis.

You should check daily. The purists will tell you that monitoring site analytics will cause you to produce shallow content that is link bait. That somehow all you’ll start creating is Britney Spears stories. 

Those people don’t get it. Don’t listen to them. I monitor BeatBlogging.Org’s analytics all the time, and I’ve never written about Spears or any other celebrity. Monitoring the stats allows me to understand which content resonates with users and why.

BeatBlogging.Org focuses heavily on social networking technologies. I could guess which sites people are more interested in or what facets of each technology people want to learn more about. Or I could just check my site analytics.

Guess which social network usually shows up in the top search terms that reach BeatBlogging.Org? Not Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, Seesmic, MySpace, Brightkite, etc.

No. Ning. Time and time again people come to this site searching for information about Ning. We haven’t written a post on Ning in months. Still, people reguarly come to this site looking for information about Ning.

So, guess what? We’re going to start making more content about Ning. Now, I would have never guessed that people would be dying for information about Ning, but it’s true. It’s a network that many journalists and news organizations want to learn more about. 

But, you’re probably wondering then, “Why should I check my site analytics daily? Surely, this trend is noticable on the macro level.” You’d be correct in one sense, but missing a larger point in another.

On a macro level, I can clearly see that people want more content on Ning. But I would have missed that yesterday a top search query to this site was “Ning complaints.”

Ning isn’t the easiest social network to use, and it can be overkill for many people. It’s got some quirks. People want to know about those, how to get around them and how to maximize the usefulness of Ning.

Another popular search query is, “Ning vs Drupal.” That query tells me that a lot of people don’t understand what Ning and Drupal are. They are not remotely competitors.

This is something that BeatBlogging.Org could help clear up. Ning is a site that allows people to make custom social networks, while Drupal is an open-source content management system.

The other huge advantage to frequently monitoring site analytics is that it can help shed light on why some stories where popular while others weren’t.

This might mean that you released content at the wrong time of day. Maybe your headline lacked SEO juice. Or perhaps you did a good job of marketing your latest content on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, etc.

Or maybe the content you produced just wasn’t in high demand. Sometimes we produce content that we think people want, when in reality there is a very small marketplace for it. Site analytics will certainly shed light on that.

There are a lot of valuable lessons to be learned from site analytics. None of these valuable lessons will cause you to dumb down your content. Rather, they can help you realize which content areas you’re undeserving, and they can also help you realize how to get the most out of your content.

There are many others, more detailed areas of Web and site analytics that we could explore. But I would strongly encourage all content producers to at least monitor which posts are popular, which search queries are popular and where referring traffic is coming from.

What not to do on Twitter

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 15:57 - by

This post could also be titled, “how to lose followers.”

Sarah Evans over at Mashable has an excellent post about what not to do on Twitter if you want to build a community. Ostensibly her post is also about what to avoid if you want to keep the followers you already have. 

I’m going to highlight a few of her best points and add some of my thoughts on the subject.

Don’t get caught up in the COUNT; get caught up in the CONTENT!
My biggest pet peeve on Twitter is when people ask for more followers. I don’t think anyone has malicious intents, but it doesn’t make any sense to me. You get more followers because you provide great content, are entertaining or someone likes you.

This is an excellent point. People ultimately follow you on Twitter because you provide value. It’s the same reason someone goes to a Web site or buys a newspaper. People are ultimately looking for something that adds to their lives and provides them with new information.

An RSS feed of your paper’s stories does not provide value. That’s what RSS is for. If you’re going to link to your paper’s content, follow the @ColonelTribune model of linking to interesting stories.

@ColonelTribune works because he is a currator of content. He finds the best Chicago Tribune content and tells you why he thinks it’s worth checking out. But he also links to good content from competitors, blogs and other Web sites.

@ColonelTribune is a guide to what’s interesting in Chicago. If he was just a glorified RSS feed like many newspapers have chosen to do, no one would bother following him. If you want more followers provide more value.

Don’t install the Twitter application on Facebook if you send more than 10 tweets per day
You will seriously start to confuse your network…or worse, annoy them. If you’re like me, my networks are separate. Not all of my Facebook friends are on Twitter, or plan to be. When I use “Twitter lingo” it confuses them.

I learned this lesson from a personal mistake. I did have a Twitter feed updating my Facebook account until a few very nice friends “encouraged” me to stop it (one was my sister!).

I used to do this and it bothered some of my Facebook friends. The Facebook status message is meant to be changed a few times a day at most. Sometimes I Tweet more than 20 times in one day. Peoples’ news feeds were filled with my Tweets, and most of these people weren’t even following me on Twitter.

If you’re going to use Twitter for business purposes do not replicate your tweets on Facebook. It will come back to haunt you. In fact, almost everyone should avoid doing this.

Don’t use up your entire 140 characters with a lengthy URL
Use applications like TinyURL or Snipurl. They automatically shorten your URL and can offer link customization. 

It’s better to spend your tweets providing people with information than long URLs. A tiny url will allow you to spend more time telling people why they should click on your link. Which brings up another point.

People usually don’t randomly click on links. You have to sell people on why they should click on your links.

People follow you for a reason

This is my original point to add to the conversation. Always keep in mind that a person follows you for a specific reason. When you start tweeting about things that people didn’t follow you for, people stop following.

For instance, people follow me for my views on journalism (online journalism in particular), blogging, Web development related to journalism, PR and social media. People don’t mind when I tweet about my life. It adds humanity to my online presence.

But generally people do not like when I tweet about subjects outside of my expertise. That expertise is why people follow me in the first place. I may have a political science degree and be well read, but people tend to unfollow me when I talk about world issues and politics.

Why? Because people choose to follow me for what I do for a living, not for my personal views on other issues. And can you blame people?

If The Economist was suddenly filled with US Weekly content, I’d imagine quite a few people would unsubscribe. So, if you’re a technology beat blogger, people may not want to hear your thoughts on the Middle East.

There is a direct — and somewhat stunning — correlation between my tweets’ content and my follower count. My count steadily rises when I just tweet about the subjects I know well. When I tweet about politics, my count is very volatile. 

I may even get followers because of my thoughts, but I also lose others. Some may not agree with what I tweet (I tend to upset people by disagreeing with both parties on a regular basis), while others may be unhappy that I’m tweeting about topics that aren’t my expertise. People ultimately follow me for a reason.

I have to keep reminding myself of that. People don’t come to BeatBlogging.Org for NBA news. Always remember why people like your content in the first place.

Evans has several other good points that are worth considering. Click here to read her full post. 

And remember, sometimes what you don’t do on Twitter is more important than what you do on Twitter.

Note: @jiconoclast is my personal Twitter account, while @beatblogging is the Twitter account I run for BeatBlogging.Org.

Get A Room! No, Really, Get a FriendFeed Room

Tuesday, June 3, 2008 11:17 - by

Yesterday I was inspired by Andy Sternberg after he invited me to join the Los Angeles FriendFeed room.

What a brilliant use of the new FriendFeed room feature.

FriendFeed is still an early adopter crowd, even more so than Twitter, but the rooms have a simple interface that, I suspect, would be easier for a non-digital native to pick up and adopt.

As always, I wouldn’t force people into a network, the beat blogger has to come to them. But increasingly I believe it’s about having multiple networks. For example, I started a FriendFeed room for the Bay Area, but that won’t stop me from joining or interacting with a Bay Area group on Facebook. Between the two, I am more and more connected.

If I connect the activities of these groups to my Google Reader, I can effortlessly keep in touch with what is happening on both and react when necessary.

So what’s your beat? Does it have a FriendFeed room? Is there already a Facebook group? Can you join those two, get accepted into those communities – and then when you are ready, create your own Ning group to serve your personal reporting needs?

Start Beat Blogging in Minutes with Google Friend Connect

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 10:41 - by

The excuses for not beat blogging are becoming harder and harder to swallow. Don’t have the technical tools? Not enough time to alter your website?

Tonight Google released Friend connect.

When I first learned about OpenSocial I talked about it with the 13 beat bloggers quickly and said: "you probably won’t need to worry about OpenSocial, right now it’s just for developers and we won’t see a practical application for about one year."

I will now take off my hat and tip it towards Google and then proceed to eat it. They managed to get a practical application of OpenSocial in seven months. Bad news for Facebook, good news for beat blogging.

A Follow-up to Seesmic

Monday, May 12, 2008 21:22 - by

My last post was about Seesmic, a new tool that I continue to think has potential for beat blogging.

I highlighted a thread started by Paul Bradshaw – and it has yielded some fruit.

John Hassell at the Star Ledger notes the potential Seesmic has for columnists in his own Seesmic video and also gets the chance to respond to a reader in a follow up video.

Obviously journalists can do video responses to EVERY single reader question – but Seesmic is very… echem… seamless. It isn’t hard to do several videos a day.

Seesmic – A Social Video Website….for Journalism?

Saturday, May 10, 2008 14:53 - by

The medium IS the message.  Again, where you get your network is less important than how you manage them – but video is a way to create real connections as Paul from the Online Journalism Blog explains below.

Ten Tips for Building a Web 2.0 Community on the Cheap

Thursday, April 17, 2008 21:33 - by
Via: SocialActions "A few days ago, I came across this incredibly succint blog post about setting up a web 2.0 community on the cheap. The tips come from the founder of ObamaCycle: A Craigslist for Obama Campaigners." 
clipped from

10.  It is fast, easy and cheap to launch a community site.  I had this idea about noon and the site was up and running with its first members joining starting at 2pm that afternoon.  The first thing I did was check GoDaddy to see if I could get the domain  It was available so I plunked down $9.99 to buy that.  Next, I surfed over to Ning and set up a new community, which cost me the grand sum of nothing and took about 10 minutes.

9.  The community is your best source of product features.

8.  The community is your best PR agency.

7.  Members fall into three categories.

6.  Press has a natural progression.

5.  Online press coverage is better than offline

3.  The name is important.

2.  Features don’t really matter.

1.  You can get real work out of community members

  blog it

Playing the News – A Means to Get Your Sources Engaged

Friday, April 11, 2008 11:57 - by

I often point to ReadWriteWeb, TechCrunch and Mashable as
examples of beat blogging – and the latest experiment from RWW is a
perfect example why.

Using Impact Games they created four
who could play out recent tech news. You could be a
developer, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc, and predict what they would do
next and how they would react to future circumstances.

From ReadWriteWeb:

it works: in this particular game you can choose to play the role of
any of 4 different players: Google, Amazon, Microsoft, a Market
Analyst. Then you can either predict what will happen, or voice your opinion about what should
happen. Or both. If for example you choose to play as Google, you can
predict that Google will open up the languages beyond Python. If you
voice an opinion, you are guided by several "advisors" – in this case
we have RWW, CNET and Dave Winer.
The difference between predicting and voicing an opinion is that you
may not necessarily agree with what you predict Google will do, so you
can then cast your opinion about what you think Google ought to do!

is the first in a series of games that we’ll run over the next few
months on ReadWriteWeb. If you have ideas for other games, please let
us know in the comments below."

Now I know what you are thinking, "too techie." Again: Look past the tech subject matter – this is a method that can be used to cover ANY topic from the environment to your local city government. Turn the news into an educational game.

a situation where these ‘news scenario games’ are as quick and easy to create as blog
posts. Why not build a special one for your sources? Get them to
comment on current events and feel like they are playing a game at the
same time.

So much of beat blogging is finding a way to engage
your sources – give them a reason to stay involved, perhaps creating
game-like sourcing is a means to do that.

About BeatBlogging.Org was a grant-funded journalism project that studied how journalists used social media and other Web tools to improve beat reporting. It ran for about two years, ending in the fall of 2009.

New content is occasionally produced here by the this project's former editor Patrick Thornton. The site is still up and will remain so because many journalists and professors still use and link to the content. offers a fascinating glimpse into the former stages of journalism and social media. Today it's expected that journalists and journalism organization use social media, but just a few years ago that wasn't the case.