A researcher can use Twitter for tasks that were hitherto difficult

Many new services/tools have refreshed the Twitter world in the recent past. This edition of NetSpeak presents a handful of such tools/services.

The Twitter ecosystem is growing with breakneck speed and it seems more exciting days are in store for us.

As announced in the recently concluded Twitter conference, Twitter is further strengthening its platform and is rolling out new features helpful for developers. These features are supposed to provide new ways for developers to slice the twitter data and come out with more innovative applications.

Among the new features announced, ‘@Anywhere', is handy even for ordinary folks. The advantage of this tool is that it helps web site owners easily integrate the Twitter functionality into their sites. Basically, via this tool, Twitter enables a site owner to establish a communication conduit to Twitter from hsi/her site.

This channel allows the site provider to offer his/her visitors a customised, value-added Twitter experience, directly from his/her site.

For instance, if you have a blog and wish to show the Twitter profile of a user, anytime he/she is mentioned in your blog with an ‘@' sign (like ‘ @jmurali'), you can use the @anywhere feature. If you wish to get a feel of this facility, check out: http://knowledgecaps.com, where this facility has been set up by this author — just hover the mouse over the Twitter username ‘jmurali', displayed in the sidebar.

To implement this you just have to insert a few lines of javascript, which can be obtained from this link: http://dev.twitter.com/anywhere.

For researchers, Twitter has recently become an additional means to track content. Major search engines also recognise the importance of real-time data from services like Twitter and as a result relevant tweets too appear in the search output.

A research tool

But one limitation of the current real-time search services is that we get only the latest/current updates — the search output does not include old tweets. Old tweets have lots of historical/research value.

For instance, going through the old tweets on a specific event may provide us valuable information and insights on the way people responded to that event then. Google seems to have rightly sensed this need. It has added a new feature that does not exclude old tweets in the search results page.

To view old tweets, click on the ‘Show options' (from the search output page) and access the option ‘Updates'.

At this point, along with the usual search results, you will find a time-line chart that can be used to replay tweets appeared during a specifiedperiod (http://googleblog. blogspot. com/2010/04/replay-it-google-search-across -twitter.html).

A shrewd/innovative researcher can use Twitter for tasks that were hitherto difficult to undertake.

Being a universal tool, tweets emanate from all over the planet. All these tweets can be easily filtered according to their origin. So, if we wish to know how people from two cities (say Lahore and Mumbai) feel on a particular issue, just filter out the tweets from these cities (using the Twitter search's ‘near:' command). In a few seconds you will gather as to how people from two cities view the same issue.

The value of Twitter as a means to discover new content depends to a large extent on the type of people you follow.

There is no point in following anyone and everyone — we need to expand our Twitter network to relevant people alone. So, the issue boils down to finding appropriate, ‘followable', Twitter users (called ‘tweeps' in Twitter lingo).

The new Twitter-based service from Google Labs, Follow Finder (http://www.followfinder.googlelab s.com/), addresses this issue. It analyses your following and follower lists and based on this, displays a list of people you might like to follow. In this regard you may also try out Listorious (http://listorious.com/), the search service for finding Twitter users that suits your requirements.

Over time, your twitter network will expand and at some point you may find it difficult to keep up with the tweets from it. Various solutions to counter this tweet overload are also in place.

We have already discussed one such service called Feedera that organises your Twitter content and sends a digest of it via email (http:// www.thehindu.com/biz/2010/02/15/stories/20 10021550141500. htm).

TwitterTimes, the service that generates a real-time newspaper based on your Twitter account is yet another tool meant for taming the content from your Twitter network.

Once subscribed to the service, it generates a digital newspaper (with Twitter content) in real-time and offers you a link (similar to this one: http://www.twittertim.es/jmurali) for reading it at your convenience.

TV on your browser

There is no dearth of video content on the Net. In addition to the plethora of video hosting services, nowadays you have the option to watch your favourite TV shows also on-line.

The advantage here is that one can watch his/her favourite channel on his/her browser. On-line TV is fast catching up and to help us easily access the pertinent ones, several tools are also emerging. The Firefox extension TV-Fox (http://toolbar.tv-fox.com/) is one such tool worth a test. Chrome users may check out TV-Chrome (http://www.tv-chrome.com/). Once integrated with the browser, the extension keeps a tool bar from which you can access a wide array of popular channels being telecast across the globe.

As the channels listed are by countries and subjects (news, business, education and movies) one can easily access the favourite ones with a couple of mouse clicks.

Free download books

Searching documents in PDF and other formats have become a breeze, thanks to the availability of special search engines like ‘Openpdf', discussed in the past.

In this regard, you may check out, ‘Free Download Books' (http://freedownloadbooks.net/) , yet another document search service, hit on NetSpeak's radar recently.

He can be contacted at: jmurali@gmail.com