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August 08 2012


How the Knight Lab's Babl App Helped Lollapaloozans Deal with Storms

This post was written by Jordan Young of the Knight News Innovation Lab.


This past weekend marked the annual music carnival known as Lollapalooza" held in Chicago's Grant Park. As you'd expect, close to 100,000 people attending a large event can generate a lot of hot conversations on social media outlets.

The Knight News Innovation Lab recently released a mobile application, Babl, which gives users a unique way to share and discover news. This iPhone app offers a visual alternative to reading through a scrolling list of tweets. Babl users can create their own conversation topics by entering a title and keywords. The app uses the terms entered to create and display a collage of tweeters' photographs that can then be tapped to reveal their individual tweet.

behind the scenes

Prior to Lollapalooza, we set up a featured topic for the opening day of the fest allowing any user to sample the news, conversation and entertainment as it happened. We thought it might be fun to see the app in action during a lively event -- and apparently Mother Nature agreed by bringing severe thunderstorms to the Chicago area and forcing an evacuation of the park.

Thumbnail image for IMG_2620.jpg

Through Babl, we were able to participate in Twitter conversations about Lollapalooza throughout the weekend, starting on Friday as people filed into Grant Park to see their favorite artists and dance like neon-clad wild animals. On the afternoon of Day 2, tweets brought us the first news of the show being suspended due to an incoming tempest. Babl users were able to view reports like official news tweets, tweets from artists, and tweets from the herd of people as they were being evacuated into the streets of downtown and parking garage shelters -- most attendees opted for bars.

A few hours later, all the weather drama subsided and Babl displayed tweets of people re-entering the gates and enjoying the rest of the evening through Sunday's closing. Babl enabled us to easily view the local and global tweeters participating in a conversation topic, and gave us a rich media experience of an event in real time.

Jordan Young has been part of the Knight News Innovation Lab since its launch in August of 2011. She is a freelance blogger, contributing writer for Illinois Meetings + Events Magazine, and aspiring publisher. You can reach her at knightlab@northwestern.edu and on Twitter: @knightnewslab.

KnightLogo.jpgEstablished in 2011 with a $4.2 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Knight News Innovation Lab is a joint initiative of Northwestern University's Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Medill School of Journalism. In partnerships built across the Chicagoland region -- from neighborhood bloggers to large media companies -- the Lab invents, improves and distributes technology that help build and sustain a better informed citizenry and a more innovative publishing environment.

January 27 2012


Twitter Updates for 2012-01-27

  • Thinking of changing my way-too-long twitter handle to @nj140, since my preferred @nj is being held, but not used. Thoughts? #


Sponsored post

January 23 2012


Twitter Updates for 2012-01-23


January 21 2012


Twitter Updates for 2012-01-21

  • Got a little #hateonhollywoodday theme going on here with the RTs. Funny, because I love movies. #


January 20 2012


Twitter Updates for 2012-01-20

  • What is the best way to add board of director service to one's LinkeIn profile? #
  • In case you were wondering about board service on LinkedIn, go to profile>edit profile>add sections>Volunteer Experience & Causes. #
  • My answer to: What is the best way to add board of director service to one's LinkeIn profile? http://t.co/zEKD2eMQ on @Quora #
  • I would share the "Sh*t People in DC Say" video, but I'm sure everyone I know in DC has seen it. #
  • Dear @nj, are you ever going to use your twitter account? It has been inactive for at least a year now. #
  • Any other twitter friends hoping to take over unused twitter handles? Know success stories of non-celebrities getting preferred handles? #
  • Moroccan mint tea & old school Leonard Cohen at Zeitgeist. Cinema-perfect drizzly Seattle afternoon. #


December 10 2011


1+ shares, likes, and tweet counts: Google Search now with social insight stats

The Next Web :: Google is constantly beefing up its search results. You can now find out who in your social network has +1′d a page, who has shared it on Google+, and even makes it easy to add bloggers to your Google+ circles right from your search results. If you want to find out a bit more about how your search results are being shared on other social networks, you can use the brand new site, Google with Social Stats.

Clipped from: ctrlq.org (share this clip)

Put together by Amit Agarwal of Digital Inspiration, search results are accompanied by Facebook likes, Tweet counts and Google+ shares. This kind of data can be interesting if you want to find out if a page has been shared extensively before sharing it with your followers and friends.

Continue to read Nancy Messieh, thenextweb.com

December 07 2011


SocMap.com's Location-Based Data Maps Becoming Real

SocMap.com is pleased to announce that we've launched the "tweets" and "places" features on our site, and we hope to debut "local initiatives," "local questions," and a city-planning game on February 1st.

SocMap, a 2010 Knight News Challenge winner, is building a map-based interface for location-related data such as tweets, local initiatives, local news, public hearings, city-planning games, etc. We want to turn a city into a neighborhood, a place where everybody can see and hear their friends, communicate with each other, and get involved based on their geographical location. The project was started on Jan. 1, 2011.

Here's an overview of some of the progress we've made while beta-testing the site:

How we approached the Landing Page

The landing page is mainly responsible for attracting new users. Here's what the evolution of the SocMap landing page looks like.

socmap1.png Click here to expand image

First Landing Page

  • % of visitors registered to SocMap.com: 5.4%
  • Total attracted users: 46
  • Total users during given period: 46
  • Number of new visitors during given period: 852
  • Total unique visitors: 852
  • Period active: Aug. 1 - Sept. 1 (4 weeks)

Upon being opened, the map was centered roughly on where the user was located. The authorization button was situated on the top left, which took users to the Twitter login window.

This login button was small, hard to notice, and didn't communicate visitors' need to log in, so it achieved a poor conversion rate -- only 5.4 percent. Additionally, if a visitor was attempting to add content to SocMap, no suggestions of "Please Log In" were displayed, which left many users confused about the site's functionality and made them leave.

This is how the site looked right after Login function was implemented. This version was not made public and mainly served development purposes and testing by a limited number of experts. During this phase, the site was mainly visited by members of the development team.

socmap2.png Click here to expand image

Second Landing Page

  • % of visitors registered to SocMap.com: 7.7%
  • Total attracted users: 95
  • Total users during given period: 141
  • Number of new visitors during given period: 1,033
  • Total unique visitors: 1,224
  • Period active: Sept. 2 - Oct. 5 (4 weeks)

The map was centered on the user's location according to his or her IP address. Upon entering the site, a welcome window asking the user to log in appeared and displayed a description of key features to motivate visitors to actually press the "Sign in with Twitter" button. In contrast to the first version, the "feed" tab on the left was hidden, though it could still be opened if desired. By opening the feed tab, still unregistered users were shown the login button and SocMap content sorted chronologically. No content was displayed on the map.

Text in the welcome window was too long and not compelling enough, and the window itself was at odds with the overall style of the site. Despite this, however, the highlighted "Sign in with Twitter" button achieved a slight rise in conversion rates (over 2.3 percent), reaching 7.7 percent.

This was our first attempt at making visitors register. Their attention was immediately directed to the login button. Unfortunately, an empty map and this type of window didn't engage users or stimulate them to register, since it was not made clear what the site is about and how easy it is to register. We were forced to rethink the landing page to make it more attractive and socially engaging.

socmap3.png Click here to expand image

Third Landing Page

  • % of visitors registered to SocMap.com: 11.2%
  • Total attracted users: 32
  • Total users during given period: 173
  • Number of new visitors during given period: 286
  • Total unique visitors: 428
  • Period active: Oct. 6 - Oct. 19 (2 weeks)

The "feed" tab was completely hidden, prompting visitors to do just one thing: log in with Twitter. Also, a subtle "follow @SocMap" option was added to allow for feedback and to let users know we care about them as individuals. The Twitter button was supported by an engaging question that could be answered by logging into SocMap.

This type of approach turned out to overshadow what's important about SocMap -- the map, which, if empty, doesn't invoke any associations in the user. The Twitter button took up the major portion of the landing page's conversion potential, but didn't really tell the user why logging in might be a good idea -- it just looked like a Twitter ad. This type of landing page raised the conversion rate by 3.5 percent (a 50 percent increase), giving us confidence that we were on the right path. Some browsers had trouble opening this version, but the quirks were worked out, and we proceeded to bring some life to the landing page idea.

socmap4.png Click here to expand image

Fourth Landing Page

  • % of visitors registered to SocMap.com: 12.9%
  • Total attracted users: 50
  • Total users during given period: 223
  • Number of new visitors during given period: 386
  • Total unique visitors: 507
  • Period active: Oct. 20 - Nov. 15 (3 weeks) and onwards

On this landing page, the pronounced, blue "Come in" button served the purpose of logging users in. Parallel to it, we enlivened the map interface, and the content creation tab became present from the start. Activities on the map moved the welcome message to the side to allow for better visibility. Users were prompted to log in upon attempting content creation.

This landing page achieved a conversion rate of 12.9 percent and met our expectations.

While the efficiency of the landing page is steadily increasing, lack of new content creation is a cause for concern and has led us to think that perhaps users are given the impression that SocMap provides ready content and doesn't require user participation. From now on, we'll pay greater attention not only to the conversion rate, but also to content creation rates.

Not enough activity per registered users

Presently, 224 users have made 403 entries, which would be fine, if most of the entries weren't created by the developers. Our next goal is for everyone to contribute content.

The functionalities for comments, posts and retweets on the map interface are already there. A few days ago, a notification function that alerts users to activity near them was added as well. But the problem remains: Users don't create content. Reasons for that might be the copy on the landing page, as well as users perhaps not being sure what to write, who will see it, and what will happen to their message. Maybe we've made a mistake in thinking users would be comfortable creating messages on a map.

This is why we'll try a new approach -- perhaps users will use the map interface to get information they need. To do this, we'll create a Q&A feature that will allow users to learn what they need with the social search method. It will work like this: Users will be able to ask their Twitter and Facebook friends about their neighborhood -- e.g., "Where is the most romantic spot in Boston?", "Where are the best burgers in NY?", "Which parks in Chicago need cleaning up?", "Where's a good place to watch today's NHL game and drink some beer?", "Where are we partying tonight?"

We came to this conclusion after studying Twitter content. We'll experiment with the ability to ask questions and get answers in hopes of sparking a geographically significant discussion. Naturally, all communication will have a geographic reference.

Hopefully, this will start online discussions with a reference to physical space. We'll see!

Twitter limiting our user base

Even though the conversion rate for new users is high, we strive to increase it even more, especially by implementing a login option with Facebook accounts. It would both increase conversion rates and open SocMap for a far broader user spectrum. Some of the most interested parties (municipalities, government institutions, urbanists, architects) don't use Twitter as much as Facebook.

Opening SocMap up to Facebook accounts could attract these types of users and create a base of quality content.

October 04 2011


Twitter and the information revolution: how do you discern meaning?

AllThingsD :: Interesting quote, published by AllThingsD. Former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, an avid Twitter user, on the long-term value of tweets:

[P.J. Crowley:] Certainly in the context of Twitter there are memorable tweets that reflect the drama of a particular moment, but the dilemma for Twitter, which is to some extent the challenge for all of us in this information revolution, is how do you discern meaning from this overwhelming array of information that we are now exposed to?

Found here: allthingsd.com

September 18 2011


ManageFilter users: Google+ losing momentum? Public posts decrease by 41% over past two months

ManageFilter is a Twitter account management tool which links Google+ to your Twitter account. 89n writes that 7,280 people have currently linked their Google+ accounts to Twitter using their service (see source below). I doubt if the usage data of 7,280 can be used to predict how 28 million Google+ users behave.

ManageFlitter :: Kevin Garber, CEO/Co-founder 89n, asks: "Is Google+ losing its momentum?" - The findings: ManageFilter data indicates that the average number of public Google+ posts per day has decreased from 0.68 public posts per day between 19 July 2011 and 19 August 2011 to 0.40 public posts per day between 19 August 2011 and 14 September 2011. This represents a decrease of 41%.

Continue to read Kevin Garber, 89n.com

July 25 2011


Status of ... Twitter - It's still whistling

New York Times :: Twitter is facing a federal government investigation, competition from Google+ and the departure of two of its founders. But Dick Costolo, Twitter’s chief executive, has a message for the naysayers: the business is growing just fine. “We’re growing faster than we’ve ever grown,” Mr. Costolo said Tuesday at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. People send a billion Twitter posts every five days and 400 million people — not counting Twitter apps — visit its Web site each month, he said.

Still, Twitter is in the early days of turning all that usage into revenue.

State of Twitter - continue to read via Claire Cain Miller, bits.blogs.nytimes.com

July 02 2011


E.W. Scripps or why they dismiss you for your blog, Twitter and Facebook activities

GigaOM :: Mainstream media entities of all kinds continue to come out with policies that show they still don’t really understand how social media work. The latest example comes from E.W. Scripps, a media conglomerate that owns a chain of newspapers and TV affiliates. The chain’s new policy threatens its employees with termination if they use their blogs, Twitter or Facebook accounts improperly.

Continue to read Mathew Ingram, gigaom.com

May 02 2011


A Twitter Timeline on the Killing of Osama Bin Laden

[View the story "Timeline of Tweets Around Death of Osama Bin Laden" on Storify]

Did you see any other key tweets around the news of Bin Laden's killing? Share them in the comments below and I'll add them to the timeline above.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

April 01 2011


Studies find journalists use Twitter for broadcast

The final research paper at the ISOJ focused on how newsrooms were using Twitter.

Dale Blasingame from Texas State University, San Marcos, looked at how Twitter was changing TV news.

He started by saying that a web first approach in newsrooms is no longer enough due to the instant dissemination of news via Twitter.

Twitter allows both professionals and citizens to “jump the gate” and send news directly to audiences, challenging the traditional gatekeeping role of the journalist.

Blasingame studied coded almost 2,300 tweets from San Antonio newsrooms on a shooting incident.

He said it this case study showed how Twitter could be used as a tool to deliver news, but added “it would be foolish to suggest this happens on a daily basis.”

In terms of his analysis of tweets, the most were promotional in nature, followed by breaking news.

The results were worse for official station Twitter accounts. One station account just sent promotional links for web stories automatically.

Blasingame recommended that newsrooms should restrain promotional tweets to just 20% of all their messages.

Student uses of Twitter

Next up, Carrie Brown, University of Memphis, together with Elizabeth Hendrickson, University of Tennessee and Jeremy Littau, Lehigh University, presented a study on how Twitter could help journalists reach underserved communities.

Brown qualified the study as exploratory and largely descriptive, but it provides a useful starting point.

One group she studied was young people, students between 19 – 29. She found many of them know each other and post about what they are doing or banter during class. Twitter was used as a social tool for informal communication

Students saw Twitter as a pseudo-anonymous space, with lots of use for Twitter for fun and entertainment. A few were using it for professional networking.

But students also talked about getting information on Twitter, stumbling across news.

Brown also found that students were very receptive to getting news on Twitter from journalists. In the survey, students reported more engagement with the news.

But some wanted more of a relationship with journalists on Twitter, rather than just broadcast headlines.

Littau said students wanted connectivity, information, expression and entertainment from Twitter. But African-American students expressed more of a preference for information and expression than Caucasian students.

Shovelling tweets

Marcus Messner, Virginia Commonwealth University, with Maureen Linke and Asriel Eford, presented research on how traditional news media in the US were adopting Twitter and social bookmarking.

For their study, they looked at the top 99 newspapers and top 100 TV stations in the US. By 2010, 198 of them had Twitter accounts. These were the main Twitter feeds from the news organisation, rather than from individual reporters.

As for social bookmarking, 36% offered this in 2009 and 92% by 2010. Facebook has become almost fully adopted by the news media, with Twitter adoption jumping from a third in 2009 to more than 90% in 2010.

In terms of Twitter use, one in three news media did not tweet in 2009, falling to one in four by 2010.

Most of the tweets were news related.  Personal communication accounted for just 5.7% in 2009 and 3.5% in 2010.

Messner said the tweets were largely used as promotional tools for web stories, with few differences between newspapers and television.

He concluded that Twitter has been fully adopted by the US news media but not used to its full potential.

“Most tweets are still shovelware,” he said, “they are not engagement of the community.” He urged news organisations to look at Twitter as a social space, rather than just another publication platform.

International perspective on Twitter

The final paper came from a team of researchers who looked at the use of social media in 27 news outlets in 7 Iberian and Latin American countries.

Presenting the findings Elvira García de Torres (Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera, Spain) found that most messages on Twitter and Facebook were based on headline links.

Only 5.6% were conversational on Facebook. Only five newspapers engaged in a conversation with users on the news.

As might be expected, the researchers found that conversational messages have more potential to engage audiences.

The team found few requests for information from users, but also that journalists received little response from the audience.  Journalists did see some value in going to Facebook to find photos of people.

Surprising, the researchers found there were no rules, or no planning in the newsroom, around the use of social media.

October 14 2010

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