Little Bird is Your Avian-Robot-Web-Based Librarian

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I know. Quite a mouthful. But it is a title fit for the endless sea of information that is the Internet. And the depth and breadth is only growing. How do you target your time and resources effectively to get to the information you need quickly? Back in the day, you would go to your public library, school library, or law library and enlist the assistance of the librarian, skilled in the art of finding the needle in the haystack of stacks. She or he even knew how to use a card catalog! But, there is no librarian patiently standing at the entrance to the World Wide Web. Or is there?

Enter Little Bird. Little Bird “bills” itself as the Robot Librarian for the Web. But it is more than just a search engine for information. Little Bird’s creator, former ReadWriteWeb writer Marshall Kirkpatrick, clearly understands that there is more value in connecting with the people who know than simply finding the right bits and bytes. So Little Bird seems to be more about panning for the influencers and experts in a given field, seeking out the connections and interactions between these people and mining that information that passes from them for you.

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I poked around on Little Bird’s site, using a password that simply allows me to view what is going on, as it is still in private, invite-only beta. I could see that listings and profile cards lean heavily on Twitter, although the engine behind the site isn’t limited to Twitter activity as it also can tap blog posts and LinkedIn activity. The more connections between top influencers – both in the form of content creation and in amount of attention to creators – the higher the influencers rank in results on Little Bird. As a result, it would be difficult to artificially promote oneself in Little Bird results as the engine also measures the quality of the influencers followers – purchasers of followers need not apply.

So, how do you use it? You can either browse “reports” created by others on various topics, or create your own. The site suggests that you don’t search on too broad or too narrow a topic in order to maximize your results. Once you have a topic, Little Bird “seeds” your search with a few good people, which you can keep or discard. When you run your search, Little Bird will look for experts on your topic in Twitter’s stream, analyze who is following those experts, and automatically build an index of the community of connections between experts in your chosen field. Run the search and get back a “report” of the top 500 experts in the field, and from there explore their content.

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You can also compare two Twitter users and see overlap and connections between follows and followers. This information can offer insight into how the influencer interacts with his or her community. Use this information to map how you might engage with this influencer and build your own influence. Because, as web denizens know, it really is all about influence these days.

There is also more “generic” information that you can browse, such as “hot news”, magazines built from shared material from influencers, most highly linked blogs, and direct search of topic insiders blogs and other content.

I am not surprised Marshall is behind this effort. I used to really enjoy reading his posts about crafting ways to automate his search to find whatever information he might be looking for – going deep into the Web trenches to pull data and make connections between data. He has gotten a great deal of interest from investors and other influencers, so hopefully Little Bird can move from private beta to full blown public web tool soon. Congrats and best wishes to the Little Bird team – sounds like a fascinating new way to gain insights and connections on the web.

Slices: A Great Twitter Management Tool

 

Yes, Twitter needs management, unless you follow fifty or fewer people. Yes, there are tons of Twitter management tools out there. But, like there are many different learning and processing styles, there are many different ways to consume information and one may work better for you personally than another.

 

Slices is another option for this purpose. Right now, it is a live app on iOS and Android, and a Web version is promised but is still in invite-only beta. I tried it out on iOS and it works beautifully. While the layout is pretty standard, it offers a Twitter directory for finding the best follows on Twitter, a “Live Events” filter which shows the live stream for the top news stories of the day, and Trending filters for your city, country or worldwide. What really is interesting is the “slices” themselves – you can group your timeline into slices to view segments at a time. To show you how, the app will set up some slices for you. It created for me a Tech and Science slice with 34 people, a Business & Money slice with 31 people and a News slice with 9 people. You can filter, right off the bat, people who are not in a slice, so you can “slot” them into a category. Once you organize it, you will be able to easily “slice” through your full feed and see exactly what you want to see when you want to see it. Reminds me a bit of the old Twitter lists concept. Within the slices you can see all types of tweets or just photos and videos, with thumbnail and player right in the tweet. Drill down into follows and add them to a slice from their profile. You can share slices by email, SMS, Tweet and Facebook. Set up your various favorite sharing services within the app for images, video, URL shortening, read later and text expanding. Your saved searches are in there as well and you can start a new search. And, of course, you can tweet yourself from the app.

 

 

 

 


  

 

When the web version drops, it will sync with the mobile version, so you need not miss a beat. You also can upgrade to Pro and lose the ads for $4.99, but I am not sure it is worth that cost to do so.

 

OneLouder is the developer and they aren’t new to the mobile app game – they are the able team behind such great social apps as Friendcaster – my favorite Android Facebook app and Tweetcaster, as well as several other specialized applications.

 

I like Slices a lot – with nearly 1,000 follows, I can use a tool that helps me break out information into categories so I can find what is right now, right now. Nice app – OneLouder!

Infographic: Compare User Demographics of Popular Social Networks

Haven’t posted an infographic for a while. Here’s one for you that is informative AND great to look at. Found this over at The Blog Herald.

Twitter Just Got A Lot More Interesting, with Prismatic

 

Even after four years of tweeting, Twitter is still an enigma to me. Mostly because I find myself constantly flooded with information from it and I am unhappy with my inability to segregate the really good stuff from the really useless stuff. I prune my follows regularly and use all sorts of apps to bring the best stuff to the top, but I still am plagued with the idea that I am missing real gems in the process. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying Twitter isn’t useful – I definitely see it as a valid news source, particularly for real-time and breaking information. It’s just that my efficiency-first personality renders me constantly frustrated by the process of reading and rating the worth of tweets.

 

Speaking of gems, I may have found an answer, at at least, a better answer to may age-old problem of information overload in my Twitter stream. It’s called Prismatic. Prismatic is an algorithm driven application that reads through the Twitter stream, and reports back with the tweets and links that will likely be of the greatest interest to you. It’s awesome for a number of reasons. First, while you may have the coolest Twitter follows in the world, they are only human and may miss some key information. Furthermore, if you have narrowed your interest graph to a particular topic or set of topics, what are you to do when you need information outside that sphere. Prismatic doesn’t just look at your Twitter follows, it looks at the WHOLE Twitter stream (yikes!) and then promotes the best stuff on your area of interest, while still offering a series of links along your sidebar to permit you to investigate different topics and tags.

 

Prismatic’s developers bill it as a discovery engine and have leveraged their deep knowledge of machine learning and linguistic programming in building the app. So what does it look like? After answering a few questions to get your page started, you will be greeted with a clean, web-news page look, with main stories in the larger left side, and a sidebar along the right. Hover over the home icon on the right to see your “home” feed, which is built around your interests. Hover over the globe icon on the right to explore the larger universe of available topics. It appears that the Global feed is also personalized to you, but covers a broader range of material. You get suggested topics as well as suggested publishers, so you can lock in on the most interesting stuff. You can also employ the search box on the right to get right to what you are looking for.

 

Of course, you can fully interact with the articles presented to you in your feed. A typical blurb looks like the image below, and  you get infinite stories by simply scrolling down the left side of the page:

 

 

You can see the article at the link, an image and a bit of the text. Click on it to go to the original source article. See a few of the tweets that have linked the article to the right. Click the “x” if you aren’t interested and would like it removed, click the “+” if you want to favorite the story for later reading and click the comment bubble if you want to share the story elsewhere. You can share by email, Twitter or Facebook. You will also see how many people have shared the story, so you can get a sense of how popular it is. Click the eye at the top of the page to show that you have read all of the articles. See and click on the tags that brought the story to you, and click on the related stories link to see all stories Prismatic has related to the original story. This makes it easier to dig deeper into a particular bit of news.

 

I am loving this app. I found in the first few articles of my feed some great stuff that hadn’t percolated its way up to the top in Feedly or my other “smart” aggregators. I was able to quickly read and tweet it back out. Very efficient. If you are having difficulty managing the wild Twitter beast, then consider trying out Prismatic. My one complaint, lack of a mobile app, is being addressed as we speak and hopefully will be out shortly. Prismatic on the iPad would be an absolutely killer combination.

 

The service is free, but it is still in limited beta, so you will need to request an invitation at their website. It didn’t take long to get mine. Head on over, then head back here with your feedback on this great, intelligent Twitter-taming tool.

CloudMagic Offers Lightning Fast Search on Android

Finding the needle in your content haystack can be a troublesome affair. I have thousands of old messages in my Gmail, over 11,000 tweets, and lots of other stuff that I have collected over the past few years and have shoved into the virtual shoebox at the back of the closet. The difference between efficiency and wandering aimlessly often comes down to how fast you can retrieve that bit of information you need for a particular matter at a particular time. That is where CloudMagic comes in.

CloudMagic is an Android (and iOS) application that indexes your Google and Twitter content and can retrieve it for you instantaneously with predictive search suggestions as you type. It retains search history for when you may need to come back to your search. It works with  Gmail correspondence, calendar events, Google Docs documents, contacts, and tweets and sports some very effective filtering tools. It comes in an Android app and browser extensions for on-line, desktop use. And it’s free.

The application reminds me of Greplin on iOS, but falls short in terms of services it can access. However, it is more than a decent start, particularly if you are tied to an Android platform.

Check out the video below to learn more about this great, cross-platform mobile search tool.

Twitter. Are You Doing It Wrong?

With only 140 characters to work with, it is hard to imagine screwing up Twitter. But, where there’s a will, there’s a way. The Atlantic reports today on a study of 43,000 responses to various types of tweets that parses out what readers liked and didn’t like in their microblog content. The study by Paul Andre, Michael S. Bernstein, and Kurt Luther revealed that readers felt about a third of tweets were worth reading, somewhat less than a third were inane and the rest fell somewhere in the middle. That’s a pretty high dreck to value ratio. Where do your tweets fall?

The researchers used a web site called “Who Gives A Tweet” to collect the ratings – users were promised anonymous ratings in turn for their own ratings of other’s tweets. After collecting reviews from over 4,200 users who rated at least ten tweets each, Andre, Bernstein and Luther began the parsing process.

And what did they learn? That the standout reason for disliking a tweet is that it’s boring. Boring often equates to tweeting old information or being repetitive. Other complaints? Links without explanation. Too many hashtags or Twitter specific syntax. Mean-spirited tweets, negative sentiments and complaints.

And what did people like? The highest value was ascribed to informative and funny tweets. Usually a tweet was rated one or the other but not both. And, despite the 140 character limit already serving as a brevity inducing mechanism, people appreciated more concise tweets that got the information out in as few words as possible. Reader also appreciated thoughtful questions to followers, deeming it a good use of the medium. Finally, and somewhat surprisingly, self-promotional tweets did not suffer any more negative treatment than passing along someone else’s news or content – readers appreciate the news, even if that news is generated by you rather than the AP.

The report concluded with these thoughts:

Content. Information sharing, self-promotion (links to personally created content) and questions to followers were valued highly, while presence maintenance, conversational and ‘me now’ statuses were less valued.

Emerging Practices. Our analysis suggests: embed more context in tweets (and be less cryptic); add extra commentary, especially if retweeting a common news source; don’t overuse hashtags and use direct messages (DMs) rather than @mentions if more appropriate; happy sentiments are valued and “whining” is disliked, and questions should use a unique hashtag so followers can keep track of the conversation.

 Even though I already focus most of my Twitter activity on passing along news, this report gives me ideas about how to package my tweets in a more appealing format. Might be worth taking a look at your own content to see if you fit within the worth saving or worth chucking file. Because, you don’t want to wonder whether your tree makes a sound when it falls in the Twitter forest and there’s no one there to hear it.

Make Hashtags Really Work with Joint

I leave the state for a couple of days and something new comes to town. New tool, Joint, brings a novel perspective on Twitter hashtags and conversations around topics, events or other subjects of common interest. Brought to you by the very fine folk who brought you Lazyfeed and Lazyscope, Ethan Gahng seems to have another winner here. Joint essentially takes Twitter hashtags and creates chat rooms around the tag – giving those interested in the tag a place to actively converse with others interested in the same topic. It also shows the Twitter stream of users tweeting the hashtag – you can tweet directly with the hashtag from the interface, invite the tweeters into the chat, engage in the chat, neither or both. In the left column, there is a list of all of the hashtags you have visited – also known as channels. Once you visit, they stay in that column for later perusal. This column will also show you when there is a new tweet on a hashtag or people in the chatroom for that hashtag. Chat stays inside the application. When you join a channel, Joint prompts you to tweet about it in order to encourage others to join in – there is a link to the chat in the tweet. Check out a sample window (of Ethan’s view) from the “How Joint Works” button.

I find it difficult to follow hashtags. I do use them occasionally, mostly for Follow Friday or when I need to get some angles on a particular topic like iPhones, iPads, or other discreet subjects that are likely to have lots of up to date tweets. But you really can’t interact effectively around them, particularly if you are not following the tweeters and/or they don’t follow you. Joint solves that communications barrier by offering two means within one window to discuss the news. Check out the main directory to find active chats / hashtags and jump right in.

Joint would be absolutely perfect for keeping on top of events (conferences, seminars, natural disasters) and actually speaking with others about and sharing around them, rather than passively watching 140 characters bites flow by.

Just as I have found with Lazyfeed and Lazyscope, Ethan is genius at taking good ideas (blogs, Twitter) and making them far more effective, while keeping it simple for the end user. Check out Joint and check back here with your thoughts.

Heello: Take Twitter & Make It, Well, Twitter

Yesterday was a day for Twitter competition. From the subject-based Subjot to the virtual clone Heello - the creation of Twitpic founder Noah Everett. Heello is pretty much the same sort of micro-blogging service as Twitter with little to distinguish it, right down to the color scheme. With photo sharing already enabled (what else would you expect from the Twitpic team?) and video sharing and check-ins coming soon, there really is nothing special about this new service other than the clean slate effect these services usually enjoy at their inception. But wait, there is one promised feature that is a little different from the current Twitter feature set and seems to leverage the desire to connect with others via locale and/or shared experience – Heello’s Channels. Channels will permit users to “group” around a subject or location in order to see “pings” (not “tweets”) pertaining to that shared interest. O.k., now that is a cool layer to the concept.

I think Heello might have a bit of an uphill battle – Twitter has had to labor long and hard to attract mainstream attention and it still struggles with how best to monetize its “free” service. Nonetheless, I have to tip my hat to the challenger – if for no other reason than the fact that competition makes for a healthy marketplace and a win for the users. Best of luck, Mr. Everett.

Subjot: Take Twitter & Make It Relevant

Occasionally I have insomnia and the only way I can get back to sleep is get up and accomplish something. Anything. So, last night, I wandered downstairs at 2:45 a.m. and flipped on the computer. I skimmed the first few entries on Google + and stumbled onto Louis Gray’s post about another new service, Subjot. I took the bait, and visited the site.

It immediately captured my interest, mainly because it fills a hole that Twitter has left gaping wide open – the ability to view a stream based on the content you are interested in, rather than the person you are interested in. Yes, it looks a whole lot like Twitter, with its “bites” of information in short form (250 characters to be exact) flowing by in a stream, or more precisely at this early stage, a trickle. But there are a few meaningful differences. Subjot leads with its subject matter tags, rather than its users. You can, of course, follow people, but to do so, you have to select one of their subject areas. These are determined when people post their bites – you have to assign a category or tag describing the subject matter of the post. A post about Subjot should be tagged, obviously, with the Subjot tag. If you follow someone and have indicated you want to follow them for their expertise on Subjot, then this post will appear in your stream. However, when that same person posts about, say, Wagnerian Opera, which you have chosen (for better or worse) not to follow, you will NOT see their post about Ride of the Valkyrie in your stream.

 

Screenshot of Subjot Co-Founder Chris Carella's Stream

 

Another very cool feature that is baked in, but which requires a bit of finagling to achieve on Twitter, is the ability to readily comment about and see the conversation surrounding a particular post. Like you might find on Google +, there is the initial post and then related comments appended or nested with that post within the stream. You can find people by topics and browse topics themselves to build your stream in precisely the form you want. And, if your follows properly tag their posts, you will see your interests, your whole interests and nothing but your interests in your stream. Pretty freaking cool.

Right now, Subjot suffers, if anything, from a lack of user base. It is in invite only beta right now, but I happen to have a handy invite link if you are interested in checking this smart new service out. Just click here. Hope you like it as much as I did – I felt so accomplished I was able to fall right back asleep in no time!

 

Post Anything To Twitter With Twi.tt

Twitter is a great resource for sharing – be it blog posts, news items, images or videos. But what if you want to share more than that? Twi.tt has you covered. Twi.tt lets you share pictures, video, documents, audio and even polls on Twitter. Using your existing Twitter account, simply fill out the simple form on Twi.tt’s home page, add your own intro text and hit send. Images and video can be uploaded, shared from URL or captured via webcam. Upload or share documents by URL. Polls are created onsite, within the dialogue box that opens when you select the polls option. The result is a link posted in your Twitter stream that leads back to the poll box. While music sharing is not yet activated, it apparently is on its way, as there is an audio sharing button on the home page. In the meantime, there are plenty of other music sharing services that link to Twitter to hold you over until Twi.tt finishes building its site.  A simple tool with a simple, but very useful purpose!