Webometric Thoughts

October 15, 2009

The Web of Objects: @MyColdRoom

Filed under: Twitter,web 3.0,web of objects — admin @ 3:08 pm

With the web and the real world becoming increasingly intertwined, I found myself wandering about how easy it would be for an appallingly bad programmer like myself to start automatically sending information from the real world to the web. This was the start of one of the most pointless feeds on Twitter: @MyColdRoom.

@MyColdRoom is a Twitter stream of the temperature in my home ‘office’, automatically generated when my desktop is turned on.

I started with a USB thermometer because:
1) USB thermometers are cheap (£10-£15).
2) USB thermometers come with software to write to text files.
3) My flat is generally bloody freezing and I wanted to know how freezing.
Unfortunately the software that came with TEMPerNTC was useless: ‘device error’. Luckily [as always] there was someone out there who had created the appropriate library, and even a simple Visual Basic app. A dozen or so lines of appalling code later (and a shortcut in the right folder) and the application is posting to Twitter whenever the computer is turned on and every time the temperature changes by more than half a degree.

As was quickly noted, it is a rather pointless stream; beyond my mother there are very few people who care about the temperature in my office. However the interest in a web of objects has little to do with single streams in isolation, but with the patterns that emerge from multiple streams, and with information being shared between objects.

It’s amazing how simple it is to set up an automatic Twitter stream from the real world. It’ll be interesting to see who goes the furthest in automating the most mundane of events from around their home.

October 6, 2009

Twittering Your Work

Filed under: Twitter,bit.ly — admin @ 4:25 pm

As a general rule I always send an update to Twitter whenever I write a blog post or a piece of my work is published online. After all, like most bloggers, a couple of dozen extra visitors can be a significant proportion of my daily traffic. However equally important is the fact that URL shorteners like bit.ly can provide useful information about the impact of my work.

This was emphasised today when I sent an update about my latest online article: Web 2.0 fails to excite today’s researchers. I was surprised to find that it was actually already the subject of a number of tweets (admittedly a couple of them were automated).
However without twittering about the article myself I would never have found some of the comments about the piece: with only 140 characters article titles are often ignored or abbreviated, whilst the use of URL shorteners means that few comments will be identifiable through Yahoo’s Site Explorer (which has an uncertain future anyway).

So if you want to know what people are saying about your work on Twitter, you really need to talk about your work on Twitter…or at least create the bit.ly links.

September 16, 2009

Can you question technology without being labelled a Luddite?

Filed under: Twitter,luddite — admin @ 8:59 am

Researchers have warned that technology addiction among young people is having a disruptive effect on their learning [via the BBC]. Like so many academic reports, it provides support for the bleeding obvious. If I, a middle-aged cantankerous git who regularly rails against the whole of humanity and desires nothing more than to be left alone on an island with a pile of books, finds myself regularly distracted by the temptations of social media, how much more so the social teenager who wants to reach out to the world.

Yet some people are not happy with such reports:

Twitter gives little room for elaboration, instead opinions become polarized. The report becomes ‘pants’ and the authors ‘Luddites’. There are questions that may be raised about the wording in the study, and the changing nature of ‘learning’ in a connected world, but Twitter gives little room for such subtleties.

When people talk about technology being neither good nor bad, they are often providing a defence against a technology’s misuse. It is important that we don’t automatically presume that a technology is good, but continue to question the effect technology is having. Albeit at the cost of being called Luddites.

September 8, 2009

Twitter is dead, long live RSSCloud

Filed under: RSScloud,Twitter — admin @ 6:27 am

RSS has had a bit of a hard time lately. “RSS is dead, all worship at the alter of Twitter and the real-time web” seems to have been the general sentiment. Over the last couple of months however, people have been working away on RSSCloud: real-time RSS. Yesterday WordPress gave it its substantial backing.

The difference between having blog posts brought to your attention as soon as they are published, rather than 15-60 minutes after they are published is insubstantial for the majority of blog readers. It will, however, encourage the sort of conversations that take place through microblogging. Whilst microblogging can be a distraction, and 140 characters is rarely enough, it has encouraged conversations, the essence of social media.

With RSSCloud the lines between blogging and microblogging will become increasingly blurred, allowing for more substance with your conversations, and the once great Twitter will merely be a site for those who don’t want to host their own real-time data stream. But who would want to give Twitter control of their data when they can keep it for themselves?

Now we just have to wait for the host of exciting applications that will be built on the back of RSSCloud to emerge.

August 27, 2009

The Distraction of the Real-Time Web: I want to get off

Filed under: Twitter,blogosphere,real-time web — admin @ 2:12 pm

Whilst everyone seems to want to get on the Twitter train of the real-time web these days, I think I want to get off and take my time to blog a bit more.

Since I first went to the Birmingham Social Media Cafe back in January I have thrown myself into Twitter head first: following 124 people, posting 1,403 updates, and even going along to the BrumTwestival! However there is a downside: I blog less.

Those who read my blog may not think of my blogging less as a downside, but blog posts are as much for me as my readers. They are an opportunity for me to put down my thoughts on the web in a fairly coherent manner. The real-time web means that I am more focused on what is happening right now, rather than reflecting on what has happened.

The real-time web has it’s place for breaking news and customer engagement, but for some of us a slower blogosphere (or even traditional publishing) is a more suitable place to explore our thoughts. Let’s hope the world doesn’t go too far exchanging quality for speed.

July 20, 2009

Social Media Non-Adopters: Engagement v. Exposure

Filed under: BCSMC,Twitter,spam — admin @ 8:04 am

The topic of last Tuesday’s Black Country Social Media Cafe was Social Media Non-Adopters. Although the group chose the topic it was quite a quiet event, so we dumped the panel-at-the-front format in favour of a round table discussion. Despite the limited numbers (or possibly because of the limited numbers), it turned out to be a really interesting discussion, covering numerous different topics under the umbrella of ‘Social-Media Non-Adopters’; from the protocol of ReTweeting on Twitter to turning your avatar green for Iran![Nb. As I've mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of many social media campaigns].

The area of discussion I found most interesting was that of ‘Engagement v. Exposure’: When we encourage people to participate in social media are we giving them the support necessary to engage successfully and deal with the problems that come from potentially exposing yourself to communication with some of the world’s less desirable elements.

One seemingly innocuous example was that of retweeting, i.e., re-broadcasting a message in Twitter by updating with someone else’s message with ‘RT’ and the original messenger’s username at the front. Whilst a RT is generally seen as highlighting the noteworthiness of someone’s content, it can also be used to attribute content to a person who never twittered it. Such false-attribution could be anything from adjusting a comment for length, to attributing something embarrassing/slanderous to someone. Most such examples are examples of misinformation rather than disinformation; they are not deliberately trying to give a false impression. And most disinformation is more likely to be in an attempt to drive traffic than to be slanderous, for example:

‘RT @stephenfry Probably the most interesting person ever http://bit.ly/LnyqI

Which is probably more likely to generate traffic than the same quote without the Stephen Fry attribution.

Responses from Twitter show a mixture of those who accept the need for shortening tweets, and those who expect a carbon copy.

The problem of celeb-attribution-spam was the topic of a post at bloggingtips last week, unfortunately they are not all as obvious as this:

July 1, 2009

Fuck: What have you got to swear about?

Filed under: Twitter,Wordle,swearing — admin @ 8:40 pm

The words people combined with ‘fuck’ last Wednesday on Twitter (i.e., before the world went you-know-who crazy):
I may get this printed as a prompt card for when I get myself into arguments and my middle class background fails to provide me with the required lingo. Just take a selection of words, mix them up, and you’re “shit hot like fuckin transformers”.

[nb. This is absolutely the last Wordle].

Twittering Jackson

Filed under: Michael Jackson,Twitter,Wordle — admin @ 8:10 pm

As a follow-up to the last post it seemed appropriate to show what people were actually saying about Michael Jackson. A Wordle of the Twitter comments on Friday 26th June mentioning ‘Jackson’:

Personally I thought there would have been a few more negative comments, but seemingly most people really don’t speak ill of the dead.

That’s it…I promise no more Michael Jackson Wordles…although I may be tempted to post some other Wordles from my Twitter corpus.

[N.B. The words 'Michael' and 'Jackson' were removed from the Wordle as they far outweighed all the others.]

Seven Twitter Wordles: #MJ’s Death was massive!

Filed under: Michael Jackson,Twitter,Wordle — admin @ 6:53 pm

Despite a few problems with my programming, I finally got a random sample of the Twitter public timeline: the top 20 feeds from the Twitter public timeline were collected every 30 seconds over seven days. The Twitter updates were then put in Wordle (with the ‘common English words’ taken out).

Even mundane wordles can be interesting to look at. Over the week you can see just how small the trend words are in comparison to the mundanities of life. Then Michael Jackson died.

[you can click on pictures to enlarge]







The Twitter community soon get back on an even keel.

Personally I’m always surprised how little people swear on Twitter.

June 19, 2009

How much is a Twitter update worth?

Filed under: TwitPub,Twitter,making money — admin @ 8:00 am

A couple of days ago I posted my thousandth Twitter update, and an earth shattering post it was to:

A comment appropriately enough about Twitter, an update that was meaningless to anyone who wasn’t already aware of Opera Unite, and representative of the banality of so many of my Twitter comments.

As I discussed when I passed my 100th Twitter comment, the value of Twitter is hard to quantify, especially in monetary terms. Throughout social media, the value of the content we generate is generally indirect rather than direct: Dave Winer has made over $2 million via the stuff he talks about on his blog, whilst I have made $32.02 through the Google Adwords on this blog.

Nonetheless the dream of direct income remains. On the same day as I posted my 1,000th update, I received an email asking me to review the TwitPub marketplace. Basically TwitPub allows you to create a Twitter stream that people pay to get Direct Messages from. Whilst the concept is interesting, the content offered is generally poor. The only feed I came across which had any subscribers (supposedly ’2′) was a feed for real time trading alerts (at $0.99 a month), and the author’s web site link was to a page of adverts.

Twitter works because you follow many people, no single person is indispensable. If you want to get useful trading information you would do better follow numerous people in the field and drawing your own conclusions rather than paying $0.99 for the opinions of one person, however good they are.

So who could make use of TwitPub? Those who already have a loyal fan-base. It provides a simple means of monetising an existing brand. But when everyone else is offering their Twitter streams for free, I don’t imagine most fans being loyal for long.

Twitter, like other social media, is most likely to generate income indirectly. For me that has been £100 to write an opinion piece on Twitter in a magazine (JISC Inform 25 – see page 20). I doubt my Twitter-stream would ever generate that sort of income through TwitPub.

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