On Saturday I discovered the Bottlenose service and quickly realised how it can enhance my Twitter, Facebook and other channels to enable me to quickly find content of interest to me. Within a few minutes of using the service I found myself agreeing with Mashable that “Bottlenose is a Game Changer for Social Media Consumption” and ReadWriteWeb that the service is “More intelligent than basic consumer dashboards like TweetDeck and HootSuite“.
I came across Bottlenose from a tweet posted by @suebecks. I found that I had previously registered for the service but hadn’t yet received an activation code. However since Bottleneck have stated that “if you happen to have a Klout score over 30, you can register and gain access straight away ” and my Klout rating is 48 I was able to use the service straight away.
A Web-Based Twitter Client
Once you have logged in and registered your Twitter account the display of tweets from your followers, incoming (@) message and direct messages is similar to the interface provided by other Web-based twitter tools such as Hootsuite. The accompanying screeenshot shows the tweets from my Twitter followers, together with my @ messages, including the tweet from @suebecks which alerted me to the service.
The Personalised Newspaper Feature
Selecting the Newspaper option, however, provides functionality which isn’t provided by Hootsuite. As illustrated in Figure 2 the display shows the content of links which have been shared by your Twitter followers.
In February 2011 in a post in which I suggested Who Needs Murdoch – I’ve Got Smartr, My Own Personalised Daily Newspaper! I described the first mobile app I had encountered which provided this functionality. A year later, in February 2012 a post entitled My Trusted Social Librarian explained how an app such as Smartr helps me find useful content from trusted people I follow on Twitter.
I still use Smartr on a regular basis, to download the content of links which have been tweeted which I read on the bus travelling to work. However the Smartr app can no longer be downloaded and the name now refers to an email contact manager app provided by Xobni. In addition since Smarts was only available as an app I was unable to make use of this useful functionality on my desktop PC. It now seems that Bottlenose is providing this functionality, and has integrated this with a Twitter client.
The Sonar Feature
The Bottlenose name was inspired by the dolphin, which is reflected in its primary feature known as Sonar – a visual representation of your online conversation. Bottlenose maps topics and tags throughout your social network, allowing you to see branches of information, also giving you the ability to dive into each one.
The Venturebeat blog agrees: “The tool’s most compelling feature is Sonar, a visual interface that distills stream updates into a clickable trending topic diagram“. The blog goes on to add “People can select the Sonar option to see which topics, hashtags and people are resonating across their networks, and click displayed words to view related content and re-center the diagram around each keyword“.
My use of the Sonar feature is illustrated in Figures 3 and 4. I can use the Sonar interface to view tweets in a variety of ways, including all tweets from my followers and my incoming messages. In addition I can chose a filter which provides an auto-classified display of incoming tweets. Figure 3 illustrates use of the “TechNews” filter and the associated keywords and hashtags associated with this topic. Clicking on the RSS option displays tweets containing this topic from my Twitter follows during the selected period.
The Sonar view can also be used with the service’s search interface. In Figure 4 I have searched for “JISC” and have the ability to select additional keywords. It should be noted that although many of the tweets are relevant for me, there is a name clash with use of the acronym in Japan where it stands for the Japanese Industrial Standards Committee. One enhancement to the service I would find useful would be the ability to filter out content which aren’t in English.
Some other features of the service which are work mentioning include:
- Integration with Facebook and LinkedIn services.
- Integration with Google Reader which can provide Sonar interface for blogs.
On 9 May 2012, the day version 3 of Bottlenose was launched, TechCrunch announced Social Media Dashboard Bottlenose Gets Smarter, Adds Support For Multiple Accounts, Facebook Pages.
The article pointed out that “in many ways, directly competes with Hootsuite and Tweetdeck … [but] puts a stronger emphasis on filtering your streams, both by implicitly learning about your interest and by giving you a sophisticated set of tools to create your own filters“.
A service which emphasises the importance of filtering capabilities to discover information of interest would appear to be relevant to the library community as well as the early adopters of social web services in the teaching and learning and research communities. I have previously described the value I have found in using Twitter to discover both content relevant to my professional interests and to develop my professional networks as I described in a post on You Have 5 Seconds to Make an Impression! the links which have been established in Twitter led to collaboration on an award-winning paper. My experiences have been echoed by Melissa Terras who documented her experiences in a post entitled Is blogging and tweeting about research papers worth it? The Verdict.
But if such as Bottlenose can provide useful resource discovery functionality, how should a provider of resources ensure that they can be easily discovered by such tools? As described in a paper on “Research Blogs and the Discussion of Scholarly Information” which analysed 135 science blogs “most of the bloggers in our sample had active Twitter accounts connected with their blogs, and at least 90% of these accounts connect to at least one other RB-related Twitter account“. This suggests that scientific bloggers appreciate that Twitter can complement blogging activities. Initially this is likely to have focussed on the conversational aspects of Twitter and for many, including myself, the value of Twitter was first appreciated from use of Twitter at conferences. Such conversational aspects are clearly important and some early adopters of Twitter feel uneasy when Twitter is used for purposes such as marketing and when others services, such as Twitter archiving and analysis tools, become popular. However my view is that Twitter is a tool and there is no single correct way in which it should be used.
So in addition to Twitter being an open conversational medium, I think we are also seeing Twitter being used successfully as an alerting mechanism. Back in 2009 Jeff Nolan asked Is Twitter Killing RSS? I suspect that I am not alone in using Twitter as the tool for reading new content, including blog posts, which my Twitter community has brought to my attention, rather than using my RSS reader as my main channel for keeping up-to-date with developments.
But rather than regarding Twitter as the RSS killer, I feel that we can regard Twitter as the new metadata format for delivering content, with the key metadata element being the link, with the remainder of the tweet being a free text apart from a small number of common conventions, including RTs and the @ and # symbols. So when the questions about the minimum number of metadata fields needed to support resource discovery were being discussed perhaps, in one context, the answer was a single URL field, with the remaining content being left to users to fill in. We now seem to be finding that social discovery, in which one’s professional network support resource discovery, is being complemented by data mining tools.
As I finish this post, on Sunday afternoon on the final day of the football season and shortly after the Formula 1 Grand Prix has finished, I can view my followers’ reactions by using the Sports news filter and a search for “Manchester” provides a wider perspective, as shown below. I think this illustrates how tools such as Bottlenose may be used in s sporting, social, cultural and political context – and it might be work trying it during the next broadcast of BBC’s Question Time. But what I would really like would be the development of a richer set of filter, ideally filters which can be created by the user or would learn from user behaviours, which would enhance social discovery to support professional activities. Although it has been suggested that “Twitter, like blogging, needs an edge, a voice, a riskiness“ I suspect this is coming. And I for one will be happy to continue to use tools such as Twitter to support my professional activities, even if they evolve from their initial purpose.
Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]