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.


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