Sunday, September 18, 2011

Twitter scans - Location based scans using Tweetdeck

I have written plenty of posts on why you want to proactively scan Twitter & other online spaces for mentions of your library so you know what people are saying about your library and help if needed. But today I am going to focus on just Twitter.

For Twitter I have written plenty on the options available whether desk-top,webbased clients, social media search engines etc for scanning. Essentially though it falls into 2 main categories, whether you want or need real-time alerts (no need for long term storage) or if you just want retrospective views say every week or month but require long term storage (typically easiest is to generate rss feeds and store in Google reader etc)

However, what if you are trying to pick up users who tweet "library" without mentioning the name, but are actually talking about you? This is where scanning tweets by location is useful, you can be sure if someone tweets "library" and is within say 1km of the library is probably talking about you (but verify first!) .

Surprisingly scanning by location is a lot more tricky then it seems, it's true that Twitter search syntax allows something like

 near:"  longitude, latitude"  within:1km libraries OR library OR librarian OR librarians 

and did works on the default Twitter search but I was surprised to find this does not necessarily mean every Twitter client, search engine accepts this syntax. In fact, the last I checked, among others TweetDeck, Seesmic, Topsy, Boxcar, Twitter (for iPhone), Cotweet etc do not accept the near operator.

The only one that does so is Hootsuite but this is a web-based client that times out after a while and may not be suitable.

To some extent if you don't need real time scanning, this lack isn't much of a problem, you can use  the default Twitter search  then generate a RSS feed from it. This unfortunately isn't easy because Twitter has hidden their RSS feeds, this post shows you how to generate RSS feeds from twitter searches including those using the near and within operators.

It's somewhat complicated though I managed to get it to work. RSS feeds are good for long term storage, but aren't particular real-time and while you can mimic real time alerts create alerts by Twitter/IM/Email/Phone/iPhone notification whenever a RSS feed is updated (many methods, ifttt currently looks promising) this of course is rather "hacky" and unreliable, wouldn't it be great if you could do location searches within Tweetdeck, Seesmic etc directly?

It turns out you can! You just need a different search syntax as detailed here . Here's a sample one.

library OR libraries OR librarian OR librarians  geocode:1.296469,103.773155,1km 

I'm sure you can figure out the syntax : geocode: longitude, latitude, radius . Plugin the keywords you search for in front, find the geolocation of your library, then the radius around it. I am doing only 1 km as Singapore is pretty small.

Try it, it works like a charm in Tweetdeck and probably many other Twitter clients and searches. There is quite a bit of overlap with my normal non-location twitter searches e.g

NUS library OR libraries OR librarian OR librarians

but if you want to remove overlaps you can always use the "minus" operator to exclude tweets. i.e

library OR libraries OR librarian OR librarians  geocode:1.296469,103.773155,1km -NUS

This in my view is probably the most elegant and stable way to get real-time twitter alerts based on location (at least on desktop).

Other methods?

Again quoting myself....

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 or organization related accounts and tweets about library, it's probably about you.

So with this blog post, I "solve" #1 and #2  (to my satisfaction at least).

#3 is Tricky, it involves scanning tweets made by your followers or even lists of people on Twitter. I can think of many workarounds that can sort of do this including

a) Using Listimonkey
b) Generate RSS feeds of tweets from lists and filter it using RSS filters like ifttt, Yahoopipes etc.
c) JournoTwit is a Twitter desktop client that had keyword searching of followers tweet built-in but is discontinued. 

None are that reliable but getting this done properly is not really a priority.

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