Tag Archives: friendfeed

Data journalism pt5: Mashing data (comments wanted)

This is a draft from a book chapter on data journalism (part 1 looks at finding data; part 2 at interrogating datapart 3 at visualisation, and 4 at visualisation tools). I’d really appreciate any additions or comments you can make – particularly around tips and tools.

UPDATE: It has now been published in The Online Journalism Handbook.

Mashing data

Wikipedia defines a mashup particularly succinctly, as “a web page or application that uses or combines data or functionality from two or many more external sources to create a new service.” Those sources may be online spreadsheets or tables; maps; RSS feeds (which could be anything from Twitter tweets, blog posts or news articles to images, video, audio or search results); or anything else which is structured enough to ‘match’ against another source.

This ‘match’ is typically what makes a mashup. It might be matching a city mentioned in a news article against the same city in a map; or it may be matching the name of an author with that same name in the tags of a photo; or matching the search results for ‘earthquake’ from a number of different sources. The results can be useful to you as a journalist, to the user, or both.

Why make a mashup?

Mashups can be particularly useful in providing live coverage of a particular event or ongoing issue – mashing images from a protest march, for example, against a map. Creating a mashup online is not too dissimilar from how, in broadcast journalism, you might set up cameras at key points around a physical location in anticipation of an event from which you will later ‘pull’ live feeds: in a mashup you are effectively doing exactly the same thing – only in a virtual space rather than a physical one. So, instead of setting up a feed at the corner of an important junction, you might decide to pull a feed from Flickr of any images that are tagged with the words ‘protest’ and ‘anti-fascist’. Continue reading

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Search and filter tweets using Friendfeed advanced search

I’ve never been fond of the search engine on Twitter, not the one on search.twitter.com anyway. I have found the ones build on it’s API much friendlier and more intuitive, such as Twitterfall and the integration in Tweetdeck. But none of them work for finding old tweets. Google is not much help either, unless you know how to create your own search engine.

Friendfeed aggregates and stores all the activity that is fed into the system. Most FF users bring in their Twitter feed, in effect storing all their tweets. It works a little bit like Google Reader, once it’s there, it will always be there, even if the original is deleted.

The advanced search features of Friendfeed makes it a pretty good twitter search alternative. It even supports real-time, so you can make your own twitter news monitors.

Searching old tweets

Twitter only keeps tweets in it’s search database for a few weeks, after that they disappear. They’re still available on the web, just not searchable from Twitter (or any thrid party app). That’s great if you just want the real-time view, but not practical when looking for an exact tweet a few weeks old.

I needed to find this tweet from Paul Bradshaw for a presentation, but it was long gone from the internal database. I knew that Paul is using Friendfeed, not actively but he’s sharing his tweets there, so I did this search (Bingo, no. 2 from the top). Here’s the equivalent twitter search which is no help.

From any Friendfeed page, you simple select advanced search at the top, fill in the blanks and you got it. Here’s how mine was filled in.

Real-time “noise” filtering

Some hashtags can get ugly, real quick. There’s no way to filter out the high quality tweets either. People can favorite tweets, but you can’t search them, so no way to filter. When news breaks, there will be a few quality tweets in the beginning, people will retweet the most important. But people quickly starts talking about the event which brings no real value to the table, other than twitter-chatter. Eyewitness accounts and other useful information is lost in the stream because people have no way of marking important tweets for later retrieval (search).

On Friendfeed, people have the option of liking entries, and the advanced search let’s you filter items based on likes or comments. You can now rely on the FF community to mark the important stuff and cut through all (some of) the noise.

Friendfeed advanced search

Here’s an example of a search that filters all tweets with the #iranelection hashtag, and shows only tweets that has 3 or more likes.

Other uses

There are many other ways to search Friendfeed and you can filter for all services like facebook, blogs etc. You can save searches and use them as filters. I have several live searches saved in Friendfeed. Here’s an example of a search that gives me all twitter entries from my friends with one or more comments.

Friendfeed suffers from the fact that it’s userbase is not as big as Twitter’s, but the ‘real’ real-time search more than makes up for that in my opinion. What I mean by real, is that items are published automatically from all services. If you bring in your Flickr, comments and blog activity to Friendfeed, they will publish automatically. Twitter doesn’t do that, you have to actively share the link after you have uploaded to Flickr, made a comment somewhere or updated your blog.

Search Options: Google adds more intuitive search tools, ‘takes on Twitter’

It’s often said that Twitter’s big advantage over Google is its ability to allow you to conduct ‘real time search’ – if an event is happening right now, you don’t search Google, you search Twitter.

But today Google has announced a series of features that, while still not offering real time search, take it just that bit closer. For me it is the most significant change to Google’s core service in years. 

Here’s the video:

This week, while talking to my students about the ability to search by date in Google, the computer assisted reporting blogger Murray Dick mentioned how unreliable the feature was, so I wouldn’t get too excited. 

What is new, however, is the ‘recent search’ facility, which brings up results from the past hour or two. Continue reading

1000 things I’ve learned about blogging

To mark 1000 posts on this blog, I thought I’d reflect on what I’ve learned since post #1.

UPDATE: Now available in German, Spanish, Hebrew, and Portuguese.

UPDATE 2: I’ll be posting further ‘1000 things’ via Twitter – you can find them with this search or this RSS feed. Continue reading