3 cool features of Twingly Live

At Twingly we always have been big fans of the real time web. Thus, as soon as we realized that Twitter would become a real hit, we decided to develop a tool that shows a real time stream of tweets containing any hashtag or keyword. We called it Twingly Live and launched it in the end of 2009.

Twingly Live doesn’t only come handy when trying to understand the volume of tweets about a specific topic. It’s also a good way to introduce others to a specific meme or hot trend on Twitter.

Today we want to show you three cool features of Twingly Live that you maybe haven’t paid attention to yet:

Embed a Twingly Live widget into your blog or website

You can embed any Twingly Live stream into your blog or website, for instance to illustrate how popular something you have blogged about is on Twitter. Simply go to http://live.twingly.com, choose the Stream you want to embed (e.g. a stream you have just created; use ctrl + f to search the list) and click on the “embed” link in the right column.

In the following window you find some options to customize the widget. After you are done, copy the code shown and paste it into your website.

Embed the Twingly Live widget into your wesite

See the most popular tweets for a Twingly Live stream

For an increasing number of Twingly Live streams we provide a toplist tab called “Top 20”, which lists the most popular tweets for that specific keyword within a given time period (last half hour, last 2 hours, last 24 hours, last week).

The Twingly Live streams which don’t have the toplist link simply don’t get enough tweets.

Twingly Live toplist

Embed a toplist widget

This is a little hiden feature that for now only those of you get to know who read the Twingly blog : ) In the same way as you can embed a Twingly Live stream you also can embed a toplist.

For that, find the desired keyword in the list on http://live.twingly.com, click on the “embed” link in the right column. Now when you see the embed code, copy it and paste it into your website. After that is done, remove the link from the code (which starts with http://static.twingly….) and enter the following: http://live.twingly.com/toplist/** Instead of **, add the name of the stream (which you see when opening the stream in your browser).

And if you are totally new to Twingly Live, simply create your own stream to try it: http://live.twingly.com (then click “Create Twingly Live” and follow the instructions)

Twingly predictions for 2011

We at Twingly hope you had a good start into 2011!

To kick of the new year we will present you a few predictions from the Twingly team about what could happen in the next 12 month on the web. We did the same last year so Twingly predictions are slowly becoming an actual tradition.

But before we jump into what might happen in 2011 let’s have a look at how we performed with our 2010 predictions. This is what we expected to witness during the past year:

1. Facebook will continue their path towards social and realtime search:
Yes, Facebook did in fact put more effort into offering search features based on your friends and your friends likes. And US users of Microsoft search engine Bing can get their search experience enhanced by what friends have liked through Facebook.

2. Twitter clients like TweetDeck and Seesmic will open up to other services than Twitter
We nailed it: Seesmic for example opened up their desktop client to more than 40 applications in order to be less depended on Twitter, and even TweetDeck added other services such as Google Buzz, LinkedIn and foursquare.

3. It will become valuable for users to be at the scene of events and to publish visual footage
Kind of. Certainly media has picked up eye witness reports from Twitter (for example when the Quantas A380 flight had to make an emergency landing in Singapore and one passenger used Twitter to report about it from inside the plane), but we are still waiting for success stories of tools dedicated to eye witness reports.

4. In the end of 2010 it will not only be Twitter and Facebook to represent the realtime web towards a larger audience.
Here we have to admit that we weren’t right. It’s still those two sites that get most of the realtime audience, and both are stronger than ever.

That makes 2 correct predictions, 1 false and 1 that can be counted as both. Let’s see if we can reach a similar hit ratio for our 2011 predictions. Here they are:

Google buys MySpace
The demise of MySpace has been going on for a while, and one has to question if the recent relaunch will be able to save the “entertainment network”. It has been reported that Rupert Murdoch has plans to sell MySpace. It’s not impossible that Google which is desperately looking for a social product to use against Facebook will come and save MySpace from the digital death.

Everything goes mobile and local
We admit that the first prediction involves a high risk of failing. So here is a more secure outlook: mobile and local will be the two big themes for many startups in 2011, both existing and new ones. Millions of people are carrying GPS-enabled smartphones and tablets around, and an increasing number of web companies will try to capitalize on that.

Tablet newspapers will find success if they include content from several newspapers
The “old media” won’t stop experimenting with the iPad and other upcoming tablets. While there are many reasons for questioning the potential of selling a single newspaper as an app (if not the price is very convincing), combining several tablet optimized newspapers into one app will prove successful.

Facebook launches Facebook phone
There have been rumours about a Facebook smartphone before, and the company has denied such plans. We still believe that Facebook will figure out a way to release a Facebook phone which heavily integrates with the Facebook universe.

Facebook watches LinkedIn IPO
Not really a prediction, rather a safe bet: LinkedIn has said to do an IPO in 2011. Facebook will watch carefully and learn from LinkedIn’s mistakes.

Realtime commenting will be everywhere
If you today comment on an item on Facebook, it appears in realtime for you and anybody else who can see the initial item. 2011 is the year when commenting will go realtime anywhere on the web, even on blogs and news sites, opening up for a new, more dynamic, more interactive way of commenting.

Gowalla pivots like crazy to try to catch up with Foursquare
Gowalla was really popular for a while in the Nordics and some parts of Europe. The reason? Foursquare simply wasn’t available here. There is something in the 4sq recipe that has allowed them run in circles around their hipster little brother, Gowalla. Gowallas tactic will be to add meaning to check-ins. Let’s watch them closely and see if they succeed. With the advent of Facebook Places here in Europe as well, things are looking harsh for them. But always be rooting for the underdog!

These are our predictions for 2011. What do you think? Are we crazy or could these things happen?

This post was a collaborative effort by @martinweigert@martinkallstrom and @agaton.


Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kwl/CC BY 2.0

RSS won’t die, but news readers are evolving and becoming more social

For years, there has been talk about the death of RSS. While RSS has been the most common way for bloggers and information workers to gather and collect information from lots of sources, it has never really caught the attention of the mainstream users. There might be many reasons for that, but the rather “unsexy” name of the format, the relatively complicated way of subscribing to a RSS feed (for less experienced users) and the little efforts from publishers to market RSS (with the exception of blogs) definitely contributed to the slow adoption of RSS outside of the web geek sphere (imagine if subscribing to a RSS feed would have been as easy as “liking” something with Facebook…).

In recent times, the number of people claiming RSS will die has increased due to the emergence of the realtime web, mainly pushed by Twitter, which increasingly is becoming a news distribution service (also thanks to innovative, Twitter based news readers like Flipboard or Pulse). Even though RSS has become realtime capable thanks to protocols such as PubSubHubbub or RSS Cloud, it is still (incorrectly) being perceived as a slower way of accessing news and information than Twitter.

The recently announced end of web-based RSS reader Bloglines is grist for the mill of those who see RSS dying. Even though Bloglines has fallen into oblivion already years ago, it was still one of the two big browser-based full-fledged RSS readers out there. Now with Bloglines disappearing, only Google Reader is left, leaving not many alternatives to those that are trying to not become too depended on Google services (which can happen easily when using Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Reader).

Well, for all those people, we might have the solution: Twingly Channels, our social and collaborative news tool which one can use to import both RSS feeds and articles from blogs based around specific keywords.

But wait, didn’t I just describe how some think RSS seems to be dying? Well, I did, but in fact, it isn’t. Even though it is pretty clear that RSS won’t become a big mainstream phenomenon due to the reasons mentioned above, the number of RSS subscribers to many of the big tech blogs is still increasing, and ironically, many of the articles being shared on Twitter come from RSS feeds – either from users who find them in their RSS reader, or via Twitter accounts that belong to big news sites, which usually are fed with the site’s RSS feed.

So while it is possible that some former RSS hardcore users are giving up on the format and solely rely on Twitter and social news aggregators such as Techmeme in the future, there are no indications of a broader trend of people totally abandoning RSS.

Nevertheless, conventional web-based RSS readers (such as Bloglines or Google Reader) but even Desktop RSS clients have their drawbacks: They usually don’t allow for collaboration, they focus only on RSS and they are not really sharable. Having that in mind, let’s get back to Twingly Channels!

Twingly Channels is made for several people contributing together to one social news stream, where they monitor, “like” and comment on news items imported from both RSS feeds but also via keywords. To each item, the number of linking posts and retweets is shown. And of course you can share the Channel with other Twingly users!

We are aware that Twingly Channels doesn’t replace classic RSS Readers. But that’s not our intention either. In Fact, Twingly Channels is taking the concept of RSS to the next level, making it more social, and combining it with a keyword centric way of importing content. In the end, RSS will definitely stay for good (especially because of the realtime boost the format got thanks to PubSubHubBub and RSS Cloud), but conventional, unsocial RSS readers might disappear.

So if you have been using Bloglines and are looking for a new tool to manage your news and information, or if you are using another RSS client but are in the need of something more social, or if you don’t even use RSS but would like to try a social reader which simply brings you all the blog content regarding specific keywords, you should try Twingly Channels.

We wrote this guide to help you getting started. It’s easy, so give it a whirl! And if you want us to import your complete list of subscribed RSS feeds from Bloglines, Google Reader or any other RSS client, send us an email with the OPML-file (containing your subscriptions – you get this file by using the export function in your RSS reader) and the URL of your Twingly Channel (e.g. www.twingly.com/channelname) to support@twingly.com and we’ll take care of it!

/Martin Weigert

Do you think before you tweet?

When you publish your ordinary 140 character messages on Twitter, it’s easy to forget who your total audience is. No, not only your followers on Twitter and those users who might have subscribed to your stream via RSS. In fact, it’s everyone on the Internet. Almost 2 billion people, who have access to your daily Twitter updates, if you didn’t set your account to private (which hardly anybody does on Twitter).

That’s pretty impressive, isn’t it? I hear you saying “Well, that’s the same for any public web page and blog”. Correct. But the difference is that it takes much longer and more effort to publish content on regular websites/blogs, and since you are not limited to those 140 characters, you write longer texts, and you have more time to think through what you have written before you press publish.

From my personal Twitter experience I can say that this is totally different on Twitter. Twitter is the leading tool of the real time web, and as such a communication channel where everything is about speed. Twitter is the place where news break first, and as we explained last week, the way Twitter works even helps spreading less important information to a lot of people within a very short amount of time.

But the nature of Twitter with quick messages that are being tweeted and retweeted in (near) real time comes at a price: quality and trustworthiness. While there are tweets that give the impression of being well thought through – especially of users who focus on humorous or ironic Twitter updates – the majority of tweets and retweets have been put together in a few seconds.

So because of that, and because everyone on the Internet can see your tweets, it really makes sense to always think twice before pushing something to Twitter – or at least to think once.

I would guess that every regular Twitter user knows the uncomfortable feeling of having sent a tweet that she/he regretted afterwards.

Since there is no way to edit a tweet, the only thing you can do is to delete it. Some Twitter clients offer a useful option to do that, but I also have used apps that didn’t. Instead, I had to rush to Twitter’s website, log-in to my account (when you are in a hurry, you might mistype your password twice before you succeed in loging in), and then delete the tweet. With a bit of luck, I was fast enough so that nobody of my Twitter followers did see my weird/stupid/incorrect tweet. Sometimes, I wasn’t.

Recently, Twitter has launched the new User Streams API and is now step by step rolling out access to it. If the API is enabled for your Twitter client, all the tweets are appearing in real ‘real time’. Before, it could take 30 seconds or longer for your personal stream to update with new tweets. It was rather a bulk updating process than a real time updating.

What that means is that it will soon become completely impossible to hide a tweet from your followers by deleting it. Because when everyone has access to the new API, your followers will see your tweet in the very second you sent it.

That means that thinking before twittering will be even more important in the future than it has been so far.

Because of this, I personally try to stick to some ground rules when sending a tweet. It doesn’t always work, sometimes the temptation of being first out with a specific information/news is just too big. Still, I think it is good to have some criteria in the back of your head while using Twitter. It could help you to avoid embarrassing situations.

These are my suggestions. Feel free to add a comment with your input:

  • Is there a link I can attach to my tweet to show the source of my information?
  • Does the information sound reasonable and realistic? What does my intuition say?
  • Do I offend people with the tweet (more than necessary)?
  • Have I been twittering about the same thing too many times?
  • Is the spelling/grammar correct?
  • Does this tweet fit together with my opinion in earlier tweets/blog articles, or do I contradict myself?
  • Could the information in my tweet be something that everyone already knows?
  • If I’m about to retweet somebody else, do I know this person (from Twitter)? How much do I know about her/his credibility?
  • Should I add a personal comment to my retweet in order to explain to my followers why I thought this information/link was valuable?

Of course the process of thinking through these points is something that happens within the fraction of a second, in best multitasking tradition. And as I said – it’s not always working, we are all humans and act like them. Nevertheless it has helped me to establish a basic quality assurance for my tweets. If I would stand in front of almost two billion people, I probably would be very careful with what I’m saying. So I think it can’t be too wrong if Twitter user’s think a second before they tweet.

/Martin Weigert

(Photo: stock.xchng)

How the Real Time Web made a Flower Pot become a Web Celebrity

Sometimes you just need to see the real time web in action to understand its dynamics and power. This was a thought I had when I last week witnessed the sudden rise of a meme in the German Twitter-sphere. Personally I have never seen something similar before in the German speaking microblogging world, at least not with this intensity.

Everything started with an inconspicuous flower pot that belonged to an elder care home in the German city of Münster. One week ago the pot was destroyed by an unknown person. For some reason the “story” made it onto the website of the local newspaper Münstersche Zeitung. Katharina Hövels, the woman who wrote the article, started working at the newspaper a week before and was unexperienced, the paper later explained in a follow-up piece.

At 11:04 pm on Wednesday, Ralf Heimann was apparently the first person on Twitter to publish the link to the article. His tweet was retweeted 36 times, which doesn’t include manual retweets, and it was his tweet that about 12 hours later, on Thursday around lunch, led to the Twitter meme carrying the hashtag #blumenkübel, which is German for flower pot.

I think I noticed the first #blumenkübel tweets at around 12 am, and it was like out of the blue that suddenly my complete Twitter stream was filled with this hashtag. What happened was that some people that did read the original article took the blumenkübel story and adapted it to other recent news events, while some others simply joked about flower pots in general or the fact that the incident was actually reported about.

The more people participated, the more who didn’t read the original article either started to joined or asked what the #blumenkübel thing was all about, which consequently led to a number of blog posts explaining what happened, both in German and even in English. That again helped to increase the number of #blumenkübel mentions.

Using our Blog Search engine we found almost 200 blog posts writing about the topicAccording to the German blog and Twitter aggregator Rivva, 439 people retweeted the link to the original article. That is pretty substantial for Germany which only has about 270.000 active Twitter users according to this analysis. And let’s not forget that the actual story probably didn’t concern any of them.

At Twingly we quickly set up a Twingly Live Channel which at the peak of the #blumenkübel wave showed new tweets every second. It was impressive to watch!

According to the Twitter monitoring service Trendistic, the flower pot meme reached its peak around 2 pm on Thursday. After that the number of tweets containing the hashtag fell but rose again around 5 pm. If you follow Social Web topics you probably can guess why: After a few hours of #blumenkübel-mania, German mainstream media got curious and started to publish reports about how a flower pot became a star on Twitter, and that created new attention for the already diminishing meme. During that time, fake screenshots of CNN covering the broken flower pot and a YouTube video making fun of the flower pot’s fate had already hit Twitter.

The #blumenkübel hashtag actually made it into Twitter’s trending topics for a whole 5 hours, reaching position 4 at best, and increasing awareness of the flower pot tragedy on the other side of the Atlantic. Liz Pullen from What The Trend informed me on Friday that out of 492 trending topics during the past 7 days, #blumenkübel was the 30th most popular, which is remarkable considering the nonsense behind it and the small German twittersphere.

While Twitter was definitely the core of this meme, a Facebook page that was set up on early Thursday afternoon praising the flower pot grew to more than 2000 members on that day, and got even more attention after the national TV station Pro7 picked up the story on Friday evening (30 hours after the meme started). Today, the page has almost 10.000 members, which is significantly more than the number of tweets that was published with the #blumenkübel hashtag.

According to Twitter statistic apps such as What The Hashtag, Dwitter and twitter-trends.de, the hashtag was mentioned somewhere between 3000 and 6000 times from Thursday to Friday around lunch.

So, let’s draw a few conclusions: Twitter and the dynamics of the real time web allow a destroyed flower pot to become a celebrity in no time. It’s hard to explain the phenomenon if you haven’t been directly involved. It’s simply a lot of fun to see a meme grow, to be part of it and to help spread it. It’s an expression of the real time web’s (and the people’s) power. Just imagine how quick really important information could travel on the web if a stupid joke can.

It’s also obvious that Twitter is much faster than Facebook when it comes to viral distribution of information. One reason for that is definitely the more open environment at Twitter, even though Facebook is trying to compete with that. But that does not mean that Facebook does not have a purpose during the rise of an Internet meme. While Twitter is the core of the real time process, people afterwards go to Facebook to look for a group or page to join.

At least in the case of #blumenkübel, Twitter and Facebook didn’t compete but rather completed each other.

/Martin Weigert

8 use cases for the realtime web

We recently wrote about how the realtime web will change the world. And even though we gave some examples of use cases, there are many more scenarios when people will benefit from the realtime web. So here is a certainly not complete list of use cases for the realtime web. Feel free to add more in the comments section.

1. Breaking news and background for media outlets
If something happens today somewhere on planet earth, it is often reported on Twitter first. Usually much earlier than newspapers and TV stations get to know about it. On the other hand, this information from alleged eye witnesses is not always completely reliable, and in general rather incomplete. So the realtime web is not replacing traditional news media, but it is helping them to gather first-hand information and to get a clue about which story could be worth reporting on.

2. Spreading important information
There might be situations when it could be necessary for governments, companies, organizations or citizens to spread a specific information quickly to a huge group of people (within a specific area or country) – just think about Chernobyl or the tsunami in Southeast Asia. The realtime web is the definite tool to make really important news spread like a virus, and that actually could save lives.

3. Organizing events
With the realtime web, people can organize themselves, arranging flash-mobs, spontaneous parties or demonstrations. Apart from the fun factor involved here, this can be a big advantage for non-democratic countries and those parts of the world without freedom of speech. As we have witnessed during the Iranian protests, the realtime web helped citizens to be a step ahead of the authorities and to steer a huge crowd of people.

4. Collective intelligence
The real time web allows for tapping into the collective brain of millions of users. It’s not uncommon on Twitter or Facebook that people ask their contacts/followers public questions about a good restaurant, mobile phone or museum. Or simply about something where they didn’t find the answer on Google. Thanks to the realtime web, there are always people out there listening, and the required information is never far away.

5. Crime prevention
Sometimes people on Twitter re-tweet announcements from either citizens or the police, searching for witnesses of a specific crime. The realtime web helps to spread this information, since it is not part of most user’s daily routine to check the press releases of their local police station.

Of course, the realtime web can also support getting eye witness reports on crimes that have been committed just a few minutes ago, so that people in the vicinity can both be especially careful but also pay attention to suspects. The final result of this could be a higher risk for criminals to get caught, which might prevent a few from actually committing a crime in the first place.

6. Market transparency
Go to Twingly Microblog search, enter the name of any product, and you get an list of people’s opinion about it. Customers use the tools of the realtime web to say what they think about brands and services. The results might not be sophisticated reviews like on specific websites made for product reviews, but aggregated and analysed based on technologies for sentiment analysis, the results can be very helpful for other’s and at least an additional source of information right before a planned purchase. Under the assumption that there are the right tools for extracting the relevant feedback from the stream of status updates, the realtime web can increase the transparency of markets.

7. Find people based on their locations
You can find users from a specific country or city by searching on a Social Network. But that doesn’t guarantee you that they are there right now. And it doesn’t tell you if they have been at a specific location in their city. With the upcoming combination of realtime elements and location features – that even Twitter is taking seriously now – it will be pretty easy to connect with people being at any given location anywhere in the world. So if you are interested in the tweets of someone who is in South Africa following the World Cup, that wouldn’t be a problem anymore. This will even come handy for journalists looking for somebody at the scene of an event to interview.

8. “Social” media
Everyone is speaking about “Social Media” referring to a million different things and tools, but in this specific context, what we mean is that the realtime web makes existing media and media channels become a social experience. Have you ever been on Twitter when there was a big sports event on TV (hard to avoid these worldcup days), or the final show of a popular music television for example? The realtime web enables viewers to comment with their smartphones or notebooks on what they are watching , to share their opinion with other’s and to make the watching experience become social, even though they are sitting in their homes many miles away from each other. With the soon to be launched Google TV project, this type of social media might become a really widespread phenomenon.

To see this in action, you can use Twingly Live to follow the hashtag or keyword of your favourite show, to get a realtime stream of Twitter updates from other viewers.

/Martin Weigert

Illustration: stock.xchng

How the realtime web changes the world

At Twingly, we are big fans of the realtime web. Well, that shouldn’t come as a surprise since some of our services are built around it – like Twingly Live and Twingly Channels.

The interesting thing with the realtime web is that it is more and more becoming an integral part of the web. People are taking for granted that it is there, without thinking about it. While the term “realtime web” always has been used mainly by web enthusiasts and geeks, the idea of user generated content published in (near) realtime through platforms like Twitter, Facebook or others that allow for instant status updates and search, has spilled over into the Internet mainstream. Considering that Facebook is close to reach 500 million active users and having in mind that the social network encourages people to publish content to the public, it’s very likely that the publicly accessible realtime web is now being populated by hundreds of millions of people.

The contribution of web users all over the world to the continuous stream of information has become an important part of many people’s web usage. And search engines and services like Twitter Search, Snap BirdOneRiot, Tweetmeme, Openbook or even Google and Bing enable anyone to tap into this realtime stream, to see what people are talking right now, which links they are sharing – yes, in fact even to get an overview about the mood of people, right now and by looking back and aggregating status updates.

While most people are aware of the new possibilities and usage patterns triggered by social networks, blogging and microblogging, I’m not sure if everyone has thought about the consequences all this could have on societies and economies.

It’s worth to take a minute and to think about the way the realtime web is changing the world. That sounds like big words, but it might not be exaggerated. The realtime web makes it possible for people to organize without formal leader. We have seen in a few non-democratic countries how Twitter was used as a tool to avoid censorship, to spread news and to inform about upcoming demonstrations and protests. With the realtime web, people can organize faster. Really fast – and as some unofficial street parties in France show, in a way that the authorities have problems to adjust. Imagine what this could mean on a bigger scale. If suddenly and without any previous planning a million people would gather on a city’s main square, after reading about it on Twitter 30 minutes before. A really big flash mob. That’s a power of the people even western societies are not used to.

I don’t want to claim that the realtime web already has made the world more democratic, but it at least has the chance to do so. And it definitely creates transparency. In any second, you can use a variety of technologies to receive people’s honest realtime feedback on products, services and events. Last time everyone could witness this was on Saturday’s final of the Eurovision Song Contest. Following the #esc hashtag on Twitter was almost more fun than watching the show.

Even if you cannot be sure that everything you read is true, the social connections between people and the way they earn trust over time by being a reliable and authentic source of information and opinion acts as a filter, ensuring that not every stupid rumour is going viral.

On the other hand, that’s not always enough. There have been so many occasions when people falsely were said to have died. Those kind of stories do not always come from Twitter or other realtime services, but rather from mainstream media and gossip sites. Still, with the realtime web, they are spreading much faster and reaching people who otherwise never would read celebrity sites or questionable tabloids.

I think it is necessary to highlight that there is a risk involved in the realtime web. A risk that the combination of global connections and weak filters can lead to misinformation’s on a large scale, which could spark unrest or even panic. Especially in a situation where a really bad news is hitting the web, not all people necessarily think about fact-checking or going to another, renowned newspaper site to get a confirmation before sharing the news. So I don’t think it is too far fetch to expect some major case of global misinformation caused by the realtime web. But that’s maybe what needs to happen to make people realize what power the realtime web gave them as a crowd. And fortunately and despite the uncertainty regarding the future of journalism, there will always be professional journalists who can correct false reports or complete incomplete information spreading on the realtime web. That’s one of the main tasks future journalists will have to work with.

Even though there are some question marks about if the realtime web in fact could cause trouble to people, in my eyes the advantages and opportunities are prevailing. More democracy and more transparency could at least in theory lead to a better and more honest world. It’s up to us to make it become real in practice, too.

/Martin Weigert

(Illustration: stock.xchng)