Archive for the ‘Twitter’ Category

Social Networks for Search


I’m not thinking about searching twitter (that’s a whole other area of concern I have for another day), but using twitter as an alternative to way to find information. This was prompted by a question posed by Tara Hunt while at Search Engine Strategies conference in Toronto

Does Google become less relevant as we create stronger trusted networks of sharing (tweet)

My initial reply

how often have we all asked questions to our twitter followers. Different questions require different technologies (tweet)

sums up my thoughts, but I thought I would expand on why and how this is so. And more specifically what classes of questions are appropriate for different technologies.

I’ll start with with a simple one. The question as originally posed was hastaged #sesto. My first port of call was, of course, google. Failing to find anything of relevance there, I resorted to looking at the hastag stream on twitter to find a clue, and found a few people talking about SES Toronto. Bingo, a disambiguation that I could understand instantly. But this doesnt really capture the essence of using your network of followers in twitter AS the search tool. Twitter Search is simply a slightly differently calculated index on a much reduced dataset, fundementally it doesn’t employ your implicit or explicit social network in order to help your search. I think it would be fair to say that for current situation twitter’s hashtag searching can be helpful in narrowing down your search.

What about a different class, something very specific and defined, for example the price of a flight from Montreal to New York’s 34th Street Helipad (YUL to TSS). Google certainly helps these days with offering direct links to searches on various travel websites. Actually, this specific search doesn’t really work, I’m guessing Google haven’t yet worked out that TSS is the IATA Airport Code for the helipad. The principle applies for most airports, for example “YUL to EWR” works as expected. But this class of search isn’t really Google’s domain either, you are just pointed at a specialised provider. If the route (or query)is something quite standard for your followers, say LON – SFO (for me, often travelling, and knowing many that travel that route), your followers might help in providing an indication of how much you can expect to spend. Useful for validating you are not being ripped off.

Ok, so Google is not good a specifics, at least not directly. What about something defined, for example a list of IATA Codes, or even better, Airport Codes, assuming you didn’t know they were known as IATA Codes. For this, Google is perfect. You are searching for “something similar” to the phrase you have in your mind, or information relating to it. It’s quick and simple. This is definately not a class of questions you want to be asking your followers, you would drive them mad!

Then what sort of search is Twitter (or any other “real time” social network for that matter) good for. It’s great for comparative and emotive questions.

#QUESTION: Are you more productive with music playing or other background noises? OR are you more productive when it’s silent? (tweet)

Guys, #question What’s ur favorite scent on a woman? I don’t have a favorite perfume anymore. (tweet)

Questions that have a philosophical nature

#Question of the day: Why do you twitter? (tweet)

And most importantly questions that stimulate wider discussion

wants to know why do British elections suck? No I voted sticker, no sense of pride. More from *watching* US elections. How do we change this (tweet)

The beauty of the modern internet is that every piece of information can now spark off tangential discussion that ultimately enrich our lives. Harness the power of your social networks to ask the questions that need some perspective of who you are to get the right answer, questions whose answers need a discussion, and questions that you don’t even know how to ask.

Twitter Spam

I have been engaging with my Twitter followers over the last few days about Twitter Spam, Blocking and so on. Most of them ferverously block any ‘spammy’ people that follow them. There were two things that interested me about this

  1. What constitutes spam on Twitter
  2. Why bother blocking people

I’ll consider the latter first. There was an overwhelming consensus that blocking people was the Right Thing and that not blocking spammers gave them validity.

From my perspective actually blocking them is giving them validity, it’s proof that they are getting to you. It takes time to consider an account and the decide to block or not. Whilst I’m certainly not in the upper eschelons of the twitterati with tens of thousands (millions these days, I guess) of followers, I am followed by about 10 people a day, and to be honest, I don’t always have time to look at who they are. As far as I am concerned if someone interacts with me on Twitter then I will check out their account, and that’s the crucial point. Simply being followed on Twitter can not constitute spam when at most you receive a new follower notification, which can be turned off…

So what is Twitted Spam. Something becomes ‘spammy’ when it starts to interfere with your standard routines, when it forces you to take part unwillingly in some activity. Real Twitter spam is when tweets are injected into your @reply stream or you are flodded with direct messages.

And for the first time in the history of my twitter use this has happened. And it wasn’t from anyone random that followed me, but from a viral game injecting messages into the Twitter stream of those I follow. At one point polluting it so that the latest 20 tweets where all about it. #spymaster was the most effective twitter spam (viral marketing?) campaign to date.