Saturday, July 17, 2010

More tools to help libraries do environment scanning

One of the keys themes of my blog is how to use free tools to get alerts of news of interest. More specifically, I have made a series of posts trying to figure out how to use tools to find and engage with library users who are online posting, tweeting etc about your library.

I first mentioned the idea in Dec 2009 , and followed it up with "Scanning mentions of the library - Twitter, Google alerts & more" which talked about how one could go beyond pure keyword searching to find relevant tweets. "Environment scanning for libraries - Facebook" , talked about extending this to public facebook status updates.

And finally most recently with the kind permission of my library superiors, in "Why libraries should proactively scan Twitter & the web for feedback - some examples" , I gave concrete examples of how such techniques can delight users by providing service recovery to unhappy users who would otherwise have being missed. I recommend you read this first if you haven't yet.

As usual, I'm still experimenting with this. at the risk of quoting myself

"In an earlier post , I talked about using Twitter, Google and other tools to scan for mentions by users of libraries online. I noted that Twitter in particular was effective due to its real time nature, and that unlike Google alerts, Twitter hits tend to be far more likely to be relevant, as the former often contained false hits, compared to a 140 character tweet which are more focused.
3 Techniques were suggested to find relevant tweets

1) Keyword match -e.g. NUS Library
2) Geolocation - e.g. Finding tweets about library within 1 km of your location.
3) Filtering based on person Tweeting - e.g. If user is following you and tweets about library, it's probably about you."

Keyword matching can be done in multiple ways but ways to do (2) and (3) is a bit more difficult. This blog post will share some new tools and techniques I discovered to do them.


Finding tweets based on your location can be done via the Twitter search , using advanced search operators near and within , one can find tweets matching a keyword within x km of a certain location.

You can then get a RSS feed of that and stick it into your RSS feed reader or a dashboard style service like Netvibes or igoogle. But as you know most RSS feeds have a time-delay of at least 15 minutes or more.

But what about something more real-time, that popups a alert?

In theory, as we are using standard search operators in Twitter, any Twitter client that supports twitter searches should work okay with near and within operators. To my surprise that's not true, at least for desktop clients.

It doesn't work for TweetDeck, or practically any twitter desktop client i have tried (it appears to work for some mobile twitter push apps like itweetreply).

The exception is the recently updated HootSuite. As mentioned in my recent round up on Twitter tools "Library twitter account - what tools are you using?" this is a free enterprise level service with many advanced features for organizations that want to manage their social media accounts including Twitter.

They recently added geolocation scans, though by default it provides a search within 5 km of your location, you can change this.

You can easily add twitter searches ("streams") to Hootsuite by clicking "add a stream", then click on the search tab, but the syntax you need is different.

keyword geocode:x,y,zkm

Keyword would be the keyword you want to match. e.g library

x,y should be replaced by the longitude,latitude of the position you want the scan. If you are not sure, search google map, and hover over the location of the map.

z should be replaced by say 1 km. So tweets matching the keyword within 1 km of x,y would be picked up.

Complete example

library geocode:1.29885,103.773508,1km

Nice thing about this? It's real-time search.

Don't like to use hootsuite? You can setup a search above, then embed it elsewhere. One possibility is embedding it in Netvibes or igoogle with all your other scans and searches (more about this in another post).

The nice thing is by embedding hootsuite this way, you get access to a real-time stream as opposed to embedding rss feeds which has a 10-15 min time delay.

Filtering based on person  

If you can identify your users , then you can increase the accuracy of your scans ,so you can pick up relevant tweets even if they don't use the full name of your library in the tweet, or aren't within a certain location. For instance followers of your twitter accounts are almost definitely your users. The interesting thing is even though they follow your account, it doesn't necessarily mean they remember to tweet you when they have library related requests.

Previously I talked about the listmonkey service, which allows you to get email alerts, when certain keywords are used by tweets in a Twitter list. This does this

Want something more real-time? Try JournoTwit . There's both a desktop and web version. But the key here is that you can setup a search over tweets from your followers. This is a real time search.

Just select "local" and keywords in search and you have a filter over your followers!

Filtering of RSS feeds locally

Despite the fact that RSS feeds are usually not real-time and there is a time delay, you often can't get away from using it.  Also it's easy to get the information you want buried with all the other RSS feeds.

You can of course, get a RSS feed of tweets from those you follow. But you will need to filter it to show only relevant tweets. There are many ways to filter rss feeds but they typically involve using a remote server which further delays the output.

Much better is to pull it into your rss feed reader and filter it locally.

I usually use Google reader, and it seems there is a  greasemonkey that highlights feeds that match keywords.

But recently I came across GreatNews , a local RSS reader.  It looks pretty interesting but probably the best feature is a "News watch feature"

News Watch allows you to create a special "News Watch" over Rss feeds you are subscribed to. The nice thing is, it even produces an alert when an item matching the search occurs!

The issue here is that my preferred RSS feed reader is now Google reader. Sadly GreatNews does not synchronize with that although it does so with Bloglines.

If you have all your feeds already setup nicely elsewhere, what you can do though is to export feeds from Googlereader to OPML, and then import it into GreatNews to save time.

Conclusion : No perfect solution 

Ideally, you want a solution that does a real-time scan of tweets to find tweets that

1)  match a keyword e.g nus libraries
2)  match a keyword (more generic than in #1 e.g library) and is within x km of a specified location 
3)  match a keyword  (more generic than in #1 e.g library) and is from either your followers or better yet users on a arbitrary twitter list 

No such solution exists to my knowledge

Tool/Service Keyword search Geolocation search Search within followers/following   
TweetDeck   Real-time No No
HootSuite Real-time Real-time No
JournoTwit Real-time No Real-time 
Twitter (native) via RSS via RSS via RSS  & GreatNews

Or does anyone know of a solution that does this?

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