UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for the ‘Twitter’ Category

Alternatives To Twapper Keeper

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5 Jan 2012


On 23 December I received an email which confirmed the news about the forthcoming demise of the Twapper Keeper Twitter archiving service:

First off, on January 6th 2012, the site, and all related archives, will be shutdown with no access to any existing archives. Please ensure you have compiled all of your data by this date.

What should you do if you wish to continue keeping an archive of tweets, especially for event-related tweets which seems to be one particularly valuable use case?

One solution is to use Twapper Keeper! Or perhaps I should say Your Twapper Keeper, the open source version of Twapper Keeper. As part of the developments to the Twapper Keeper service the software was made available under an open source software licence in order to decouple the provision of the service from the software used to provide the service. Anyone, therefore is free to download the software from the Github repository and set up their own Twitter archive.

For those who have warned about the risks of dependencies on third party services for which there are no formal contractual agreements this example perhaps demonstrates the value of funding the development of an open source alternative. But is this really the case? Will institutions be downloading the software in order to be able to manage their own archives? I see no evidence that this is having, but I’d like to be proved wrong.

Perhaps this is a case for which an easy-to-use proprietary solution is all that is needed, especially since the content is typically not created primarily be members of a specific institution but, in the case of event-related Twitter archives, attendees at an event who are likely to be based across the sector rather than at a single institution.

On the Event Amplifier blog in a post entitled Goodbye Twapper Keeper Kirsty Pitkin explores the possibility of using Hoot Suite, the company which purchased Twapper Keeper, for managing Twitter archives. However Kirsty has described the financial implications of such a decision:

A Pro customer (paying $5.99 per month) can archive only a measly 100 tweets, or purchase a bolt on to archive up to “100,000 tweets and download all keyword related Twitter messages”. When I attempted to upgrade my plan, I found that 10,000 additional tweets would cost me $10 per month, and 100,000 additional tweets would cost me $50 per month.

But in addition to the options of installing the Your Twapper Keeper software or purchasing an appropriate account from HootSuite, Kirsty has highlighted an alternative approach: “Martin Hawksey is a master of Google Spreadsheet tools and has created this alternative method of collecting tweets and has provided detailed instructions to archive and visualise Twitter conversations around an event hashtag“.

Martin has helpfully provided a video which is available on YouTube and embedded below which describes how to use his solution.

It will be interesting to see which, if any, of these options proves the most popular solution across the sector: the open source solution, the subscription service, the Google solution or possibly an approach I haven’t described. Which will you be choosing?

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Twitter | 9 Comments »

Facebook and Twitter as Infrastructure for Dissemination of Research Papers (and More)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 Jan 2012


A tweet from @Wowter (blogger, information specialist and bibliometrician at the Wageningen UR Library) alerted me to the news of the “Free new #SpringerLink mobile app: Access 2,000+ peer-rev. journals, 49,000 books,127,000 #OA articles.“.

I installed the app on my iPod Touch and was interested to note that there were just three ways of sending information about the 2,000+ peer-reviewed journals, 49,000 books and 127,000 open access articles: as illustrated the three dissemination tools are email, Facebook and Twitter.

Via @Wowter’s Twitter timeline I also found the news, initially announced by @MFenner, of the “New blog post: CrowdoMeter goes Mobile“.

The blog post describes how “Two weeks ago Euan Adie from and myself launched the website CrowdoMeter, a crowdsourcing project that tries to classify tweets about scholarly articles using the Citation Typing Ontology (CiTO) … This project is far from over, ideally we want 3-5 classifications per tweet or an additional 1,000 classifications“. In order to “make the classifications as simple as possible, and to help further with this we today [4 January 2012] launched a mobile version of CrowdoMeter. Simply browse to with your iPhone or Android phone [and] sign in via your Twitter account“.

I did this and captured the following screenshots:

Initially in this post I intended to highlight how the Springlink app suggests that Facebook and Twitter may be becoming part of the dissemination infrastructure for research papers, especially on mobile devices. However when I read Martin Fenner’s blog post I realised that Twitter, in particular, may have a role to play in the curation of information about research papers and scientific data.

Hmm, I wonder if Twitter will catch on outside this niche area?

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Facebook, Mobile, Twitter | 15 Comments »

Responding to the Forthcoming Demise of TwapperKeeper

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11 Dec 2011

Twapper Keeper Archive Service to be Shut Down

On 8th December 2011 the following announcement was made on the Twapper Keeper Web site:

Transition update
Twapper Keeper’s archiving is now available in HootSuite! As a result, we will be shutting down Twapper Keeper. Existing archives will be kept running until Jan 6, 2012, after which you will not be able to access your archives anymore.

Twapper Keeper has been widely used within the UK’s higher education sector, especially for archiving tweets containing event hashtags at events aimed at the developer, researcher and library sectors.

The popularity in the service has helped to demonstrate the importance of Twitter archiving, something which was not necessarily widely appreciated a few years ago. But in light of, for example, the recent news item on the JISC Web site which announced that “Social media ‘not to blame’ for inciting rioters” and went on to describe how:

A study of 2.4 million Twitter messages from the time of the riots has found that politicians and other commentators were wrong to claim the website played an important role in inciting and organising the disturbances.  

we can see that the importance of Twitter archiving for a variety of purposes is now more widely understood.  However it seems that Twapper Keeper will not be providing a long term repository of tweets. This does not necessarily mean that tweets will be lost since, as described in an article on Tweet Eternal: Pros and Cons of the Library of Congress Twitter Archive published in Time on 8 December 2011 “Thanks to a deal between Twitter and the United States Library of Congress, every public tweet sent on the social messaging service since its creation will become part of the Library of Congress’ digital archive, available to researchers and historians as an example of contemporary life and culture“. However as highlighted in Nature in  n article on Social science: Open up online researchSocial media hold[s] a treasure trove of information [but]  the secretive methods of ethics review boards are hindering their analysis, says Alexander Halavais.

Since it unclear when and if the Library of Congress archives will be made publicly available people and organisations which have made use of Twapper Keeper may wish to migrate the content of these archives. This post will describes approaches for migrating existing data, ways of identifying which archives may need to be preserved and ways of identifying key stakeholders who may need to make such decisions.

Migration of Existing Archives


Since creators and users of Twapper Keeper archives have less than a month to migrate their content, this post will outline ways in which the archives can be managed, and a discussion about the implications of the announcement of the closure of the service will be made at a later date.

Martin Hawksey has published a post on his MASHe blog which describes how you can Free the tweets! Export TwapperKeeper archives using Google Spreadsheet.  Martin’s post also links to a post entitled LIBREAS.Library Grab your TwapperKeeper Archive before Shutdown! which describes a technique which can be used by those familiar with R code. Tont Hirst on the blog has also listed a technical solution based on R code in his post on Rescuing Twapperkeeper Archives Before They Vanish.

For people who may not be familiar with use of Google Spreadsheets or implementation of software applications for accessing Twitter archives you should note that you can also use a Web browser to view archives of interest (having ensured that all items are displayed and not just the default 10 items). You can then view the HTML source and save the file so that you have a HTML representation of the tweets which you can take manage locally.  In addition, you can also save an RSS representation of the tweets which will provide a more structured format which should be more amenable to subsequent processing, if you wish to do this. Examples of this approach can be seen from the copies of the  IWMW10 and IWMW11 archives.

Selection Criteria

In addition to being aware of the tools which can be used there will also be a need to decide which archives may be still be of relevance and identifying who may need to take responsibility for migrating the content to an appropriate location. Tony Hirst, in his post on Rescuing Twapperkeeper Archives Before They Vanish, has suggested that “one approach might be to look to see what archives have been viewed using @andypowe11′s Summarizr“. However although the Summarizr home page  lists recently viewed Summarizr summaries of Twapper Keeper archives, it is not clear if a comprehensive list is available and, even if such a list could be made available, how this would inform decisions on the selection of archives to be migrated.

An alternative approach is to look at the TwapperKeeper archives which have been created by particular Twitter IDs.  We can see, for example, that Tony Hirst (@psychemedia) has created 27 archives.  Similarly using Twapper Keeeper’s search facility I find that I have created a total of 62 Twapper Keeper archives. Perhaps the initial stage in identifying archives to be migrated is for active Twapper Keeper users to identify the archives they have created, and then for them to make a decision of archives to be migrated, where the new archives are to be hosted and what to do for acrhives which will not be migrated, which might include informing key stakeholders.

Case Study

Rather than attempting to keep a copy of all of of the Twapper Keeper archives I have created, in this post I will provide a summary of the archives I created and docum the decisions I have taken regarding migration of the content and the reasons for these decisions.

Migrated to UKOLN Web site: The IWMW2009, IWMW10 and IWMW11 archives, which will be made publicly available, together the UKOLN and Ariadne_Mag archives which will be stored locally if we decide at a later date to analyse the tweets.

Key stakeholders informed:  A number of archives may of interest to organisations such as JISC, CILIP, ALT, UCISA and CETIS. These organisations will be notified of the archives which I have created and will be informed of the techniques described in this post if they wish to migrate the content.

Archives of personal interest: Archives of personal tweets and personal interests have not been migrated.

Other archives: Other archives include archives for broad subject areas (e.g. #a11y, #phdchat) for which a general tweet about the forthcoming demise of the Twapper Keeper archive will be made and archives for events and areas of interest for which I had a short-term interest and wished to be able to view the tweets but which which I have no longer term interest.

A summary of the Twitter archives and the decisions I have made are given below.  Please note that:

  • The data given in the table was collected on 9 December 2011.
  • The decisions given in the table may be changed at a later date.
  • Twapper Keeper archives for other areas relevant to myself and UKOLN colleagues  may have also been created.  The #IWMW09 archive, for example, will be migrated and decisions about other archives will be made shortly.
Archive Type Name Description # of Tweets Create Date Comment
#Hashtag #a11y Accessibility (a11y) 96,491 04-25-10 #a11y community to be informed.
#Hashtag #a11yhack DevCSI hack day 329 06-21-11 One-off DevCSI event. Report has been published.
#Hashtag #accbc CETIS/BSI Accessibility SIG meeting 396 02-28-11 One-off DevCSI event. CETIS SIG coordinator to be notified.
#Hashtag #altc2009 The ALTC 2009 conference 4,754 08-28-09 Large annual event. Report has been published. Event organisers to be notified.
#Hashtag #altc2012 The ALT-C 2012 conference (Association for Learning Technology) 104 09-12-11 Created for next year’s event. Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #altmetrics New approaches for developing metrics for scholarly research 1,393 01-15-11 #altmetrics community to be informed.
#Hashtag #Ariadne The Ariadne hashtag – which may be used for UKOLN’s Ariadne ejournal. 42,102 09-21-10 Content not migrated due to multiple uses of tag.
Keyword Ariadne Archive of tweets contains the string ‘Ariadne’ 79,991 09-21-10 Content not migrated due to multiple uses of keyword.
@Person ariadne_ukoln Tweets about the Ariadne web magazine. 2,792 05-28-10 Content to be migrated to UKOLN.
#Hashtag #Bathcr The University of Bath’s Connected Researcher activity. 296 04-14-11 #Bathcr community to be informed
#Hashtag #brdidc11 Symposium on Data Attribution and Citation Practices and Standards, August 22-23 2011, Berkeley 51 08-22-11 Content not migrated.
@Person briankelly Tweets about Brian Kelly 9,952 03-19-10 Content not migrated as alternative backup available.
#Hashtag #CETIS The CETIS service, based at the University of Bolton. 9,561 09-24-10 CETIS colleagues to be informed.
#Hashtag #CILIP CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. 14,356 09-24-10 CILIP colleagues to be informed.
#Hashtag #CILIP1 Campaign on future of CILIP organisation based on CILIP’s 1-minute messages. 357 06-13-10 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #CSR Comprehensive Spending Review 0 10-15-10 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #dataprato Invitational workshop to identify & agree areas for joined-up international action in research data management. 128 04-11-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #digdeath The conference on Death and Dying in a Digital Age held in Bath, UK 72 06-25-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #eduwebconf The eduwebconf conference 33 11-07-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #falt09 ALTC Fringe 219 08-28-09 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #fbdevlove The Facebook developers hack day 1,297 03-26-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #fpw11 The Future of the Past of the Web conference, British Library, London on 7 October 2011. 755 09-22-11 Event organisers to be notified.
#Hashtag #heweb10 Tag for the HigherEdWeb 2010 conference 8,812 09-28-10 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #heweb11 The HighEdWeb 2011 conference, 23-26 October 2011 11,505 10-23-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #ILI2011 Internet Librarian International 2011 conference held in London on 27-28 Oct 2011. 3,067 10-27-11 ILI organisers to be notified. Report has been published.
#Hashtag #ili2012 Tweets for the Internet Librarian International (ILI) 2012 conference 3 10-29-11 Created for next year’s event. Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #ipres10 Tweets for the iPres10 conference, Vienna, 19-24 Sept 2010. 5 08-27-10 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #ipres2010 Archive for the IPres 2010 conference to be held in Vienna on 19-25 Sept 2010. 1,424 08-27-10 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #ISKB A holder for the ISKB 27 09-17-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #iwmw12 UKOLN’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) 2012 event 2 10-29-11 Created for next year’s event. Content not migrated.
@Person iwmwlive IMWM live blogging account 3,744 04-30-10 Content to be migrated.
#Hashtag #jisc10 JISC 2010 conference 2,065 04-02-10 Event organisers to be notified.
#Hashtag #jiscHTML5 JISC HTML5 Case study work 18 11-18-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #jiscpowr Archive of tweets related to the JISC PoWR project provided by UKOLN and ULCC 13 07-09-10 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #jiscpowrguide Archive of tweets about the Guide to Web Preservation published by the JISC-funded PoWR project and launched on 12 July 2010. 2 07-09-10 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #JISCPP The JISC-Funded Patients Participate project. 0 05-25-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #ldow2010 Linked Data on the Web 2010 conference 530 04-25-10 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #loveHE Times Higher Education campaign to support Higher Education in UK. 20,719 06-12-10 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #mdforum UKOLN’s Metadata Forum 1,746 12-10-10 Content to be migrated.
#Hashtag #morris Tweets about Morris dancing 183,338 10-16-10 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #OAweek Open Access week 4,603 10-19-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #online11 The Online Information 2011 conference held in London on 29 November -1 December 3,915 11-29-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #oxsmc09 socialmediaconference 1,063 09-18-09 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #PhD Tweets for researchers using the #PhD tag 161,215 09-24-10 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #s113 Workshop session at ALTC 2009. 1417 09-03-09 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #scl2010 Scholarly Communication Landscape (SCL): Opportunities and challenges symposium, held at Manchester Conference Centre on 30 November 2010. 0 12-02-10 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #SHB11 Security and Hunan Behavior conference 1,117 06-18-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #SLG2011 CILIP School Librarian Group conference. 283 04-03-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #thatlondon People (Northerners?) talking about going to “that London” 1,781 07-09-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #ucassm Social Media Marketing Conference organised by UCAS. 225 10-18-10 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #ucsoc12 UCISA SSG (Support Services Group) event. 5 09-05-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #udgamp10 What Can We Learn From Amplifed Events seminar, given by Brian Kelly, UKOLN at the University of Girona 395 09-01-10 Content migrated.
#Hashtag #ukmw09 UKMuseumsandtheWeb 750 12-05-09 Content not migrated.
Keyword ukoln Tweets about UKOLN 3,385 03-19-10 Content to be migrated.
#Hashtag #ukolneim UKOLN’s Evidence, Impact, Metric work 523 11-05-10 Content to be migrated.
#Hashtag #UKOLNseminar UKOLN seminars 69 04-01-11 Content to be migrated.
#Hashtag #UniofBath Tweets about the University of Bath 1,798 06-15-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #UniWeek The UK’s Universities Week campaign. 1,767 06-15-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #Virtualfutures The Virtual Futures conference 2,216 06-18-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #w3ctrack W3C Track at WWW 2010 conference 205 04-30-10 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #W3CUKI W3C UK and Ireland Office 266 04-18-11 Content not migrated.
#Hashtag #ww2010 Misspelling of WWW2010 hashtag 904 04-29-10 Content not migrated.

I welcome suggestions on other tools and approaches which can be used for managing such archives and also approaches to selection and deletion criteria for Twitter archives.

Posted in Twitter | 16 Comments »

What Twitter Told Us About ILI 2011

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 Oct 2011

Thoughts on #ILI2011

As I said to one of the two video bloggers who recorded participants’ thoughts and comments about the Internet Librarian International (ILI) conference, ILI is probably my favourite conference as it provides an opportunity to catch up in developments in the online Library world in the UK, Europe, North America and Australasia.  This year at ILI 2011 I could only attend for the first day, but this did give me an opportunity to hear about, amongst other topics, JISC-funded developments in the areas of usage data, analysis techniques which can help to prove value and three cutting-edge technology developments taking place in Norway, Belgium and the USA.

Unfortunately I don’t have the time to give detailed thoughts on the sessions I attended. However an analysis of Twitter usage at the conference might help to provide some insights into how Twitter was used at the conference.

What Does Twitter Tell Us?

If you carry out a sentiment analysis of the archive of the tweets from last week’s #ili2011 (Internet Librarian International) conference I suspect you’ll find a lot of positive comments.  Without going into a textual analysis of the content, what can we learn from the Summarzr statistics of the 2,683 tweets from 310 users? (Note as described in a post on Conventions For Metrics For Event-Related Tweets I feel that such summaries should include a data range, so this total covers the period from slightly after the start of the opening plenary talk on Thursday 27 October at 08:38 (actually 09:38) to Saturday 29 October at 09:37).

As perhaps might be expected for an event with over 300 librarians and information professions the Twitter users understood the benefits of providing distinct tags for the three parallel streams. This is a bit of a hobbyhorse for me and I was pleased that I was able to set a precedent in the first set of parallel sessions when I encouraged the 100 or so participants in the session on “A101 – What’s on the Technology Horizon?” to use the tag #A101 to be able to differentiate the conversation from those taking part in sessions “B101 – Not So Secret Weapons – Advocacy and Influence” and “C101 – The e-Book Revolution in Libraries“:

ili2011 (2676) , a101 (98), c202 (67), lidp (61), a104 (54), a203 (53), b103 (45), a102 (44), a201 (41) and b202 (32).

The easily-identifiable tweets will help myself and Åke Nygren, my fellow speaker in the session, to be able to see what was being discussed during our talk, so such session tagging provides a useful way for speakers to gain feedback for their talks. Our opening track seems to have been the only one in which significant numbers of session-tagged tweets were used. However it seems that the benefits of such tagging were quickly spotted with the second, third and fourth parallel sessions (which end in 2, 3 and 4) being included in the above list of the top ten hashtag contained in the TwapperKeeper archive. I should also add that in revisiting my post on Thoughts on ILI 2010 it seems that use of session hashtags is new this year, with only session #C102 being included in the list of top ten hashtag for last year’s event. (Having just looked at last year’s programme it seems that Session C102 on Monitoring and Maximising Organisational Impact was given by myself and Joy Palmar, so it seems it has taken a year for this practice to become embedded!)

The list of the top Twitterers at the conference included several of the ‘normal suspects’ who have a proven track record of tweeting at conferences headed, as was the case for ILI 2010 by @bethanar and @Mimomurr.

Comparing the overall numbers of tweets at the year’s events with ILI 2010 it seems that Twitter usage has now stabilised:

ILI 2011: 80% (2150) of the tweets in this TwapperKeeper archive were made by 14% (45) of the twitterers. The top 10 (3%) twitterers account for 46% (1241) of the tweets. 56% (175) of the twitterers only tweeted once.

ILI 2010: 80% (2032) of the tweets in this TwapperKeeper archive were made by 15% (57) of the twitterers. The top 10 (2%) twitterers account for 45% (1143) of the tweets. 61% (229) of the twitterers only tweeted once.

It should also be noted that once again there were very few geo-located tweets: 39 tweets this year compared with 18 last year, both of which represent no more than 1% of the total number of tweets.

Feedback From Twitter

The event organisers have sent out a SurveyMonkey form to ILI 2011 participants which will help to inform planning for next year’s events. But in addition the event organisers will also be able to analyse the content of the tweets.

I have created a Storify page which summarises a number of tweets related to particants’ thoughts on the conference, rather than comments on the topics discussed at the conference. The most recent tweets are shown in the accompanying screen shot.

Beyond ILI 2011

We were told about changes in ILI conference organisation, with next year’s event being the responsibility of Information Today’s office based in Oxford.  Although I’ve enjoyed previous ILIs, I do feel it will be beneficial to have greater participation from the UK and mainland Europe. I felt that it was somewhat strange, for example, that although there was much interest in use of social media, there was little discussion about privacy issues and the implications of EU privacy legislation related to cookie use.

In light of the changes to the event organisation I would like to conclude by making some suggestions related to use of social media at the event, based on the ideas I’ve described in this post which I hope with be useful for other event organisers.

  • Create a TwapperKeeper (or equivalent) archive of event tweets well in advance of the conference. Note that I discovered that a TwapperKeeper archive hadn’t been set up for the #ILI2011 tweets during the opening talk. I created an archive  during the talk, but this meant that tweets made in the run-up to the event will not be included in the archive
  • Be aware of the benefits of session-related (or room-related) hashtags for parallel sessions and ensure that you clearly publicise such hashtags if you wish to encourage their use.
  • Be aware of  how tweets can be used in the evaluation of an event.

Finally I’d also suggest that event organisers should consider being pro-active in promoting use of the Lanyrd service. It was suggested that participants badges should include their Twitter ID. But in addition, the  Lanyrd page for ILI2011 provides an electronic means for participants to develop their professional network.  No fewer than 24 of the speakers at the conference are listed on Lanyrd, but as there are only an overall total of 42 participants, this means that the majority of the 311 people who tweeted (or the 136 who tweeted more than once) aren’t included in this network.  I think that’s a shame, as I’m a great fan of Lanyrd and have included details of my talk on the Lanyrd page. But that should be the topic of another post!

Posted in Events, Twitter | 9 Comments »

Don’t Go To #ThatLondon in 2012!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 Jul 2011

Just over a week ago I had a meeting in London and, due to the early start, I went the day before, which had the benefits of getting a cheap train ticket and a night’s accommodation is cheaper than the full-priced return ticket from Bath. Normally that’s the case, but when I used Laterooms (which, as I’ve described previously, I’m a happy user of), I found that the cheapest room available cost about £300! Eventually I managed to find a room for about £80 but it made me wonder why there was a shortage of reasonable-priced hotel accommodation that night (with one colleague from CETIS having to book hotel accommodation well outside the city centre. It seems the reason was the meeting was taking place during the Wimbledon fortnight – which I would probably have realised if I was a tennis fan rather than a football supporter!

I then realised that we would be encountering these difficulties to a much greater extent if we have trips to London, next year, during the Olympics 2012. And although they take place outside of the normal time for meetings and conferences (27 July – 12 August) we’ll need to bear in mind the various associated events, such as the Cultural Olympiad which culminates in the “London 2012 Festival, bringing leading artists from all over the world together from 21 June 2012 in the UK’s biggest ever festival“, to say nothing of the Rapperlympics, during which “rapper teams from across the globe descend on London to cross swords at the prestigious DERT tournament” of the weekend on 30 March – 1 April (thinks: the Olympic Committee will use anyone misusing the symbol of five interlocking circle -are five interlocking swords permitted?).

It seems then that those of us working in the public sector would be advised to avoided organising meetings and events in London at a time when the city is likely to be even more crowded than normal and venues and accommodation will be expensive.

As I suggested to JISC, this might provide an opportunity to explore ways in which technological solutions may be used to provide alternatives to travel, which may not only be particularly more cost-effective next summer but also provide environmental benefits. Now is the time to be exploring ways in which online meetings and events can become more embedded as alternatives to face-to-face meeting or amplified / hybrid events used to provide interested participants with the flexibility of choosing whether or not to travel (Monday’s workshop on “Metrics and Social Web Services: Quantitative Evidence for their Use and Impact“, for example, has about 50 registered participants with another 20 remote participants who will be watching the live video stream).

My initial thoughts were clearly based on use of video-streaming and related technologies. But inevitably we will be travelling to London on business purposes next year. How might we be able to share our experiences of possible problems in a lightweight fashion across the sector? It seems to me that the answer lies in Twitter, if we can agree on a common relevant hashtag.

I was reminded of these ideas yesterday after asking my colleague Paul Walk about a recent trip he had to London. On his way he tweeted:

Off to that London. I don’t regret moving away from London but sometimes I wonder how successfully I did…

Paul has used the expression “that London” on a number of occasions, and I wondered where it came from. Paul and I think we remember it from ‘kitchen sink dramas’ of the late 50s/ early 60s (Saturday Night & Sunday Morning’, perhaps). Last night I tried to discover the origin of the expression. This proved more difficult that I had expected – but it was also provided an interesting exercise in the various approaches to resource discovery which I though would be worth sharing.

I had little joy with a search for “that London” using Google. Initially if discovered “that London is the capital of England“! Using search terms such as “Origin of expression ‘That London’” gave no further insights, so at around midnight I asked by networks on Twitter and Facebook for their suggestions. A couple of people discovered the Harry Enfield “The Scousers go To Londonsketch from YouTube. Might the expression have originated from this popular comedy programme?

Dave Pattern pointed me in the direction of John Popham’s post on the Our Society blog on “What goes on in “That London?” in which he reflected on the differences in approaches to social action between the north and the south and suggested that:

Maybe the old northern adage is true after all, “they do things differently in that London”, but what they do affects us all.

This usage reflects my interpretation of the term with, as discussed on Twitter earlier today “that London” having a somewhat derogatory connotation.

If we wish to agree on a tag so that we can complain about the difficulties of travelling to London next year, the costs of the accommodation and the difficulties of finding something to eat, could we use the #ThatLondon hashtag, so that we avoid having to mint and then popularise a new tag? But perhaps this tag will be used in too many other contexts (I should add that the tag was mentioned in a comment by Paul Webster on John Popham’s post and I have created a TwapperKeeper archive in order to gain a better understanding of its current and future usage). My suggestion:

The #ThatLondon12 hashtag can be used to share experiences of problems and difficulties related to travelling to or being in London during the Olympic 2012 year.

Any takers? Or should we just use #’ThatLondon?

Meanwhile can anyone with better searching skills than I have find evidence of use of the “that London” term which predates Harry Enfield?

Posted in General, Twitter | 3 Comments »

How Twitter Expertise Helps Your Writing and Dissemination

Posted by Brian Kelly on 1 Jul 2011

The 31st issue of #JISC Inform has just been published.  The editorial describes how the issue features article which “look at how students are taking an active part in their course design and delivery which in turn is increasing their satisfaction levels” and goes on to add that “if you’re reading this edition through your mobile you’ll see that this and JISC Inform issue 30 are now available as mobile versions too“.

But how should one go about developing Web resources which can be used on both desktop PCs and mobile phones?  Answers to that questions have been described in a Mobile Web Apps briefing paper (PDF format) written by Mark Power of CETIS and described in a post on Mark’s blog. But although the 6-page briefing paper has been widely promoted for the developer community (and the comments on the blog post are from developers) there is also a need to be able to communicate best practices to policy makers and managers too.  This audience is likely to require a well-focussed summary rather than the in-depth implementation details.

In order to help ensure that best practices for innovation can become embedded within institutions UKOLN and CETIS, the two JISC Innovation Support Centres, have been exploring opportunities for collaboration, and yesterday we had a meeting in London in order to agree on appropriate areas for further work after the 1 August.

I was pleased that at the meeting I was able to mention that an article published in JISC Inform was the result of joint effort between Mark and myself.  And when I viewed how the article we had submitted had been published I was very pleased with the visual impact with, as shown, the top tips for providing mobile web service being depicted as iPhone apps.

On further reflection I realised that the tips we had provided (which  were summaries of advice provided in the briefing paper) could –  almost – be provided as tweets. For example:

There is no such thing as the Mobile Web 

leaves a further 100 characters to be used.  And whilst

Design for the usual internet and then make your site adaptable for mobile devices for example decreasing the screen size using CSS media queries and then scaling up for larger devices like tablets and PCs by progressively enhancing access for larger audiences.

is the equivalent of two tweets the final tip:

Use the W3C’s Mobile Web checking service: Compare the findings for your service with your peers as illustrated in a UK Web Focus blog post.

comes to exactly 140 characters! You may argue that additional characters will be need to include the link but a slight rewording provides a tweetable summary with the link:

Use the W3C’s Mobile Web checking service. Compare the findings for your service with your peers as illustrated at

This example has made me realise that for those who feel that it is important to disseminate their work and to be able to reach out to policy makers and senior managers who may not be inclined to ready wordy and detailed reports, having skills in being able to communicate succinctly will be value.  Twitter, clearly, can help to hone such skills, so that when presented with an opportunity to write 500 words you should be in a better position to know how to best present your ideas or arguments.

Unfortunately the JISC Inform editor had to omit our final contribution to the article, possibly because it was too wordy.  I’ll therefore conclude with a tweet:

Survey on institutional plans & policies for mobile web still open – see

and remind people, in 135 characters, that: Twitter can be full of trivia, just like the Web. But also like the Web it can be a valuable tool to support institutional activities!

Posted in Mobile, Twitter | 2 Comments »

Social Analytics for Russell Group University Twitter Accounts

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 Jun 2011

“Students to get best-buy facts”

On a day on which the main headline on the BBC News Web site announces the Government’s Competition Plan For Universities which “could bring more competition between universities and greater powers for students” it would seem timely to publish a survey which makes use of a number of social media analytic tools to explore how Russell Group Universities are making use of their institutional Twitter accounts and to invite discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of such approaches. After all if, as described in an accompanying articleStudents [are] to get best-buy facts“, shouldn’t the facts about Universities’ online presence also be provided – especially if you believe in openness and transparency?


A survey of Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities was published back in January 2011. This survey provided a snapshot of institutional use of Twitter across the twenty Russell Group Universities based on the statistics provided on Twitter account profile pages (numbers of followers, numbers of tweets, etc.). The survey was warmly received by those involved in managing institutional Twitter accounts or with an interest in activities in this area, with Mario Creatura expressing the view that the survey provided an “excellent gathering of data in an area that quite honestly is chock full of confusing stats“.

The interest in gathering further evidence of the value of Social Web services continues to grow. A recent study, for example, sought to answer the question “What’s the ROI with advertising on Facebook?” and concluded that “1 Facebook fan = 20 additional visits to your website“. But what approaches can institutions take to gain a better understanding of institutional use of Twitter?

Use of Social Analytic Services

In a recent post entitled Analysing influence .. the personal reputational hamsterwheel Lorcan Dempsey highlighted three social media analytic services. The post described how it has been suggested that the “Klout score will become a new way of measuring people and their influence online“. In addition to Klout, (which according to Crunchbase “allows users to track the impact of their opinions, links and recommendations across your social graph“) Lorcan’s post also referenced PeerIndex (which according to Crunchbase “identifies and ranks experts in business and finance based on their digital footprints“) and Twitalyser (described in a Mashable article as “provid[ing] detailed metrics on things like impact, engagement, clout and velocity for individual Twitter accounts“) .

Although Lorcan’s blog post addressed the relevance of such service for helping to understand personal reputation I felt it would be useful to gain a better understanding of how these service work by using them to analyse institutional Twitter accounts. I have therefore used the Klout, Peerindex and Twitalyzer social media analytic tools to analyse the twenty Russell Group University Twitter accounts. The table below summarises the findings of the survey which was carried out on Thursday 23 June 2011. It should also be noted that the table contains live links to the services which will enable the current findings to be displayed (and also for any errors to be easily detected and reported).

Institution /
Twitter Account
Klout Peerindex Twitteralyzer
Score Network
Description Score Activity Audience Authority Impact Percentile Type Full
1 University of Birmingham:
55 61 34 3K Thought
19 31 70 4 3.3% 88.6 Everyday
2 University of Bristol:
49 54 28 2K Specialist 16 16 68 0 1.7% 75.2 Everyday
3 University of Cambridge:
56 63 39 7K Thought
29 38 0 37 5.4% 94.6 Everyday
4 Cardiff University:
48 52 26 3K Specialist 43 47 76 33 0.8% 57.1 Everyday
5 University of Edinburgh:
52 60 35 2K Thought
14 6 69 0 1.7% 75.2 Everyday
6 University of Glasgow:
51 58 29 3K Specialist 40 47 78 28 1.1% 65.1 Everyday
7 Imperial College:
51 57 30 3K Specialist 39 24 74 24 2.8% 85.7 Everyday
8 King’s College London:
46 53 26 1K Networker 16 19 53 4 1.3% 69.1 Everyday
9 University of Leeds:
51 59 32 2K Specialist 23 37 62 12 1.8% 76.4 Everyday
10 University of Liverpool:
43 48 21 2K Networker 2 40 0 0 1.4% 70.9 Everyday
11 LSE:
39 48 18 797 Networker 33 43 0 43 0.4% 38.8 Everyday
12 University of Manchester:
14 10 10 46 Feeder 27 ? ? ? ?%      ?  – View
13 Newcastle University:
No official account found
14 University of Nottingham:
51 57 30 2K Specialist 41 41 65 33 1.9% 77.6 Everyday
15 University of Oxford:
58 65 37 8K Specialist 58 44 83 52 2.7% 85.1 Everyday
16 Queen’s University Belfast:
41 48 23 779 Specialist 11 0 53 0 0.7% 53.6 Everyday
17 University of Sheffield:
54 59 36 3K Networker 41 44 73 37 2.9% 86.4 Everyday
18 University of Southampton:
46 55 27 1K Networker 46 46 57 44 0.9% 60.1 Everyday
19 University College London:
54 63 39 2K Specialist 62 68 71 59 2% 78.7 Everyday
20 University of Warwick:
53 58 31 3K Thought
52 42 77 45 1.2% 67.3 Everyday

Please note that you will need to sign in to Klout in order to view the findings.

Russell Group Universities Peerindex group and two Klout groups (since there is a limit of ten entries these are split into Russell Group Universities (1 of 2) and Russell Group Universities (2 of 2) ) have been set up) which should enable comparisons to be made across the institutions based on the particular social media analytic service elected.

It should be noted that since the original survey of institutional use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities accounts for the Universities of Liverpool and Manchester have been identified. The University of Liverpool account (@livuni) seems to have replaced an older @liverpooluni account which was never used (although it did have over 2.000 followers). The University of Manchester account (@UniofManc) was set up on 14 March 2011 and there have been insufficient numbers of tweets for the PeerIndex and Twitteralyzer services to provide meaningful reports.

About the Social Media Analytic Metrics

In Klout:

The Klout Score is the measurement of your overall online influence. The scores range from 1-100 with higher scores representing a wider and stronger sphere of influence.

Network Influence is the influence level of your engaged audience. Capturing the attention of influencers is no easy task, and those who are able to do so are typically creating spectacular content.

Amplification Probability is the likelihood that your content will be acted upon. The ability to create content that compels others to respond and high-velocity content that spreads into networks beyond your own is a key component of influence.

The True Reach does not appear to be defined.

PeerIndex is built up of three components: authority, activity and audience score (all three are normalised ranks out of 100):

Authority is the measure of trust; how much can you rely on that person’s recommendations and opinion on a given topic. The authority is calculated from eight benchmark topics for every profile: AME (arts, media and entertainment); TEC ( technology and internet); SCI (science and environment); MED (health and medical); LIF leisure and lifestyle); SPO (sports); POL news, politics and society) and BIZ (finance, business and economics). These are used to generate the overall authority score as well as produce the PeerIndex Footprint diagram.

The authority is a relative positioning against everyone else in each benchmark topic. The rank is a normalised measure against all the other authorities in the topic area.

Note that the PeerIndex findings for the University of Oxford are illustrated with a comparison being made with the the Peerindex findings for the University of Cambridge. The analysis suggests that both institutions have a broadly similar ‘fingerprint’ but Oxford tends to focus on news, politics and society whilst Cambridge on technology and Internet.

Audience is indication of an individual’s reach. It is not simply determined by the number of people who follow you, but instead generate from the number of people who listen and are receptive to what you are saying.
Being followed by large number of spam accounts, bots, inactive accounts will reduce an audience score. The audience takes into account the relative size of the audience to the size of the audiences for the rest of community.

Activity is the measure of how much you do that is related to the topic area. Being to active and people will stop listening to you and if you are too inactive people will never know to listen to you. The Activity Score takes into account this behaviour. Like the other scores Activity Score is done relative to the community. If you are part of a community that has lots of activity your level of activity will need to be higher to achieve the same relative score as in a topic that has a lot less activity.

Realness is a metric that indicates the likelihood that the profile is of a real person, rather than a spambot or Twitter feed. A score above 50 means Peerindex thinks this account is of a real person; a score below 50 means it is less likely to be a real person. When Peerindex comes across a new profile, it gives it a score of 50. Initially, Peerindex doesn’t have the information to make any determination. As more information is gathered Peerindex modifies the number accordingly. Peerindex looks at a range of information to generate realness such as whether the profile is claimed and been linked to Facebook or LinkedIn. Peerindex is continually adding new signals to the realness calculations to improve it. The calculations are modified by the realness metric in order to penalise non-real people. Claiming a profile will boost the authority, audience and activity scores and consequently the PeerIndex as well.

Note that before the PeerIndex scores are displayed that are normalized. This means every number in PeerIndex is based on a scale of 1 to 100, showing relative positions. An aggressive normalization calculation is used which helps to discriminate between top authorities. The benefit is that you can more easily understand who the top authorities are. The trade-off is that many users end up with seemingly lower scores. Here’s an example: If you are in the top 20% by authority in a topic like climate change, it means you have higher authority than 80% of other people who we measure within this topic. Your normalized authority score for this topic will be in the range of 55 to 65 (that is, significantly lower than 80). Remember, however, that a score of 60 puts you higher that 80% of people we track in that topic. A score of 65, means you rank higher than 95% of the people we track. PeerIndex focuses on tracking the top people on a specific topic, not just anyone.

In Twitalyzer the Impact measure is a combination of the following factors:

  • The number of followers a user has.
  • The number of unique references and citations of the user in Twitter.
  • The frequency at which the user is uniquely retweeted.
  • The frequency at which the user is uniquely retweeting other people.
  • The relative frequency at which the user posts updates.
  • Twitalyzer’s “Impact Percentile” score provides insight into the relative rank of the individual within the service’s dataset. A ranking in the 69.8th percentile means that the user’s Twitalyzer Impact score is higher than 69.8 percent of the hundreds of thousands of active Twitter accounts the service is tracking.
  • Twitalyzer’s user profiles report 30-day trailing averages for Impact to help visualize how the user’s Impact trends over a longer period of time. This mitigates out weekends, vacations, etc.

Thoughts on Openness of Social Media Analytics Data

We are starting to see a stream of social media analytic services being developed, together with companies offering to analyse institutional use of social media and advise on best practices. There is a danger, I feel, of unnecessary duplications of such analyses being carried out, with funds which could be used to enhance the teaching and learning and research services provided by institutions being used to pay for unnecessary consultancy work. Whilst there maybe legitimate justifications for such consultancy, I feel that factual data which is gathered should be made openly available. In addition I feel that there is a need for open discussion on how social media analytic findings should be interpreted and used.

Issues for the “Metrics and Social Web Services: Quantitative Evidence for their Use and Impact” Workshop

On 11 July I am facilitating a one-day workshop on “Metrics and Social Web Services: Quantitative Evidence for their Use and Impact” which will be held at the Open University. The workshop aims to ensure that the participants:

  • Have a better appreciation of the importance of the need to gather and interpret evidence.
  • Understand how metrics can be used to demonstrate the value and ROI of services.
  • Have seen examples of how institutions are gathering and using evidence.
  • We aware of limitations of such approaches.
  • Have discussed ways in which such approaches can be used across the sector.
Some questions which I hope will be addressed at the workshop (which, incidentally, is now fully subscribed, indicating the interest across the sector in this area) include:
  • Do existing social media analytic services, such as those described above, have a role to play in helping to gain a better understanding of how social media services are being used to support institutional goals?
  • Can such  existing social media analytic service be used to help identify personal professional reputation?
  • Should the higher education sector be developing its own social media analytic tools in order to ensure that the specific requirements of higher education institutions are being addressed?
  • What are the dangers and limitations of seeking to analyse and make use of social media metrics and how should such concerns be addressed?

If you have any answers to these questions, or general comments or queries you would like to raise feel free to add a comment to this post.

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Evidence, Twitter, Web2.0 | 5 Comments »

Is Smartr Getting Smarter or Am I Getting Dumber?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 Jun 2011

Reviewing Smartr

20110611-164658.jpgBack in February in a post entitled Who Needs Murdoch – I’ve Got Smartr, My Own Personalised Daily Newspaper I described the Smartr personalised Twitter-based personalised newspaper service for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

This is an application which I now use on a daily basis to view the contents of the links posted by my Twitter community. It has also provided the motivation for me to make greater use of Twitter lists – the lists I have created recently include JISC Services, UKOLN colleagues, IWMW 2011 speakers and attendees at a forthcoming UKOLN workshop on Impact, Metrics and Social Web.

The accompanying image shows the content of links to resources which have been tweeted by accounts on my JISC Twitter list. As might be expected this provides content which reflects the interests of the particular service and is often content published by the service. It does occur to me that JISC Programme Managers who wish to keep informed of project developments may find it particularly useful to use Smartr in conjunction with a Twitter list of their project Twitter accounts.  However in addition to providing a simple means of getting relevant content to a iPhone/iPad environment I have to admit that my initial use of this application when I am  on the bus in the morning is to view the contents tweeted by all of the people I follow on Twitter, as this can provide serendipitous benefits which are not provided when following official accounts.

Smartr Developments

Recently I updated the app to Smartr 2.0 and started to notice that various people had started to follow me on Smartr, perhaps having read the blog post and a followup post published last month which described how Ariadne Is Getting Smartr.

When someone starts to follow you on Smartr, as with many other social apps, you get an email which provides brief information about how the person is using the service.

As can be seen from the accompanying screenshot of a recent email I received Dave has 182 followers, 134 sources and 5,208 stories. You can also see the stories which Dave has recent read which seem to indicate that he has an interest in road racing – this isn’t of particular interest to me so I decided not to follow Dave.

But the links to stories (which I prefer to refer to as articles) which Dave has recently read, as opposed to links he has recently posted, shows an aspect of Smartr which I hadn’t been aware of when I first started using the application – and whether this is because I was using version 1 or because I wasn’t following anyone within the Smartr app (as opposed to on Twitter) I don’t know.

Is seems that when someone follows you on Smartr they can see the articles you have recently read. What might be revealed in my case?

It seems that the articles I have recently read within Smartr include a post which described how World IPv6 Day went mostly smoothly, with a few surprises, another which asked What impact are your resources making and one on Posterous, From SaaS to PaaS Using an API.

So the 19 Smartr users who are following me can see note only the articles I have posted on Twitter but also the articles I have read (and the time I read them). Is this:

  • A great example of sharing resources across one’s community which exemplifies the benefits of adopting a culture of openness?
  • A privacy intrusion which should cause concerns?

What are your thoughts?


If you visit the Smartr Web site you will see an image of Smartr running on an iPhone with a link to the iTunes store which enables you to download the app. There are links to articles about Smartr but no obvious FAQ. There is, however, a prominent Smartr byline: “See what your friends are reading on Twitter and Facebook” which perhaps suggests that you are making your reading habits publicly available.  But this aspect wasn’t mentioned in the Mashable article when Smartr was first released.  There is not just a lack of an FAQ on the Smartr Web site, there is also no information provided about release dates and the functionality of the two versions of the software which have been released to date.

Smart does have a user forum which is hosted on the Uservoice Web site.  I published a comment on the forum in which I suggested that there was a need for documentation on the functionality provided by the service and the associated privacy issues.  Temo Chalasani, the founder of the company behind Smartr, responded and asked me what documentation I feel is required. Here are my suggestions for an FAQ:

  • When was Smartr first released?
  • What subsequent versions of Smartr have been published and what additional functionality has been provided?
  • What are the privacy implications of using Smartr?
  • Can I read the contents of articles posted by my Twitter followers without others being able to see what I have read and when?
  • Can I block others from following me on Smartr as I can do on Twitter?

Will I Still Use Smartr?

Smartr does raise some interesting privacy issues – and since this is a dedicated app rather than a Web service  the use of cookies is not an issue, so recent EU legislation in which the requirement for users to opt-in to accepting cookies is irrelevant. Here are some scenarios which may concern some users:

  • The parent who follows their children on Smartr in order to see what links the child has been following.
  • The child who follows their parents on Smartr!
  • The manager who follows members of staff to see what inappropriate articles are being read during work time.
  • The journalist who follows politicians and celebrities in order to write articles about their reading habits.

It should be noted that although it is possible for the parents, children or mangers to view the links which may be being posted, Smartr provides something different – the ability to see links posted by others which are being read.

Despite such concerns, I intend to continue to make use of Smartr as I find it such a useful service even though  I am aware that I could follow a link to a Web site which I would normally be embarrassed to be seen reading. But for me the important thing is user education so that users are made aware of possible risks.  I would therefore encourage Smartr to highlight possible risks.  The question though is “Am I being smart or dumb in using this tool?”

Posted in Twitter, Web2.0 | 17 Comments »

Twitter and the #iamspartacus Trend Revisited

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 May 2011

Last night I noticed some discussions about the #superinjunction incident on Twitter. I also spotted renewed use of the #iamspartacus tag – the tag which was described on the What the Trend Web site by this summary:

People are protesting at the upheld conviction of Tweeter, Paul Chambers, who bemoaned his local airport being closed for a week by jokingly saying he was going to blow it up.

A TwapperKeeper archive for the hashtag was created by Martin Hawksey on 12 November 2010 and currently has 2,478 tweets. We can view the Summarizr statistics for the hashtag. However since the hashtag is now being used in a different context it would be useful to see statistics for recent usage. Looking at the TwapperKeeper archive is seems that use of the hashtag in its current context began on 20 May 2011 possibly in a tweet posted by @delvestaxis:

If the injunction footballer is now thinking of suing twitter he could well set off a #iamsparticus trend? @salihughes

We can view the statistics for this hashtag since 20 May 2011 and discover that at the time of writing there have been 621 tweets from 421 Twitter users. We can also see the other hashtags which were included in these tweets: superinjunction (77), xxxx (61), suingtwitter (9), yyyy (7), imogenthomas (7), ctb (7), thatisall (6), streisandeffect (6) and iamsportacus (6) (where xxx and yyy refer to the footballer who was featured on the front page of the Scottish Herald today). There were several research papers about Twitter presented at the WWW 2010 conference, including a paper on #iranElection: quantifying online activism. (PDF format), one on From Obscurity to Prominence in Minutes: Political Speech and Real-Time Search (PDF format) and one on Earthquake Shakes Twitter Users: Real-time Event Detection by Social Sensors (PDF format). I wonder if next year’s conference will feature a paper on political activism and an earthquake in the UK legal system based on this weekend’s Twitter activities?

Posted in Twitter | Leave a Comment »

Ariadne Is Getting Smartr

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 May 2011

UKOLN’s Ariadne ejournal has been running since it was launched under the JISC’s eLib programme way back in January 1996. The ejournal continues to provide a dissemination channel for project work, innovation and service developments across the UK’s higher and further education sector and the wider community.

It is true to say, however, that there is a need to develop Ariadne further in to exploit the variety of ways in which Web resources can now be accessed (including access on mobile devices) as well as introducing new functionality in response to users’ requests. A recent survey of Ariadne authors and readers has helped us to identify ways in which we can enhance Ariadne. We are currently working on developments to the Ariadne technical architecture and user interface. However we are aware that not all developments need to be done in-house since there are a variety of services which can be exploited in order to improve one’s own services.

Twitter provides a good example of a service which can be used as an alerting mechanisms for the publication of new issues. We are using the ariadne_ukoln account to publish information when a new issue is published and to provide links to the main articles. If you wish to be alerted in this way we suggest you follow the ariadne_ukoln account.

In addition to this Twitter channel itself we are also exploring other services which have been developed around Twitter which can further enhance access to Ariadne articles. In particular we have recently been evaluating the Smartr service. As described previously Smartr can be regarded as a news reader for Twitter on the iPhone (and iPod Touch). I’ve been using Smartr for a month or so on my iPod Touch and use it to access resources which have been linked to in tweets from various JISC services. If the resources are of particular interest I can then save the article on my mobile device to read later, whether on the device or on a desktop PC.

It occurred to me that this could be a useful tool for reading Ariadne articles on a mobile device, which could be implemented prior to the Ariadne redesign and implementation of mobile style sheets. Indeed such an approach might also be helpful in gaining experiences of the user interface which can help to inform the design of the style sheets.

In order to explore Smartr’s potential I set up a Twitter list which just contained the ariadne_ukoln feed. As can be seen, this provides access to tweets from the account. Viewing my Twitter list using Smartr enables me to view the contents of the links which had been included in the tweets, again as illustrated. Also note that in order to ensure that this service delivered relevant content we updated the policy on use of Twitter which now states that the Twitter channel will “concentrate on disseminating edited snippets about newly published articles with occasional further posts on trailing upcoming articles, seeking reviewers, developments to the Ariadne service, etc“.

In response to my post “Who Needs Murdoch – I’ve Got Smartr, My Own Personalised Daily Newspaper!” Anthony Leonard suggested that “Flipboard is the future” and went on to add “Personalised newspapers / magazine apps embedded around (university) websites may [be ] the missing link to bringing the long tail of news to those who can’t be bothered with RSS readers or Twitter“. I think he is right to highlight the importance of personalised newspapers but what has intrigued me is how an existing Web environment, such as Ariadne, can be made available to mobile devices through use of Twitter tools.

Posted in Twitter | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Twitter Export Functionality Returns to Twapper Keeper

Posted by Brian Kelly on 24 Mar 2011

On 17 March Twitter updated the terms of service for use of their APIs:

You may export or extract non-programmatic, GUI-driven Twitter Content as a PDF or spreadsheet by using “save as” or similar functionality

In light of these changes, as described on the Twapper Keeper blog, John O’Brien, the Twapper Keeper developer has “decided to bring the “Save as Excel” link back online when viewing an archive. This will allow you to get the currently viewed content into an Excel file for review.

This will be good news for those who were not able to take action following last week’s post that there were only “A Few Days Left to Download a Structured Archive of Tweets“.

The changes in Twitter policies on use of its APIs will have been a result of a backlash following Twitter’s announcement that it was more rigorously enforcing its terms and conditions which appeared to be inhibiting development of third party Twitter applications such as Twapper Keeper.

It should be noted, however, that the terms of service state that:

You will not attempt or encourage others to: sell, rent, lease, sublicense, redistribute, or syndicate access to the Twitter API or Twitter Content to any third party without prior written approval from Twitter.

and go on to add:

Exporting Twitter Content to a datastore as a service or other cloud based service, however, is not permitted.

The first condition is clearly intended to ensure that Twitter is in a position to commercially exploit its content and services (note back in February there were stories being published which speculated that twitter could be sold for up to $10 Bn). It should be noted that the second condition would appear to prohibit Twitter content from being hosted on cloud services for use by others, even if there is no financial gain. Twitter, it seems, is turning itself into a silo, with only limited capabilities for data export and reuse. Perhaps it is seeking to emulate Facebook’s approaches in this respect.

Is this an unacceptable approach from a private company which, like Facebook, seems to be seeking to maximise financial gain from content provided by its users? Should we not be looking to move to an alternative microblogging environment, such as, which Wikipedia states: “While offering functionality similar to Twitter, StatusNet seeks to provide the potential for open, inter-service and distributed communications between microblogging communities. Enterprises and individuals can install and control their own services and data.

I think we ought to be very careful before making such moves. In part this is because of the importance of one’s social network to effective use of such social web services and also in light of the importance of the variety of tools and services which have been developed around Twitter and its ease of use on a variety of devices and environments – including watching TV programmes such as Question Time, for which use of Twitter as a back channel is now well established.

But in addition we need to consider whether, in light of the current political and economic climes, we should be over critical of organisations which make money out of services we use for free. We should also recognise that services developed in UK Higher Education may also prohibit commercial exploitation of content.  For example the policies for the University of Bath’s Opus institutional repository states that:

The metadata must not be re-used in any medium for commercial purposes without formal permission.

This policy was created using the OpenDOAR policy tool. My understanding is that the policy described above is intended to prevent others from commercially exploiting repository metadata. Is this fundamentally different from Twitter’s statement that:

You will not attempt or encourage others to: sell, rent, lease, sublicense, redistribute, or syndicate access to the Twitter API or Twitter Content to any third party without prior written approval from Twitter.

I think it is unfortunate that Twitter have chosen to make it more difficult for others to make use of twitter content, whether for commercial gain or not. But if a broad aim of higher education is to help stimulate the economy, shouldn’t we be permitted (perhaps, indeed, encouraging) others to reuse our content – and if this generates income to fund such initiatives, should this be a problem?

Posted in Twitter | 2 Comments »

A Few Days Left to Download a Structured Archive of Tweets

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 Mar 2011

On 21 February 2011 John O’Brien, developer of the Twapper Keeper twitter archiving service announced the “Removal of Export and Download / API Capabilities“. In a subsequent video interview John explained the reasons for the removal of this service, which arose following Twitter announcement that it was enforcing its policy that third party services are not allowed to syndicate or redistribute tweets. Following Twitter’s ‘cease and desist’ email the removal of Twapper Keeper’s export capabilities and APIs will take place on 20 March – a few day’s time.

It is clear that the popularity of the Twapper Keeper service (which has a total of 2,410,061,623 tweets across 21,475 archives) has demonstrated a clear need for Twitter archiving – and it seems that Twitter wishes to be able to commercially exploit such popularity. I would guess that other services, such as Martin Hawksey’s iTitle Twitter captioning service is another example of an innovative approach which Twitter will be seeking to exploit commercially.

Last year’s JISC-funded developments to the Twapper Keeper service included making the software available under a Creative Commons licence. If you visit the site you will be able to download the software which can be run on your own server. Clearly you would not be able to simply replicate a public Twapper Keeper service, but if Twitter’s terms and conditions are aimed at stopping public redistribution of tweets it would appear possible to install the software on an institutional Intranet – although I should admit that IANAL.

It should the pointed out that the Twapper Keeper service will continue to archive tweets which can be accessed via the HTML interface – what is being lost is API access and the ability to download a structured archive of tweets in for example, MS Excel format with columns of the tweets, Twitter userid, date and time information, geo-location information, etc. Such structured information is, as Twitter is very aware of, valuable for developers who wish to carry out richer data analysis or provide additional value-added services on top of the conventional Web-based display of tweets.

It is still possible for a few days to download such structured archives from Twitter. I have recently looked at the details of my TwapperKeeper archives. I have decided to keep a local archive of tweets associated with a number of talks I have given. However I don’t intend to keep a structured archive which are primarily of interest to event organisers (such as the ALT-C, JISC and CETIS conferences). I have also decided to keep a record in the list below of the decisions I have made. Note that an example of a local archive can be seen for the seminar I gave last year at the University of Girona.

Archive Type Name Description Policy # of Tweets Create Date
#Hashtag #a11y Accessibility (a11y) Archive not kept as this subject based archive is not directly related to my key areas of work. 42427 04-25-10
#Hashtag #accbc CETIS/BSI Accessibility SIG meeting. Local archive not kept as I was a speaker at this recent event. 154 02-28-11
#Hashtag #altc2009 The ALTC 2009 conference Archive not kept as this event-based archive will primarily be relevant to the event organisers. 4737 08-28-09
#Hashtag #altmetrics New approaches for developing metrics for scholarly research Archive not kept as this subject-based archive will primarily be relevant to others with an interest in the subject area.. 158 01-15-11
#Hashtag #Ariadne The Ariadne hashtag – which may be used for UKOLN’s Ariadne ejournal. Archive not kept as this subject-based archive will primarily be about topics other than UKOLN’s Ariadne ejournal. 11897 09-21-10
Keyword Ariadne Archive of tweets contains the string ‘Ariadne’ Archive not kept as this subject-based archive will primarily be about topics other than UKOLN’s Ariadne ejournal. 25598 09-21-10
@Person ariadne_ukoln Tweets about the Ariadne web magazine. Local archive kept. 882 05-28-10
@Person briankelly Tweets about Brian Kelly Personal archive kept. 6471 03-19-10
#Hashtag #CETIS The CETIS service, based at the University of Bolton. Archive not kept as this organisational archive will primarily be of relevance to the host institution. 2836 09-24-10
#Hashtag #CILIP CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. Archive not kept as this organisational archive will primarily be of relevance to the host institution. 4494 09-24-10
#Hashtag #CILIP1 Campaign on future of CILIP organisation based on CILIP’s 1-minute messages. Archive not kept as this campaign-based archive will primarily be of relevance to the host institution. 357 06-13-10
#Hashtag #CSR Comprehensive Spending Review Archive not kept as this subject archive will primarily be of relevance to others. 79799 10-15-10
#Hashtag #falt09 ALTC Fringe Archive not kept as this event-based archive will primarily be of relevance to others. 219 08-28-09
#Hashtag #heweb10 Tag for the HigherEdWeb 2010 conference Archive not kept as this event-based archive will primarily be of relevance to others. 8723 09-28-10
#Hashtag #ipres10 Tweets for the iPres10 conference, Vienna, 19-24 Sept 2010. Archive not kept as this event-based archive will primarily be of relevance to others. 2 08-27-10
#Hashtag #ipres2010 Archive for the IPres 2010 conference to be held in Vienna on 19-25 Sept 2010. Archive not kept as this event-based archive will primarily be of relevance to others. 1397 08-27-10
@Person iwmwlive IMWM live blogging account Local archive kept. 1373 04-30-10
#Hashtag #jisc10 JISC 2010 conference Archive not kept as this event-based archive will primarily be of relevance to others. 2059 04-02-10
#Hashtag #jiscpowr Archive of tweets related to the JISC PoWR project provided by UKOLN and ULCC Archive not kept due to low numbers of tweets. 6 07-09-10
#Hashtag #jiscpowrguide Archive of tweets about the Guide to Web Preservation published by the JISC-funded PoWR project and launched on 12 July 2010. Archive not kept due to low numbers of tweets. 2 07-09-10
#Hashtag #ldow2010 Linked Data on the Web 2010 conference Archive not kept as this event-based archive will primarily be of relevance to others. 524 04-25-10
#Hashtag #loveHE Times Higher Education campaign to support Higher Education in UK. Archive not kept as this campaign-based archive will primarily be of relevance to others. 12066 06-12-10
#Hashtag #mdforum UKOLN’s Metadata Forum Local archive planned. 119 12-10-10
#Hashtag #morris Tweets about Morris dancing Archive not kept as this social archive will primarily be of relevance to others. 17813 10-16-10
#Hashtag #oxsmc09 socialmediaconference Archive not kept as this event-based archive will primarily be of relevance to others. 1063 09-18-09
#Hashtag #PhD Tweets for researchers using the #PhD tag Archive not kept as this subject-based archive will primarily be of relevance to others. 28527 09-24-10
#Hashtag #s113 Workshop session at ALTC 2009. Local archive kept (will be edited to remove irrelevant tweets posted after event had taken place). 227 09-03-09
#Hashtag #scl2010 Scholarly Communication Landscape (SCL): Opportunities and challenges symposium, held at Manchester Conference Centre on 30 November 2010. Archive not kept as this event-based archive will primarily be of relevance to others. 39 12-02-10
#Hashtag #ucassm Social Media Marketing Conference organsied by UCAS. Archive not kept as this event-based archive will primarily be of relevance to others. 223 10-18-10
#Hashtag #udgamp10 What Can We Learn From Amplifed Events seminar, given by Brian Kelly, UKOLN at the University of Girona.
Local archive available
Local archive kept. 395 09-01-10
#Hashtag #ukmw09 UKMuseumsandtheWeb Archive not kept as this event-based archive will primarily be of relevance to others. 750 12-05-09
Keyword ukoln Tweets about UKOLN Local archive kept. 1948 03-19-10
#Hashtag #ukolneim UKOLN’s Evidence, Impact, Metric work Archive not kept due to low numbers of tweets. 45 11-05-10
#Hashtag #w3ctrack W3C Track at WWW 2010 confernce Archive not kept as this event-based archive will primarily be of relevance to others. 179 04-30-10
#Hashtag #ww2010 Misspelling of WWW2010 hashtag Archive not kept as this event-based archive will primarily be of relevance to others. 833 04-29-10

It should be noted that this list is based on Twapper Keeper archives which I created. There will be a number of other archives which will be of interest to myself and colleagues at UKOLN which may also be archived locally.

Also note that a number of event-based Twitter archives (such as the #s113 archive of a workshop session at the ALT-C 2009 conference) will contain irrelevant tweets due to the hashtag being used for other purposes. Such irrelevant tweets may be deleted from the archive

Posted in preservation, Twitter | 2 Comments »

Institutional Use of Twitter by the 1994 Group of UK Universities

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 Feb 2011

A survey of institutional use of Twitter by Russell Group University Web sites was published on 14th January 2011. But are the approaches taken across that sector typical of the UK HE community? In order to observe approaches across a wider group of institutions the survey was repeated across the 1994 Group. This group, which was established in 1994 “brings together nineteen internationally renowned, research-intensive universities. The Group provides a central vehicle to help members promote their common interests in higher education, respond efficiently to key policy issues, and share best methods and practice.

The survey was carried out on 18-19th January 2011 and, as with the initial survey, recorded the number of followers, users followed and tweets published together with details of the location and biographical details of the institutional accounts and the provision of links to the Tweetstats service which provides statistical information on the average number of tweets posted per month .

Note that following comments made on the initial survey it was felt that it would be useful to include information on the number of Twitter lists which the accounts are included in (as described in a post on Who Needs Murdoch – I’ve Got Smartr, My Own Personalised Daily Newspaper! we may start to see Twitter lists being used in a number of interesting ways(.

In addition information on the background provided on the Twitter Web site is included, as this may have implications for accessibility, and details of the date of the first tweet have been included. The statistical information provided by the Tweetstats service was extended to profile the Twitter clients used to post tweets. Also note that the information was gathered from the Web interface while not logged in to Twitter and that the full URL of the link to the institutional Web site is provided (rather than the partial URL which is displayed which was published in the previous survey).

Institution Nos. of Followers Following Tweets Nos. of Lists First Tweet Tweetstats Background Image
1 University of Bath: @uniofbath

Name: University of Bath
Location: Bath, England
Bio: News from the University of Bath

5,339 73 1,642 290 19 Jan 2009 Tweetstats for University of Bath:

Average: 65 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Tweetdeck (50%), Web (42%)

Logo and brief textual information
2 Birkbeck, University of London:

No single central account but multiple accounts listed.

3 Durham University: @durhamuni

Name: Durham University
Location: Durham, UK
Bio: Shaped by the past, creating the future

4,302 2 208 233 2 Aug 2008 Tweetstats for Durham University:

Average: 6 tweets per month.

Twitter clients: Twitterfeed (100%)

Purple background
4 University of East Anglia: @UEA_news

Name: Uni of East Anglia
Location: Norwich, Norfolk, UK
Bio: The University of East Anglia is an internationally-renowned university based in the cathedral city of Norwich in the UK.

3,256 129 307 158 26 Mar 2009 Tweetstats for University of East Anglia:

Average: 13 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Web (53%), TwitThis (46%)

Plain blue background
5 University of Essex: @Uni_of_Essex Name: University of Essex
Location: Colchester, Loughton, Southend
Bio: The University of Essex is one of the UK’s leading academic institutions. We are one of the UK’s top ten universities for both teaching and research.
2,259 237 876 112 27 Feb 2009 Tweetstats for Uni_of_Essex:

Average: 38 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Tweetdeck (39%), Facebook (36%), Web (21%),  Google (3%)

Photo with text of URLs for other social Web accounts
6 University of Exeter: @uniofexeter Name: University of Exeter
Location: Devon, UKWeb:
Bio: Exeter is a top UK university which combines world leading research with very high levels of student satisfaction.
1,829 1,720 608 71 28 Jul 2009 Tweetstats for University of Exeter:

Average: 33 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Tweetdeck (50%), Twitterfeed (24%), Web (9%)

Photo montage
7 Goldsmiths, University of London: @goldsmithsuol

Name: Goldsmiths
Location: New Cross, London, SE14
Bio: The latest news and events from Goldsmiths, University of London. Regularly updated by real people in the Goldsmiths Press Office!

2,883 458 428 174 13 Feb 2009 Tweetstats for Goldsmiths, University of London

Average: 15 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Tweetdeck (59%), Web (24%)

8 Institute of Education, University of London: @IOE_London

Name: IOE
Location: London, UK
Bio: News and events from the Institute of Education, University of London

699 279 226 29 22 Jan 2010 Tweetstats for Institute of Education, University of London:

Average: 13 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Web (73%) NOTE 1

Photo, logo and textual information
9 Lancaster University: @lancasteruni

Name: Lancaster University
Location: Lancaster, UK
Bio: News from Lancaster University

2,886 136 290 198 20 Mar 2009 Tweetstats for Lancaster University:

Average: 10 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Web (57%) NOTE 1

10 University of Leicester: @UniofLeics

Name: University Leicester
Location: University of Leicester, UK
Bio: Twitter channel for the University of Leicester

758 49 141 49 9 Oct 2009 Tweetstats for Leicester University:
Average: 14 tweets per month.
Twitter clients
Web (95%)
11 Loughborough University: @lborouniversity

Name: Loughborough Uni
Location: Loughborough
Bio: None

423 14 164 43 5 Aug 2009 Tweetstats for Loughborough University:
Average:  9 tweets per month.
Twitter clients
: Tweetdeck (80%), Web (7%)
12 Queen Mary, University of London: @qmul

Name: Queen Mary Uni Londn
Location: London, UK
Web: – with tag info
Bio: News and events and some other musings from Queen Mary, University of London.

2,644 1,250 799 150 28 Jan 2009 Tweetstats for Queen Mary, University of London:

Average: 30 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Tweetdeck (59%), Web (25%), (6%), Facebook (4%)

Photo and logo
13 University of Reading: @UniRdg_News

Name: Uni of Reading
Location: Reading, England
Bio: Keep up to date with all the latest news from the University of Reading!

625 143 176 42 19 Jan 2010 Tweetstats for the University of Reading:
Average: 8 tweets per month.Twitter clients:
Web (60%)
14 University of St Andrews:  @univofstandrews

Name: Univ of St Andrews
Location: St Andrews
Bio: University of St Andrews – Scotland’s first university

2,352 118 299 158 2 Feb 2009 Tweetstats for University of St Andrews:
Average: 12 tweets per month.Twitter clients:

Tweetfeed (78%), Twhirl (8%), Seesmic (5%), Web (2%)

Blue background and logo
15 School of Oriental and African Studies: @SOASNews

Name: SOAS News
Bio: None

(Note I was informed on 12 March 2011 that the @SOASnewsroom and @SOASfeed are the official SOAS Twitter feeds)

(122) (2) (0) (3) Default
16 University of  Surrey:  @uniofsurrey

Name: University of  Surrey
Location: Guildford, UK
Bio: Tweets from the University of Surrey

4,058 473 710 216 ??? Tweetstats for University of  Surrey

Average: 24 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Cotweet (72%), Tweetie  (5%),Web (3%), Tweetdeck (2%)

Photo and logo
17 University of Sussex: @sussexuni

Name: University of Sussex
Location: Brighton, UK
Bio: University of Sussex is a top 10 UK research intensive university set in beautiful downland on the edge of Brighton, with over 11,000 students and 2,500 staff.

5,866 1,171 1,824 321 16 Feb 2009 Tweetstats for University of Sussex:

Average: 74 tweets per month.

Twitter clients:
Web (50%), Hootsuite (43%), MobileWeb (3%)

18 University of York: @uniofyork

Name: University of York
Location: York, UK
Bio: The latest news and events at the University of York, UK

2,822 113 394 222 30 Mar 2009 Tweetstats for University of York:
Average: 17 tweets per month.Twitter clients: (58%), Web (40%)
TOTAL 41,320 6,367 9,092

Note the the results from use of the MyFirstTweet service were inconsistent due to problems with the service itself. It is also unclear as to whether the correct page will be displayed by following the link provided.

Also note that the results for SOAS were not included in the subsequent discussions and analyses.


The previous survey documented examples of emerging best practices including suggestions on:

  • Content provided in profile information (the bio: field).
  • Location information.
  • Links to the host institution.

This information is not repeated here.


A summary showing the range of various Twitter metrics for the 1994 Group is given below:

  • Numbers of Twitter followers: The numbers ranged from 423-5,866 (in comparison with a range of 865-12,265 for Russell Group Universities).
  • Numbers of Twitter users followed: The numbers ranged from 2-1,720 (in comparison with a range of 33-5,089 for Russell Group Universities).
  • Numbers of tweets: The numbers ranged from 141-1,824  (in comparison with a range of 192-1,167 for Russell Group Universities).
  • Average numbers of tweet per month: The numbers ranged from 6-74 (in comparison with a range of 23-91 for Russell Group Universities).

Further Thoughts on Emerging Best Practices

The previous survey highlighted some suggestions for emerging best practices based on observations on how Twitter is being used across Russell Group Universities. This suggestions will not be repeated here. Instead comments will be restricted to some of the additional features which were surveyed:

  • Background image and content: In the previous survey it was pointed out that “many of the institutional Twitter accounts had branded the Twitter home page, some with just a background image but others … with additional textual information and link information“. However such approaches may, arguably, act as barriers to people with disabilities. There will be a need for institutions to understand and address such concerns.
  • Twitter clients used for posting: The Tweetstats tool provides information on clients used to post tweets. It may be useful for those involved in managing institutional Twitter accounts to monitor the various clients used in order to be able to identify tools which may prove particularly useful for institutional tweeting.
  • Dates of first tweets: The date of an initial tweet may give an indication of when an institution began tweeting (although this may not be when a institutional Twitter feed was officially launched).  However such information may indicate when Twitter became prevalent as an institutional tool.  many of the institutions seem to have launched their service in early 2009 – it would be interesting to see if that related to an event shortly before that date.

I hope these comments will prove useful for those involved in managing institutional (or department) Twitter accounts.

Posted in Evidence, Twitter | 10 Comments »

Twitter Posts Are Not Private: What are the Implications?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 Feb 2011

The article published on the BBC News Web site yesterday seemed unambiguous: “‘Twitter messages not private’ rules PCC“.  This news item summarised news published by the PCC, the Press Complaints Commission, which ruled that “Material that is published on Twitter should be considered public and can be published“. The context was a complaint by a Department of Transport official that the use of her tweets by newspapers constituted an invasion of privacy – apparently the official, who was named in the article, had tweeted about “being hungover at work“. But even though she had a clear disclaimer that the views expressed by her on Twitter were personal, her tweets were published in the press. An article in The Guardian provides further information – it seems that the Daily Mail and the Independent on Sunday) published this information.  I must admit that I find it unsurprising that the Daily Mail has used this as an opportunity to have a dig at the public sector. But what are the implications of this ruling for the rest of us? Some thoughts:

  • It’s pointless saying one’s (public) tweets are personal if you tweet in a professional capacity. The press can publish such information and use this as an opportunity to have a go at you and your host institution.  This is the standard type of advice which is given to students using social media, but perhaps we forget to think about the implications for ourselves.  Twitterer emptor Caveat Twitterer! – as perhaps the various footballers and cricketers who have been fined for tweeting inappropriate remarks would echo.
  • This news does seem to validate reuse of tweets. Martin Hawksey, who developed the iTitle Twitter captioning service will no doubt be relieved that it seems he does not need to obtain permission before reusing public tweets as will developers of Twitter archiving services (and note that in the JISC-funded developments to the Twapper Keeper Twitter archiving service for which UKOLN provided the project management we did identify that privacy concerns did need to be considered).
  • However it should be pointed out that this ruling came from the PCC – it is not a legal ruling.

Good news which seems to validate reuse of tweets or a dangerous intrusion into personal space? What do you think? Should all organisation be providing guidelines not only on institutional use of social media but personal use, such as EDINA’s guidelines which were published recently (with a Creative Commons licence) which states:

EDINA, as part of the University of Edinburgh, is your employer and as such you have a legal and moral responsibility not to bring either organisation into disrepute. Maintaining the reputation of EDINA, EDINA projects, services and staff members plays a crucial part in ensuring the continuing success of the organisation. Comments, particularly those with a strongly negative or unprofessional tone, can have serious unintended consequences. It is therefore important to remember that what you say about your work, even in personal social media presences, can reflect upon EDINA.

Please exercise common sense over whether or not the space you are posting to (whether your own or as a guest post on another person or organisation’s blog or social media presence) is an appropriate space for discussion of work or work related matters. If in doubt, you can always ask your line manager for advice.

The Hounding of the Baskerville article in the Independent on Sunday is worth reading to provide a context to such discussions.

Posted in openness, Twitter | 17 Comments »

Who Needs Murdoch – I’ve Got Smartr, My Own Personalised Daily Newspaper!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 Feb 2011

At about 7am this morning I noticed an interesting Facebook status update from Kerim Friedman, an anthopologist I’d met in Taiwan a few years ago. The status update came from a tweet from @Kerim:

If you use Twitter as your news reader, you really should try the “Smartr” iPhone app: Nicely done!

This sounded interesting so I installed the app on my iPod Touch – and was impressed. As described in a pithy summary in a post on Mashable a few days ago “Smartr is a news reader for Twitter on the iPhone“. The post went on to add:

Instead of seeing tweets, the Smartr user views a Twitter feed filled with news snippets. “It’s a lens on top of your Twitter Feed,” says Factyle founder Temo Chalasani.

Users can click on updates in the filtered Twitter stream to read a Smartr reformatted, ad-free version of the article, share it with Facebook, Tumblr or Posterous, and choose to save it in-app or via Instapaper or Read it Later.

I tried it and was impressed. Later at work I created a Twitter list of official Twitter channels from a number of JISC services of particular interest to me. This provides a stream of official summaries of work from the various services, including links to further information, as illustrated. As can be seen this provides a summary of various reports, blog posts, news items, etc. In effect this provides the metadata for the resources and a link to the resources. But what of the resources themselves? The links need to be followed and, if like me, you use a device such as an iPod Touch you may download your tweets (and email messages and blog posts) before you head off to work to read on the bus, but aren’t able to follow any links whilst offline.

Smartr, however, follows the links to resources in your main Twitter feed or feeds in any Twitter lists you have created – i.e. it provides access to the data rather than the metadata. As illustrated the app provides a summary of the first few lines of the resource, which can then be viewed in full and also saved for reading later.

I’m impressed. In particular I think it will be useful for use with official Twitter feeds for which there is likely to be some consistency in the links which are shared, unlike the Twitter feeds from one’s followers which is likely to be a mixture of work and social links being shared (and if you follow people from around the globe they may be sharing their social interests during our working day).

This use of official Twitter accounts for resource sharing and ease of access on mobile devices is very interesting – and goes against the suggestions from Ferdinand von Prondzynski, former President of Dublin City University and forthcoming Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Robert Gordon University who, in a post on Institutional Tweets criticised typical institutional use of Twitter since “all tweets are …. announcements, either of some research project or other or of something the university wants to sell“; Twitter, he seems to feel, is a social medium and such only be used for conversations and not broadcasting. I disagree – Twitter, like all IT applications, is a tool and if it can be used successfully in novel ways I would applaud such innovation.

But, like Robert Murdoch’s The Daily newspaper for the iPad, is such innovative use proprietary? Not necessarily as it’s based on open data (tweets and links) and applications to read such information can be developed on any platform and there are other applications, such as, which provide similar functionality. For me Smartr seems  to provide strengths in being designed for a mobile device and I can see myself using it until competition catches up and provides similar functionality for my Android phone.   But to not make use of it because it is not cross-platform would deprive me of a potentially useful service.

Still unsure? Why not watch the video which is available on YouTube and embedded below. And if you’d like to install it visit the Apple iTunes store.

NOTE: On 5 March 2012 I received the following email:

Dear user,
Unfortunately, the Smartr team is moving on to new things and is unable to support its continued development. With a heavy heart, we will be pulling the plug on the service on the 15th of March @ 1pm EST.

Although Smartr no longer exists, I think it did provide an indication of a new generation of personalised newspaper, which could provide content based on Twitter feeds.

Note added on 22 August 2012.

Posted in Twitter | 10 Comments »

Assessing the Value of a Tweet

Posted by Brian Kelly on 1 Feb 2011

Earlier today Phil Bradley published a post on “The value of a tweet“. The post was about the way in which a tweet can be retweeted, especially by someone famous with lots of followers: i.e. Neil Gaiman, @neilhimself, with his 1.5 million followers (note I’d never heard of him!), in order to generate traffic to a resource (in this case a series of photos on the value of libraries). The tweet which had the value was:

which was retweeted following a request from @arktemplar. The tweet from @neilhimself helped to raise awareness of Phil’s series of retro posters on the value of Libraries  across the Twitter community, as can be seen from Twitoaster.  As Phil described in his blog post he saw a huge increase in traffic to his Flickr set, as can be seen from the graph.

But how do we assess the value of Phil’s original tweets which referred to the Flickr photos and the subsequent retweets?

Is the value in the content of the 140 characters? In part, but the value of the content is enhanced by the esteem by which Phil is held within the Library sector, the knowledge that many people will have of Phil’s passion for libraries and the online community  which Phil is an active member of, which is based around his Twitter account, his blog and his other online accounts such as his Flickr and his Podcast accounts. Phil also knows how to make effective use of such services, so his use of the #savelibraries Twitter hashtag will have helped in the dissemination of the tweet to people who don’t follow Phil directly. In addition his use of a short UIRL enables statistics on clicks on the URL to be accessed (by appending a + to the URL – i.e.

But do the original tweet and the subsequent retweets have value in themselves or is the value in the impact they have?  The tweets could have some financial value if, for example, they linked to a pages which contained ads. But this isn’t the case here.  Surely, then, the value is in raising awareness of the value of libraries across large numbers of users, with the aim, clearly, of trying to address the cuts in UK public libraries.  Now how much would such a campaign cost if it was carried out using old media? I’m not in a position to make such comparisons but I can’t help but feel that Phil’s tweets, his use of the new media and his engagement with his online community have provided a valuable return on the investment for his series of Twitter posts.

Posted in Evidence, Twitter | 1 Comment »

Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 Jan 2011

Previous Surveys of Institutional Use of Twitter

Back in July 2009 Liz Azyan published a UK University Twitterleague which listed the number of followers for various official University Twitter accounts. In September 2009 Liz followed this with a List Of UK University Twitter Accounts.

In May 2010 Duncan Hull published a post entitled The University of Twitter, UK: A Quick Survey. which summarised Twitter usage by the 20 Russell Group Universities – these are universities which:

represent the 20 leading UK universities which are committed to maintaining the very best research, an outstanding teaching and learning experience and unrivalled links with business and the public sector.

As Duncan pointed out “they are exactly the kind of places you would expect to be embracing and experimenting with new technology“. In response to Duncan’s post Paul Dobson provided further analysis of Twitter usage by Russell Group Universities.

Finally I should mention a recent article on “Top 10 of Social Media in HE” published by the Science Guide blog which provides a summary of Twitter (and Facebook) usage across leading European Universities. This post points out that “Having a closer look at how universities from different countries perform in communicating via Twitter and Facebook, it is easy to see that Great Britain dominates the ranking” :-)

Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities

Building on such previous work, a survey of institutional use of Twitter by Russell Group University Web sites was carried out on Monday 10th January 2011. The survey recorded the number of followers, users followed and tweets published. In addition links to the Tweetstats service are given which provide additional statistical information on Twitter usage, together with a summary of the average number of tweets posts per month. A record was also made of the location and biographical details of the institutional accounts. This information is published in the following table.

 Ref. No. Institution Nos. of Followers Following Tweets Tweetstats
1 University of Birmingham: @unibirmingham
Name: Birmingham Uni
Location: Birmingham, UK
Web: http://www.birmin…
Bio: News and events from the University of Birmingham
4,681 222 1,011 Tweetstats for University of Birmingham:Average 40 tweets per month
2 University of Bristol: @bristoluniName: Bristol University
Location: Bristol, England
Web: http://www.bristo…
Bio: News, events and general announcements from the University of Bristol
4,040   33 1,164 Tweetstats for University of Bristol:Average 91 tweets per month
3 University of Cambridge: @cambridge_uniName: Cambridge University
Location: Cambridge, England
Bio: News and Events from the University of Cambridge
11,759 211   923 Tweetstats for University of Cambridge:Average 43 tweets per month
4 Cardiff University: @cardiffuni
Name: Cardiff University
Location: Cardiff, UK
Web: http://www.cardif…
6,764  43   862 Tweetstats for Cardiff University:Average 25 tweets per month
5 University of Edinburgh: @uniofedinburgh
Name: Edinburgh University
Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Bio: Official news and events from The University of Edinburgh
4,092 177   666 Tweetstats for University of Edinburgh:Average 25 tweets per month
6 University of Glasgow: @glasgowuni
Glasgow University
Location: Scotland
Web: http://www.glasgo…
Bio: Official news and events from the University of Glasgow
6,007 122   716 Tweetstats for University of Glasgow:Average 26 tweets per month
7 Imperial College: @imperialcollegeName: Imperial College
Location: London
Web: http://www3.imper…
Bio: Imperial on Twitter – follow us for campus alerts and daily highlights. Send your tweet tipoffs to, or talk direct via @imperialcollege
6,210 2,248  889 Tweetstats for Imperial CollegeAverage 42 tweets per month
8 King’s College London: @kingscollegelonName: King’s CollegeLondon
Location: London UK
Bio: News from King’s College London. King’s is a multi-faculty research-led institution and one of the world’s top 25 universities.
865  139  192 Tweetstats for King’s College London:Average 21 tweets per month
9 University of Leeds: @universityleeds
University of Leeds
Location: Leeds, UK
Web: http://www.leeds….
3,161  188  573 Tweetstats for University of Leeds:Average 44 tweets per month
10 University of Liverpool: @liverpooluni:
Obsolete Account
1,450 0 1
10 University of Liverpool: @livuni
Name: Uni of Liverpool
Location: Liverpool, UK
Bio: This is the official Twitter channel of the University of Liverpool. Any questions? Tweet us!
2,900 405 1,352 Tweetstats for University of Liverpool:Average 50 tweets per month;
11 LSE:
No central single Twitter account found. However several official accounts exists e.g. @LSEpublicevents and @LSENews

12 University of Manchester:
No central single Twitter account found
13 Newcastle University:
No central single Twitter account found
14 University of Nottingham: @uniofnottinghamName: Nottingham Uni
Location: Nottingham
Web: http://www.nottin…
Bio: A twitter channel for Nottingham University
3,179 1,850 1,662 Tweetstats for University of NottinghamAverage 74 tweets per month
15 University of Oxford: @uniofoxford
Oxford University
Bio: Twitter stream of the University of Oxford
12,265    48  380 Tweetstats for University of OxfordAverage 74 tweets per month
16 Queen’s University Belfast: @queensubelfast
Name: Queen’s University
Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
Bio: Queen’s has a record of academic achievement which stretches back more than 150 years. It offers a world class portfolio of research & educational opportunities
1,127    91  369 Tweetstats for Queen’s University BelfastAverage 23 tweets per month
17 University of Sheffield: @sheffielduni
:Sheffield University
Location:Sheffield, UK
Web: http://www.sheffi…
Bio: Founded in 1905, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading Russell Group universities with an outstanding record in both teaching and research.
5,869 5,089  744 Tweetstats for University of Sheffield:Average 30 tweets per month
18 University of Southampton: @southamptonnewsName: Uni of Southampton
Location: University Road, Southampton
Web: http://www.southa…
Bio: The official twitter channel for the University of Southampton.
1,876   302  796 Tweetstats for University of Southampton:Average 30 tweets per month
19 University College London: @uclnewsName: UCL News
Location: London
Bio: News from UCL – London’s Global University
2,523   190  940 Tweetstats for University College London:Average 44 tweets per month
20 University of Warwick: @warwickuni
Warwick University
Location: United Kingdom
Web: http://www.warwic…
6,334   715 1,137 Tweetstats for University of Warwick:Average 40 tweets per month
TOTAL 83,562 12,073 14,376

Note the @lsepublicevents (which is described as “Free public lectures and debates at LSE, with high profile speakers from government, politics, business, academia and civil society.” was not included in this list of institutional accounts as his seems to be a departmental Twitter account. However, for the record, this Twitter account had 10,542 f0llowers, was following 1,162 account and had posted 3,470 tweets.


Institutional use of Twitter is relatively new, so best practices are not yet well established. Surveys of Twitter usage can help to identify patterns of usage from which in may be possible to observe emerging best practices.

Profile Information

The information on the Twitter profile can help to understand how institutions regard their use of Twitter.

  • Institutions which make it clear that the Twitter account is an official channel or is providing official news : Universities of Edinburgh and Southampton.
  • Institutions which define the scope of the Twitter account as covering news and/or events: Universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, KCL and UCL.
  • Institutions which provide marketing information in their Twitter profile: KCL, Queen’s University Belfast and Sheffield.

Location Information

A variety of location information was provided in the profiles:

  • City and UK: Seven Eight instances: Birmingham, UK; Cardiff, UK; Edinburgh, United Kingdom; Liverpool, UK; London UK; Leeds, UK; Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK; Sheffield, UK
  • City and country: Two instances: Bristol, England; Cambridge, England
  • Country only: Two instances: Scotland; United Kingdom
  • City only: Four instances: London; Liverpool; Nottingham; London
  • Road and city: One instance: University Road, Southampton
  • No location: One instance: University of Oxford

Location information could potentially be used by automated harvesting tools or by location-sensitive applications. Note it was also noted that non of the Twitter accounts provided location information in a machine-readable format.


The following institutions provided links to their institutional Web site from their Twitter profile:

  • Links to home page: Universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton and Warwick and Queen’s University Belfast, Imperial College and KCL
  • Link to news page: UCL
  • Link to Study page: Liverpool
  • Link to about/help information: None

Note that links to an institutional Web site from a popular service such as Twitter may help in enhancing an institution’s Google ranking. [Note as described in a comment to this post, this is unlikely to happen due to use of the NOFOLLOW attribute.]

Also note that a link to a help page could provide information on how the Twitter account is being used.


A summary showing the range of various Twitter metrics is given below:

  • Numbers of Twitter followers: The numbers ranged from 865 -12,265.
  • Numbers of Twitter users followed: The numbers ranged from 33-5,089.
  • Numbers of tweets: The numbers ranged from 192-1,167.
  • Average numbers of tweet per month: The numbers ranged from 23-91.
  • Numbers of institutions not apparently using an official Twitter account: Three institutions to not seem to have an official Twitter account and one institution is not using what seem to be an official Twitter account.

Note that:

  • The number Twitter followers may be some indication of value. However this number is likely to be influenced by the size of the institution:
  • An institution may wish to develop a policy on following other Twitter users. There is no need to follow other Twitter users, especially if the Twitter account is used for one-way broadcasting of information. If Twitter accounts are followed this will allow direct messages (DMs) to be sent between the institution and the user. Also not that it is possible to configure a Twitter account so that new followers are automatically followed back.
  • The number of tweets posted will be affected by the date the Twitter account was created. The average number of tweets posted per month may be a more useful way of comparing usage patterns across institutions.

Emerging Best Practices

The following suggestions are proposed for best practices for institutional Twitter accounts:

  • An appropriate profile should be provided. This could be used, for example, to clarify the status of the Twitter account, the scope of usage and to promote the host institution.
  • The location of the host institution should be provided, in text and as geo-located metadata, in order for tweets to be available to location-aware services.
  • Twitter profiles should provide links back to appropriate pages on the institution’s Web site.

Note that it is probably also desirable to provide a policy on use of an institutional Twitter account. It may be desirable to link to the policy from the Twitter profile, so that users can easily discover the scope of the Twitter account, policies on following users and policies on responding to messages.

Also note that this post does not seek to address the question as to whether an institution should have an official Twitter account. That question, and related issues such as the purpose of the account, who should manage it and how it should be resourced, will be very dependent on institutional factors, including issues such as the relationship with other communication channels, possibly including Facebook.

Finally it should be added that it was observed that many of the institutional Twitter accounts had branded the Twitter home page, some with just a background image but others, such as Cardiff University, with additional textual information and link information (though this is not hyperlinked). However it should be noted that information provided on the Twitter background will not be available to those who use a dedicated Twitter client so there will be a need to provide relevant information in the Twitter bio field.

Your Feedback

I’d welcome feedback and comments on this survey and the accompanying suggestions. Is the data I’m provided correct? Are the suggested emerging best practices appropriate? Are there other suggestions which could be provided? I’m always welcome snapshots of Twitter statistics for other institutions (from the UK and beyond), although note that in order to provide meaningful comparisons, data should be provided for an official institutional Twitter account and not for departmental accounts.

NOTE: Information on the official University of Liverpool Twitter account has been received (which could not be found easily on Google). The table and summary information have been updated. Also note that the totals in the table were collated after the post was initially published.

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Evidence, Twitter | 29 Comments »

Evidence of Personal Usage Of Social Web Services

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 Jan 2011

Gathering Evidence on Personal Use of Social Web Services

A recent blog post on “My information consumption habits or how having a smartphone changed the way I work” by Aaron Tay alerted me to tools which can be used to provide an insight into personal usage of various collaborative and communications tools. As the title of Aaron’s post suggests such analyses can help to confirm, or perhaps identify, changes in personal working practices.

Evidence of My Use of Twitter

We may think that we know how we use various tools, but might we be mis-remembering? The MyFirstTweet service tells me that I posted my first tweet on 14 March 2007 : a boring post about filling in my expenses – just like everyone else, I had no idea of what Twitter was about and what benefits it might provide. However I might like to think that I quickly spotted Twitter’s potential and have been a regular user since then. However the Tweetstats service gives a different picture:

Interpreting the Evidence

It seems I made little use of Twitter during 2007 (peaking at 25 tweets in August 2007). It was only in January and February 2008 that I made significant use of Twitter, with 105 and 130 tweets. But this was not sustainable and there were no tweets in the following three months (although this, I subsequently discovered, was incorrect due, I suspect, to a failure for the tweets to have been archived).

Ignoring the uncertainties of my Twitter usage over the missing period it seems that regular Twitter postings began in July 2008 – and from the archive of my tweets on the Backupmytweets service I discovered that this seems to have been when use of Twitter at events and event hashtags was starting to take off in the JISC environment: “AT the JISC Innovation Forum, Keele Univ., listening to Sarah Porter. #jif08“.  And looking at the Twitter statistics for my colleague Paul Walk I see a similar trend, with little usage in 2007, but growth beginning in February 2008, around the time that I started to make significant use of the service.

Incidentally there was a gap in the data for September – November 2008 which made me suspect that my apparent lack of usage from April – June 2008 was due to a glitch in the system, and this was confirming by looking at my Twitter archives from which I can see that I had posted to Twitter during these months. Indeed April 2008 was the month I attended the Museums and the Web 2008 conference and first started to make intensive use of twitter at and event, as illustrated by my social tweet after arriving at the conference. So having started writing this post based on an assumption of the importance of gathering evidence I’m now having to flag the fact that evidence can be flawed (I assume the missing data might be due to the teething problems Twitter servers experienced due to growth in usage).

Since 2008 I have tweeted every month. But this evidence suggests that for over a year after first using Twitter I hadn’t found a particular use for the service. Perhaps this is likely to be the case for other social networking services – there is a need for there to be a significant user community before the benefits can be appreciated. Or, alternatively, perhaps there was a need for better Twitter tools to be developed. Initially I made use of the Web interface, but in July 2008 I was mainly using the Twhirl desktop client and by November 2008 TweetDeck was my preferred desktop client (and, from the archive of my tweets I found that on 8 July 2008 I commented thatTweetdeck 0.15.1 beta is much better than 0.15 :-)“).

Reflections on Implications For Use of Other Social Web Services

The above graph suggests that in the case of Twitter it was only after two years of first using the service that it became embedded in my working practices. I wonder if this pattern will be reflected in my uses of other Social Web services. And if this pattern is replicated across other early adopters of services what might the implications be for the service providers? Perhaps such patterns will demonstrate the importance of building a critical mass of users quickly and the need to ensure that funding from venture capitalists is available to fund the service while its usage if still low?  But what of developments funded in the public sector? Is a two year funding cycle which may be typical long enough to build up sufficient momentum to demonstrate the value of services whose effectiveness may be dependent on large numbers of users?

Posted in Evidence, Finances, Twitter | 9 Comments »

Gap Analysis: They Tweeted At #online10 But Not At #scl10

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 Dec 2010

Twitter Was Popular at #Online10

Last week I attended the Online Information 2010 conference, held at Olympia in London on 30 November – 2 December.  Unfortunately due to other commitments I could only attend on the first day.  But I was able to get a feel for the discussions on the next two days by watching the #online10 column in my Tweetdeck Twitter client – and I was able to do this during what would otherwise have been unproductive times such as standing on an overcrowded bus going to work.

At the time of writing Summarizr informs me that there have been 4,342 tweets from Twitter 1,022 users. This evidence suggests that Twitter had an important role to play at the conference, enabling those users to take part in discussions centred around the various talks presented at the conference as well as enabling conference delegates to cultivate and develop professional relationships. Without Twitter, for example, I wouldn’t have met @Ankix and, over a meal and a few pints in the Warwick Arms with longstanding Twitter colleagues @karenblakeman@hazelh and @akenyg and @stephanbuettner, another new contact, shared experiences of the implications of the cuts across the library sector in the UK, Sweden and Germany.

Little Use of Twitter at #SCL2010

On the same day that I gave a talk at Online Information I was also presenting a pre-recorded video at the Scholarly Communication Landscape: Opportunities and challenges symposium which was held at Manchester Conference Centre, Manchester. For this one-day conference Summarizr informs us that there had been only 38 tweets from 6 Twitter users, but only my colleague Stephanie Taylor (who was supporting my video presentation) and Kevin Ashley, DCC Director  and speaker at the symposium) tweeted more than once. So whilst the far fewer numbers of tweets for this symposium will be due in part to it being a smaller event, running for a single day, the lack of any participation from the audience is, I feel, interesting.

The page about the event informs us that the symposium aims to “investigate the opportunities and challenges presented by the technological, financial and social developments that are transforming scholarly communication” with the programme going to add that “Online social networks are playing an increasingly important role in scholarly communication. These virtual communities are bringing together geographically dispersed researchers to create an entirely new way of doing research and creating scholarly work.

Quite.  But this one-day event, which was open to all staff and postgraduate research students at the University of Manchester, seems to have been unsuccessful in providing an opportunity for participants to try out for themselves Twitter,  an example of a popular online social network which is playing an increasingly important role in scholarly communication, as we saw from the evidence of its use at the Online Information 2010 conference. But rather than point out what the non-users of Twitter may have been missing (such as the active learning and the community engagement which I described above) it might be more interesting to reflect on the more general issues of how non-users of a service can be identified and how one might gain feedback from non-users of a service.

Gap Analysis

Getting feedback from users of a service can be easy – you know who they are and you will often have communications channel with them in which you can invite feedback. But getting feedback from non-users can be much more difficult – although such feedback can be immensely value in understanding reasons why a service isn’t being used and ensuring that enthusiast users don’t give a misleading impression of the benefits.

It might be useful to speculate why services aren’t being used.  Possible reasons for the  lack of Twitter use by the audience at the Scholarly Communication Landscape  symposium could be:

  • Technology problems: lack of or problems with a WiFi network could be responsible for a lack of event-related tweets.
  • Technology limitations: Potential Twitter users may feel that use of a Twitter client at an event is too complex.
  • It’s trivial: Twitter might be regarded as a trivial activity.
  • It’s rude: Use of Twitter at an event might be regarded as being rude and inconsiderate to other participants and to the speakers
  • Personal/profession balance: Twitter users may use it for personal rather than professional purposes.
  • Failure to see relevance: Participants may fail to see the benefits of use of Twitter at events.
  • Relevance not applicable: Participants may appreciate potential benefits of use of Twitter at events but feel such benefits are not applicable for them.
  • Style of working: Use of Twitter (or networked technologies) may not be relevant to personal styles of working.
  • Organisational culture: managers or others in the organisation may frown on such usage.

These are some of my thoughts on why Twitter might not have been used at the symposium, and you may be able to provide additional suggestions.  But how do we find out the real reasons as opposed to our speculations?  And how do we apply approaches for gap analysis to other areas besides use of Twitter? For example, in light of the subject areas which may have been covered at the event, how could we gauge views on the areas such as openness and institutional repositories? How can we gather evidence in order to inform policies on, say, deployment and use of new services or approaches?

Increasingly I’m beginning to think that these type of events should be much more than dissemination channels and provide feedback mechanisms to provide responses, enable aggregated views to be analysed, etc. For an event aimed at staff and postgraduate research students at an institution, such as the Scholarly Communication Landscape symposium which was open to all staff and postgraduate research students at the University of Manchester it would seem that there was an ideal opportunity to gain feedback on the opportunities and challenges in the areas of scholarly communications. And those opportunities and challenges will be shared by many others in the higher education sector.

My concluding thoughts:  events can provide a valuable opportunity for gathering feedback and comments on the areas addressed at the event. There is an opportunity to gather such feedback  using simple technologies which may be very costly to gather in other ways. Open sharing of such feedback can be beneficial to the wider community.  So let’s do it.

Or to provide a more tangible example.  One could ask an audience from one’s host institution if they would be interested in using an communications tool such as Twitter or Yammer to support work activities. Or perhaps whether staff would be willing to make their professional outputs available under a Creative Commons licence.  An example of how this might be approached is given below.

Posted in General, Twitter, Web2.0 | Leave a Comment »

Asynchronous Twitter Discussions Of Video Streams

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 Nov 2010

Twitter Captioned Videos Using iTitle

Martin Hawksey’s software for using Twitter to provide captions of video continues to improve.  At UKOLN’s IWMW 2010 event we used the iTitle service to mash together videos of the plenary talks with the accompanying Twitter stream. As you can see from, for example, Chris Sexton’s opening talk at the event, you can go back in time to see not only what Chris said (nothing new in providing a video of a talk) but also what the audience was tweeting about at the time – and you can also search the tweets in order to go directly (once the video has been downloaded into the local buffer) to what may be regarded as crowd-sourced video bookmarks – for example a search for “finance’ shows that at 9 mins 35 seconds into the video there was a comment that “Does anyone seriously think HR, Finance, Payroll and Student Record Systems can be run as Shared Services??! #iwmw10?“.

Asynchronous Twitter Captioning

That is an example of being able to replay the Twitter discussions which took place during a live event. But what if you wanted engage in discussions of a recorded presentation? Back in June 2010 Martin published a blog post which described uTitle, a development to his Twitter captioning service in which “Convergence @youtube meets @twitter: In timeline commenting of YouTube videos using Twitter [uTitle]“. In the post Martin said that “Having looked at synchronous communication I was interested to extend the question and look at asynchronous communication (i.e. what was said about what was said after it was said)“.

An example can be seen from the uTitled video of the When The Ax Man Cometh video, which was originally published on Seth Odell’s Higher Ed Live webinar and featured an interview with Mark Greenfield. I felt that this interview, which Mark has described on his blog, would be of particular interest to those of us working in the UK’s higher education sector as it raises challenging questions about the future of Web and IT services in higher education (and note I should thank Martin for processing the video using uTitle and Seth and Mark for giving permission for the video to be used in this way). In particular it asks the audience to consider the implications of idea’s published in a book on A University for the 21st Century written by James Duderstadt, President Emeritus at the University of Michigan:

  • Higher education is an industry ripe for the unbundling of activities. Universities will have to come to terms with what their true strengths are and how those strengths support their strategies – and then be willing to outsource needed capabilities in areas where they do not have a unique advantage.
  • Universities are under increasing pressure to spin off or sell or close down parts of their traditional operations in the face of new competition. They may well find it necessary to unbundle their many functions, ranging from admissions to counseling to instruction and certification.

Although this book was published way back in March 2000 the view that “Universities are under increasing pressure to spin off or sell or close down parts of their traditional operations” is particularly relevant to those of us working in higher education in the UK in 2010.

So if you do want to join in a debate (as opposed to simply passively watch the video) you can add comments to the post on the Higher Ed Live Web site or you can use uTitle to give your thoughts  in real time using your Twitter account. An example of the interface can be seen below in which, in response to Mark Greenfield’s assertion that “For profit companies can adapt more quickly then Universities” I respond “If true, don’t we need to accept need top change rather than accept as inevitable“.


Rather than discussing the content of Mark’s talk in this post I’d like to give some comments on the use of Twitter for making asynchronous comments about a video clip.

The first comment is that if you do this as you watch a video your Twitter stream is likely to be confused.  Unlike use of Twitter at an amplified event you will be tweeting on your own, and you will not be taking part in a real-time conversation with others centred around an event hashtag.

Also, unlike a live presentation, it is possible to pause the video while you compose your tweet – and even fast forward to see how the ideas in the talk develop and then rewind and give your tweets. On a pre-recorded video we can benefit from the 20/20 hindsight which is not possible in real life :-)

I am also uncertain as to how people will feel about adding comments to such a video, especially those doing this when no comments have been published – there might be a concern that you will look stupid making a comment which the speaker addresses later on.

I should also add that when I made my two comments I used a second Twitter account in order to avoid spamming my Twitter followers within strange tweets.  (Note that as the account had not been validated by Twitter at the time, the tweets were not being displayed in the Twitter search interface – Martin retweeted the tweets in order to ensure that the uTitle display contained some comments).

I’d like to conclude by asking two questions:

  • Is there a demand for a service which provides captioning of pre-recorded videos?
  • Should Twitter users claim second Twitter accounts which can be used in conjunction with automated agents (such as uTitle)?

Posted in Finances, Twitter, Web2.0 | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Conventions For Metrics For Event-Related Tweets

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 Nov 2010

According to Summarizr there have been 6,927 tweets for the #altc2010 event hashtag, which compares with 4,735 tweets for the #altc2009 event. We can therefore conclude that there has been an increase of almost 50% in Twitter usage. Or can we? If we had carried out the analysis immediately after the event the numbers would probably have been different. And use of either of these hashtags now, when talking about a past event, will have a different context to using the hashtag during the event, when such tags provided some level of engagement with the Twitter community centred around the event’s Twitter stream.

In order to make meaningful comparisons there is a need to be able to filter the tweets in a consistent fashion. Fortunately the Twapper Keeper service allows tweets to be filtered by various parameters, including a date range. And since the Summarizr service uses Twapper Keeper to provide its statistics it is possible to use Summarizr’s metrics in a consistent fashion.

But what date range should be used? An initial suggestion might be for the day(s) of the event. But this would fail to include discussions which take place immediately before and after an event. In addition this could also mean that tweets from an international audience not being included, such as tweets from an Australian audience which take place the following day. Such confusions over dates might apply particularly to events held in other countries since the times used in Twitter are based on GMT.

In order to avoid such confusions when I cite statistics from Summarizr I now include tweets posted during the week of an event, typically starting on the Sunday and finishing on the following Saturday. For an event lasting for a day I start on the day before the event and finish on the following day.

The syntax for obtaining statistics from Twapper Keeper over a date range is:


sm is the start month (from 1 to 12)
sd is the start day (from 1 to 31)
sy is the start year (e.g. 2010)

em is the end month (from 1 to 12)
ed is the end day (from 1 to 31)
ey is the end year (e.g. 2010)

For example the following URL will give statistics for the #altc2009 hashtag between 6-11 September 2009:

and the following statistics for the #altc2010 hashtag between 5-12 September 2010:

This provides the following statistics:

ALT-C 2009 ALT-C 2010
Nos. of tweets 4,010 6,238
Nos. of twitterers    650    666
Nos. of hashtags tweeted    125    277
Nos. of URLs tweeted    554    683
Nos. of geo-located tweets        0      35

This indicates that there has been of 56% in twitter usage between comparable periods in 2009 and 2010.

Note that the statistics for the numbers of geo-located tweets demonstrate that in 2009 nobody was providing geo-located tweets for the event hashtag. This data could easily be lost if Twitter users today started to refer to the 2009 event and had started to make use of geo-location.

To sum up my proposal:

  • The start date for a one-day event is the previous day and the end date is the following day. This will address internationalisation issues due to engagement for those in other time zones and cover discussions just before and just after the event.
  • The start date for an event lasting longer than a single day is the previous Sunday and the end date is the following Saturday. This will address internationalisation issues due to engagement for those in other time zones and cover discussions just before and just after the event.

Is this a convention we can agree on, to ensure that meaningful comparisons can be made?

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Twitter | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

Is There A Need For An Auto-Delete Service For Twitter?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 Oct 2010

Is Twitter “For The Moment”?

Last month’s post on opting-out of Twitter archives generated some discussion on Twitter from a handful of people who felt that tweets shouldn’t be archived at all.   In the discussion (which I won’t cite!) there was a suggestion that tweets should auto-delete after a short period of time. Such an approach fits in with a view that Twitter is “for the moment“.

An auto-deletion approach has been taken by the #NoLoC service. This has been set up by those who are concerned about the US Government (actually the Library of Congress) archiving of tweets. Users who register with the #NoLoC service give permission for this service to delete tweets which contain a specified hashtash after 23 weeks – one week before tweets are archived by the Library of Congress.

Although this service has been set up for one particular context it made me wonder if this approach could not be generalised. Could a service be developed be developed which allowed users to specify a period after which their tweets would automatically be deleted, together with hashtags which would identify tweets to be deleted after this period?

Someone who normally uses Twitter for professional purposes but also tweets about football might tag such tweets with #footie and requests that such tweets be deleted after a few days. Or if you are going to a party or music festival you might specify that tweets with #party or #festival are deleted the following day.

This suggestion is generalising the approach taken by the #NoLoc service and providing the flexibility to allow the user to have control over the time period and hashtag. And unlike the Twitwipe service (which deletes all tweets from a user’s account) provides users will control over how and when their tweets are deleted.

However although this approach (which would probably need to be provided by a trusted organisation as you are giving rights for your tweets to be deleted to another organisation) will ensure that tweets are deleted from Twitter (and also not archived by the Library of Congress if the deletion period is less than 24 weeks) it doesn’t delete tweets which have been archived by other services (including services such as Twapper Keeper and Google).

Thoughts On Approaches to Auto-Deletion of Tweets

If Twitter is an important part of the information landscape (which I feel it is) there will be a need to address issues such as privacy and content management at a more fundamental level – and the view that archiving isn’t important or shouldn’t be done ignores the fact that it is being done and judging by the Twapper Keeper usage statistics published in our recent paper:

As of 1 July 2010 the Twapper Keeper archive contains 1,243 user archives, 1,263 keyword archives and 7,683 hashtag archives. There are a total of 321,351,085 tweets stored. The average number of tweets ingested per second is from 50 to 3,000 per minute (around 180,000 per hour. or 4.32 million per day). Since Twitter itself processes about 65 million tweets per day the Twapper Keeper service is currently processing about 6-7% of the total public traffic.

But how might a distributed environment for respecting Twitter users rights to be able to delete their tweets from Twitter and from conforming Twitter archiving services?

Would it be possible for a Twitter API to enable tweets deleted by an authenticated user from a Twitter archive to also be deleted from Twitter? And could tweets which have been deleted in Twitter (perhaps from a remote request) to then be deleted from other archives?

Of course this would not stop people from capturing tweets in other ways, or for Twittering archiving tools to fail to respect such a protocol. But this is also the case with the robot exclusion protocol – robot software from search engines which respect the protocol will not index files which have been excluded in a robots.txt file in the root of a Web server. But such excluded files are still openly available and robots which don’t respect this protocol can still index the files. However in reality most users will use trusted search engines which have implemented such a widely accepted standard.

Is such an approach technically possible today? And, if not, would it be possible if Twitter provided appropriate APIs?

Or Maybe We Should Simply Accept Twitter’s Openness

Of course there might be an argument that such developments are pointless – tweets will be treated as public property and so there’s simply a need to accept this. Or perhaps an alternative to Twitter could be used by those who still have concerns. What would be needed would be a walled garden which made it difficult for content to be accessed by other applications with permissions which allowed various levels of access control, such as access by friends, friends of friends, etc.

Hmm, I wonder if Facebook could be the answer :-) More seriously, perhaps we will find that different services are used by people in different ways – and I know I have read how people may use Twitter for open discussions in a work context and Facebook for closed discussions with friends and families. Perhaps rather than overload Twitter with complex content management mechanisms we should simply accept that Twitter is an open environment, with the risks and benefits which openness provides.

Posted in Twitter | 7 Comments »

Marketing Perpectives on Social Media

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 Oct 2010

Yesterday a tweet from Aline Hayes caught my attention. She was asking what the hashtag was for an event she was attending. The event was the UCAS Social Media conference and the event’s hashtag, I discovered was #ucassm.  The event seemed intersteing so I created a #ucassm column in TweetDeck so I could observe the discussions.  I also looked at the event’s programme and discovered several talks of interest, including  talks on “Social media market trends, statistics and conversion rates” and  “Using apps as a marketing tool” and workshop sessions on “Yougofurther social media website:  How to target students in a growing social media market” and “Facebook: How to maximise the exposure of your institution“, “Why Twitter should be a key part of your institution’s marketing strategy“, “YouTube Education/iTunes U (to be confirmed)” and “Social media ROI – what’s in it for me?“.

As I tweeted yesterday I suspect some of my Twitter followers would not agree with the areas being addressed in these talks – talks about the ROI of social media and, as one person tweeted, turning fans and followers into customers.  Isn’t Twitter, for example, supposed to be about the individual and have a radical edge, rather than being used as a mainstream marketing channel.

By view is that social media can provide both roles and if university marketing people are using social media to attract students then I would welcome this – after all such approaches can be more cost-effective than printing glossy prospectuses and launching TV ad campaigns. But note that I’m saying “can” – there’s a need to gather evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of such approaches. After all, when we hear the amount of the cuts in the Comprehensive Spending Review tomorrow we will be even more conscious of the importance of using our fundings in an effective way.

But was this conference exploiting the expertise in social media which is available within the sector.  Looking at the programme it seems that many of the speakers were from the commercial sector. And although I’ve nothing against such links I would be concerned if funding provided to higher education left the sector and failed to tap into the expertise we possess.

This occurred to me last night when I received a couple of tweets from Tony Hirst (@psychemedia).  I had created a Twapper Keeper archive for the #ucassm tag (I was surprised that this hadn’t been done already) and, during the day (while I was on the train to London and observing the #ucassm discussions on my mobile phone) tweeted various statistics relevant to the discussions, including providing a link to the Summarizr statistics for the #ucassm tag (there have been 218 tweets from 48 Twitterers; the top Twitterers were ucassm (63 tweets),  EddieGouthwaite (20), andyheadworth (16) and  Aline_Hayes (14)).

Recent developments to the Twapper Keeper Twitter archiving service have been funded by the JISC and the Summarizr service was developed  by Andy Powell of Eduserv: the sector does have a strong interest and expertise in developing and using tools which can be used to gather and interpret evidence of usage of social media services.

Tony Hirst’s tweets provided further evidence. He provided graphical interpretations of the event’s hashtag community (he has previously described the tools and methodology used to do this)  and followed this up with an analysis of possible spam followers – clearly if you want to demonstrate ROI you’ll want to be able to remove spam followers and bots which are unlikely to decide to attend a University!

What is to be done in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort within the sector, minimise flaws in data analysis and ensure that the sector can exploit existing tools? As I was travelling to London yesterday I went to the Russell Hotel in order to make contact with the conference organisers – but they had all gone by the time I arrived. I’ll try and make contact by email. I’d also welcome comments on the content of the UCAS Social Media conference. Are there significant differences of opinions between the developer and marketing sectors – or are we moving towards a consensus on the importance of gathering evidence and use of the social media by institutions?

Note that I should add that the final few tweets of the day were very positiove about the conference: “Very glad to be home at end of long but enjoyable day. #ucassm conf was inspiring but also daunting: so much to do.“” and “Feeling inspired by today’s #ucassm (social media) conference. Looking to get our students involved in lots of Facebook & Twitter projects!” One talk in particular which went down well was the one on “Social Media ROI – What’s in it for me?”. I was pleased that a number of the talks have been uploaded to Slideshare including this one, which is embedded below.

Posted in Social Networking, Twitter | Leave a Comment »

OMG! I Didn’t Intend Everyone To Read That!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 Sep 2010

A Context To Archiving of Digital Content

We’ve probably all had the experience  of creating digital content and, in retrospect, wishing we hadn’t said what we’d said, had rephrased our words or could delete all copies of the embarrassing content from hard drives around the world – and, if it were only possible, from people’s brain cells too!  I still cringe at the memories of the time I sent a message to a former colleague of mine complaining about a third party – and getting a phone call 2 minutes later asking if I was aware that the messages had been cced to the third party. Since then even if I don’t always spell check my messages I do try and check the distribution list before pressing the Send key.

User Management of Archiving of Tweets

Although these issues are nothing new: they include messaging systems such as Usenet New, instant messaging and email as well as publishing systems such as the Web.  In all of these environment digital content can easily be copied, forwarded to others and archived. But these concerns are being highlighted once again in the context of Twitter.  Although the creator of a tweet can delete the tweet, once it has left the Twitter environment it can be difficult to retain management of the content.

It is possible to delete tweets, but once they have left the Twitter environment it becomes difficult to manage them   The announcement in April 2010 that the Library of Congress will be archiving tweets caused the concerns over ownership of tweets to be revisited.  According to the Law and Disorder blog:

After “long discussions with Twitter over this,” Anderson and other LoC officials agreed to take on the data with a few conditions: it would not be released as a single public file or exposed through a search engine, but offered as a set only to approved researchers.

It is not obvious what an “approved researcher” is but it seems clear that this service won’t be able to be used for general use, such as embedding hashtagged event tweets on a video (as the iTitle tool does) or for providing statistics on usage of particular hashtags (as Summarizr does).

Whilst following the #ipres2010 tweets from the iPres 2010 conference, where my colleague Marieke Guy presented our joint paper on “Twitter Archiving Using Twapper Keeper: Technical And Policy Challenges“,  I became aware of the #NoLoC service which will prevent tweets from being archived by the Library of Congress. If you register with this service using your Twitter account any of your tweets which contain the #noloc, #noindex or #n hashtag will be automatically deleted from Twitter after a period of 23 weeks – one week before they are archived by the Library of Congress.

The Difficulties

This isn’t an approach which will help with those embarrassing tweets which have been posted – if you are alert enough to add the tag you will probably be thinking about what you are saying. It is also interesting to observe that the service appears to have been set up to prevent the government (should the Library of Congress be regarded as the US Government?) from keeping an archive of tweets: “Every single Twitter tweet will be archived forever by the US government” – it says nothing about Google having access to such tweets.

In addition I think it’s likely that users who use a #noloc tag on their tweets  will draw attention to themselves and their attempts to stop the government from archiving their tweets – I wonder if the government is already archiving #noloc tweets to say nothing of the tabloid newspaper which will have an interest in publishing embarrassing tweets from celebrities.  It will be interesting to see if any politicians or civil servants, for example, use this approach in order to protect politically embarrassing comments which the public should have a right to know about.

What Is To Be Done?

This discussion does make me wonder if there is a need to engage in discussions with Twitter over ways in which privacy concerns can be addressed. Would it, for example, be possible to develop a no-index protocol along the lines of the robots exclusion protocol developed in 1993 which provided a mechanism for Web site administrators to specify areas of their Web sites which conformant search engine crawlers should not index. Might Twitter developments, such as Twitter annotations, provide an opportunity to develop a technical solution to address the privacy concerns?

Of course once an archive of tweets is exported to, say, an Excel spreadsheet, there will be nothing which can be done to restrict its usage. So just like use of Usenet News, chat rooms and mailing lists perhaps the simplest advice is to “think before you tweet” – or, as the Romans may have put it, “Caveat twitteror“.

Posted in General, Twitter | 2 Comments »

Twitter Archiving Using Twapper Keeper: Technical And Policy Challenges

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 Sep 2010

In addition to the paper  on Approaches To Archiving Professional Blogs Hosted In The Cloud” which I mentioned last week a second paper was accepted by the programme committee of the iPres 2010 conference which is taking place in Vienna this week.  The paper, “Twitter Archiving Using Twapper Keeper: Technical And Policy Challenges“, was co-authored by myself, Martin Hawksey, John O’Brien, Marieke Guy and Matthew Rowe. The paper is based on the JISC-funded developments to the Twapper Keeper service.  As summarised in the abstract:

This paper describes development work to the Twapper Keeper Twitter archiving service to support use of Twitter in education and research. The reasons for funding developments to an existing commercial service are described and the approaches for addressing the sustainability of such developments are provided. The paper reviews the challenges this work has addressed including the technical challenges in processing large volumes of traffic and the policy issues related, in particular, to ownership and copyright.

As described on the JISC Beginner’s Guide to Digital Preservation blog my colleague Marieke Guy will be presenting a poster of the paper and will also give a lightning presentation at the conference.

A copy of the poster is available on Scribd and is also illustrated.

Note that the paper states that “The software developments which have been funded will be made available under an open source licence“. Since the paper was submitted this development has now been done, as described n a post entitled “Twapper Keeper Goes Open Source“, and the final stage of the work will include working with the JISC OSS Watch service to ensure that best practices for releasing open source software are adopted.

One particular aspect of this work which pleases me is the use of two additional services which have been built on top of the Twapper Keeper developments: Andy Powell’s Summarizr service, which provides various statistics on hashtag usage and Martin Hawksey’s iTitle Twitter captioning service.  Increasingly it seems to me that Twapper Keeper is becoming an established component in the provision of an amplified event,with the Summarizr service seeming to provide a common way of providing statistics on Twitter usage at such events.

Such (unfunded) developments are interesting in terms of identifying the return on the JISC’s investment in funding this work. If these services had been included in the formal project plan the costs would have been  much higher.  It seems to me that the rapid innovation we are seeing across a number of JISC development activities could be regarded as the ‘Big Society’ in operation – rather than requiring funding to ‘do good’ the community is demonstrably willing to do good without prompting. I wonder if policy makers and politicians are aware of the added value which is being provided within the high education sector which is unlikely to be formally audited?  Hmm – I wonder if this means that unfunded development work should be accompanied by formal project reports :-)

Posted in Twitter | 2 Comments »

Should I Take the Bus or Train To Bilbao?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 Sep 2010

On my final night in San Sebastian I tweeted:

I must admit San Sebastian is a beautiful place. But will be leaving tomorrow to go to Bilbao. Bus or train, which is best, I wonder?

A few minutes later @maturanaricardo (Ricardo A. Maturana) responded unambiguously: “Bus!

And a few minutes later I received another response, this time from @pintxolari who not only confirmed Ricardo´s suggestion but also provided links to the bus timetables: “definitely go by bus. ALSA or PESA are the bus lines“.

Ricardo had a vested interest in my trip to Bilbao as we had a meeting arranged for the following day.  The @pintxolari Twitter account, in contrast, seems to be owned by the ToDoPintxos service which provides a guide t0 pintxos (Basque tapas).  But its remit seems to also include provision of travel advice to visitors to the Basque County.

A good example of social search, I thought.  And it makes me realise how useful Twitter can be when travelling abroad.

Posted in Twitter | 1 Comment »

Are the Benefits of Multiple Event Hashtags Now Accepted?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 Sep 2010

A year ago I wrote a post entitled Hashtags for the ALT-C 2009 Conference in which I suggested use of a session hashtag in addition to the event’s hashtag in order to be able to differentiate tweets related to the numerous parallel session which were taking place at the conference. My suggestion for minting the session hashtag was simply to use the session’s code which was listed on the conference Web site – #s321 for the session I ran, for example.

It would be an understatement to say that, at the time, this suggestion didn’t receive a favourable response, with the following comments being made:

  • Sorry Brian, but I do think this scheme is too complicated for the lightweight Twitter approach“;
  • I really think this is trying to make Twitter something it isn’t. The very thing that people appreciate about Twitter is its lightweight nature and this is simply over complicating things“;
  • When you first started suggesting multiple hashtags, I think I assumed it was a bit of a comedy experiment. Now, it’s becoming clear that The Librarian Is Too Strong In You.“;
  • Way too complicated, messy, and just so damn cluttered“;
  • I’m in agreement with those that suggest this is over-complicating things – mainly because I struggle to see the problem it’s solving“;
  • Sorry Brian, I’m with the others here. Twitter is for catching the ‘buzz’”.

There were six negative comments with only one supporting, although in a somewhat lukewarm fashion, my suggestion:

In the past I’ve generally argued against multiple hashtags – agreeing with the comment that they introduce complexity. However, given the size of ALT-C, and the number of concurrent sessions, I have some sympathy with the issue that Brian raise

A follow-up post on “I Want To Use Twitter For My Conference” provided suggestions on use of Twitter to support events but avoided mentioning use of session hashtags. Chris Gutteridge, however, made a suggestion in a comment to the post: “At Dev8D2010, at the end of February, I plan an experiment of assigning each location a hashtag, then publishing an electronic form of the schedule so the twitter can be merged into each session via location+program data.” Chris also pointed out that use of session hashtag at IWMW 2009 “fell apart in small sessions in IWMW because nobody advertised them and people didn’t care enough to go to a webpage to check.

The suggestion that session hashtags could be processed by software was interesting. I also agreed with Chris’s implied suggestion that there was a need to promote session hashtags more effectively.

Summarizr statistics for hashtags used at IWMW 2010 eventSo at this year’s IWMW 2010 event we used a session tag more consistently throughout the event (#P1-#P9 for the plenary talks and #A1-A9 and #B1-B9 for the parallel sessions) and ensured that the chairs of the plenary talks encouraged participants to use the session tags when tweeting.

Did this work?  The Summarizr statistics for the #IWMW10 event hashtag provides details of the top 10 tweeted hashtags, as illustrated.  This indicates that the most widely discussed session was session #P8 – the group session on Doing the Day Job.  Whilst it is true that the session lasted longer than the other plenary talks (it consisted of three plenary talks) it is also true that this session included a rather controversial talk which generated much discussion on the Twitter back channel.  Looking at the usage of the other session hashtags we can see that Paul Boag’s talk on “No money? No matter – Improve your website with next to no cash”  – this does not surprise me as Paul’s talk was widely acknowledged to be the most inspirational and did generate much discussion after the event as well as on the Twitter backchannel.

It was also interesting to observe that #remote hashtag which was also widely used. We had previously stated that we would “treat the remote audience as first class citizens” and use of that hashtag seemed to be effective in communicating with those who were watching the live video stream remotely.

The session hashtag can also enable tweets about a particular talk or session to be further analysed. Although the comment had been made that the  “obsession with tracking, capturing and archiving everything to the nth degree just doesn’t fit with Twitter” in reality we are now seeing that a strength of Twitter lies not just in “catching the ‘buzz’” but also in the  interoperability the service provides. A good example of this is the way in which Martin Hawksey’s iTitle Twitter captioning service combines a twitter stream with a video of the talks.  And whilst this particular example is meant to illustrate how tweets can be reused, and is not  specifically related (currently!) to session hashtags (the tweets are integrated using a timestamp rather than a session hashtag) I am still convinced of the benefits of this lightweight approach to disambiguating tweets at large events.  A session tag was useful, for example, in my final conclusions about the session. When I gave my thoughts on the Doing the Day Job session, for example, the Twitter community could exploit the simplicity of the #P8 hashtag rather than attempting to coin a hashtag based on the title of the session or the speakers’ names.

Is the case for use of session hashtags at large conferences proven? After all if beer drinkers can make use of the beerspotr syntax which ranges from:

@beerspotr pint:x  (if you’ve spotted a pint)

through to:

@beerspotr bottle:x y%  (where y is the ABV of the beer)

@beerspotr bottle:x pub:y  (where y is the name of the pub)

I´m sure sober Web techies are capable of using two tags with no additional syntax required!

Posted in Events, Twitter | 5 Comments »

Twapper Keeper Goes Open Source

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 Sep 2010

I’ve previously described how JISC have funded development work for the Twapper Keeper Twitter archiving service and that I am the project manager for this work.

The initial area of work addressed the robustness of the service by seeking to “ensure the Twapper Keeper service could continue to be a viable platform for archiving tweets“. As described on the Twapper Keeper blognumerous operational / infrastructure issues were addressed“.

The second area to be addressed was the functionality of the service, both to end users of the Web interface and to developers who may wish to make use of the Twapper Keeper APIs.  The Twapper Keeper blog was used to gather suggestions for developments to the user interface and the APIs. In May a summary of the Plans for Updates to Twapper Keeper Functionality and APIs was published and these updates have now been implemented.

The final area of work was to address the longer term sustainability of the service. The approach taken was to minimise the risks of loss of the centralised Twapper Keeper by ensuring that the software components were available as open source.

On 25 August the Twapper Keeper blog “Announced yourTwapperKeeper – archive your own tweets on your own server!“.  This provided the information that “As part of our partnership with JISC, we are now releasing an open version of Twapper Keeper that is designed to run on your own server“.

So in addition to the main Twapper Keeper service there is now an “open / downloadable version that can be run on your server!” which is available from Google Projects. In addition there is also an option whereby you can subscribe to a hosted version of the Twapper Keeper service.

And, of course, you can export your data from Twapper Keeper in a variety of formats (HTML, RSS, JSON and MS Excel).

I’m pleased that the JISC funding for this development work has provided various benefits, not only for end users but also for the developer community. But most importantly, I feel, are the ways in which the development approaches have sought to address the much more challenging issues of the longer term sustainability.

Posted in Twitter | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Twitter Questions from #udgamp10

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5 Sep 2010

Responding to the Remote Audience

During my amplified talk on “What Can We Learn From Amplified Events?” I invited the remote audience, who were watching the live video stream and participating in discussions using the #udgamp10 event tag on Twitter, to announce, with a #eureka tag, if they suddenly understood a concept or idea and wer willing to share this moment with others. I also invited the audience to ask questions using the #qq tag as this would help me, and the event amplifiers who were providing support for the remote audience, to identify questions in the Twitter stream.

A Eureka Moment

There was on #eureka moment, when @hle, a  IT Developer at the Faculty of Education, University of Glasgow, announced:

#eureka #udgamp10 maximise learning rather than maximise pocket

This tweet was published at 11:10:48 on Friday 3 September. I have to admit that I´m not quite sure of the context, but once the Twitter stream has been synchronised with the video I´ll be interested to see what I said just before the remark was posted.

There were no tweets tagged with #qq, which could mean that my talk was clear and unambiguous :-) In reality I know that tagging questions hasn´t taken off (too much complex metadata, some would argue).  However I did look through the Twitter stream and noticed two questions in particular which I feel I should respond to.

How Would You Define An Amplified Event?

@dsegarraCAT, who, it seems, joined Twitter on the day of the seminar, asked for clarification of what an amplified event is:

The basics of amplified event = Videostreaming + tweet. Isn’it it? #udgamp10

This was interesting. In a talk on amplified events I had described how the term had originated and the key characteristics which I had summarised in my entry on Wikipedia. But, in retrospective, I realised that I hadn´t provided a brief definition. So let me see if I can provide a definition which can be summarised in a tweet (or a headline as such pithy summarises used to be referred to).

An amplified event = videostreaming+Twitter.

I think this is a good description of the typical amplified event, in which the speakers´talks are made available to a remote audience, often by video streaming, though this could also include audio streaming.   Use of Twitter is also prevalent, providing the opportunity for discussion by the audience,  engagement with remote participants and the viral effect whereby followers of those tweeting at an event can be drawn into discussions which they may otherwise have been unaware off.

However although this if a good description of a typical amplified event there is a danger of a definition being associated with a particular technology, such as Twitter.  One might also argue that event amplification does not necessarily require IT – event amplification for Harry Potter might involve gazing into a crystal ball or uttering a magic spell. So let´s try to decouple the notion of an amplified event from specific IT application areas.  Another view of an amplified event may be:

At an amplified event the speaker is open for their ideas to be made freely available.

And building on this notion of openness we might go on to add that:

At an amplified event participants will openly discuss ideas with others, whether physically present or not.

How do those attempts at a definition sound?

The Ethical Issues

In addition to her #eureka moment @hle also asked a very pertinent question:
What about ethics? If someone is unlikely to sue you, does it mean it’s right to do it and infringe somone’s privacy? #udgamp10

The context to this question was my suggestion that one needed to take a pragmatic approach to various potential legal concerns. Should one seek permission before reusing or quoting a tweet, for example (as I have done in this post)? I suggested that implementing a rigid policy (“all resources deposited in the institutional repository must be cleared for copyright“) might be counter productive if, for example, it was felt useful to archive conference-related tweets (which, incidentally, was a suggestion felt worthy of considering on the Twitter channel during the seminar). Instead I suggested the need for a risk assessment approach and cited the Oppenheim copyright formula which Professor Charles Oppenheim and myself had published in a paper on “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web” presented in Florence last December.

My discussions on legal concerns moved on to privacy issues, and I described how event organisers needed to be sensitive to individual concerns.  I mentioned the use of the Quiet Zone which we introduced at the IWMW 2009 event and was also adopted at the Eduserv Symposium earlier this year.  But the complexities of resolving the tensions between openness and privacy are not easily resolved, as I described in a post on OMG! Is That Me On The Screen?

As it is a Saturday night and I am in Girona I´ll not attempt to address this complex issue tonight, but I will try and revisit this issue in a future blog post.

Many thanks for these two fascinating questions during my seminar.  I´d, of course, welcome further comments on this blog.

Posted in Twitter | Tagged: | 19 Comments »

5,000 Tweets On

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 Aug 2010

Reflecting on 5,000 Tweets

I have recently published my 5,000th tweet.  My first tweet was posted on 14 March 2006, 9 months after Twitter was launched, and simply said that I was “Filling in my expenses forms, after trip to JISC Conference at Birmingham.”  Like most people’s initial experience of Twitter I had no clear idea of what Twitter was about or what benefits I could possible gain from it. But now, 5,000 tweets on, I have an opportunity to reflect on the benefits which Twitter has provided. Some evidence about my use of Twitter is available using the Tweetstats service, which was used to create the following Wordle which is based on the contents of my tweets. But rather than reviewing the statistics I want to provide an anecdotal summary of my Twitter usage.

Twitter Wordle for tweets posted by BrianKelly

Strengthened Professional Links

I have recently described how A Tweet Takes Me To Catalonia. In brief I discovered that a chemistry professor at the University of Girona has similar interests to mine in the potential of Web 2.0 to enhance various institutional activities e-and this led to an invitation to give a seminar  over there.

Better Peer-Reviewed Papers

There have been two examples of how Twitter enhanced the quality of my peer-reviewed papers. Earlier this year a paper on “Developing countries; developing experiences: approaches to accessibility for the Real World” won an award for the best communications paper at the W4A 2010 conference.  The paper included new insights into work on holistic approaches to Web accessibility which were provided by Sarah Lewthwaite and, as I’ve described previously, “It Started With A Tweet“.

I’ve not yet met Sarah face-to-face but I did meet two co-authors of a paper on “From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability” following tweets I received after giving a talk at the OzeiWAI 2009 conference. As I have described previously:

“the talk seemed to go down well – and I was particularly pleased that when I sat down after my talk and refreshed the Twitterfon application on my iPod Touch it provided me with instant feedback on the talk from two of the participants at the conference. @RuthEllison told me that she “@briankelly enjoyed your presentation this morning about a holistic approach to accessibility #ozewai” and @scenariogirl also showed some Australian warmth:  “@briankelly Fantastic talk this morning, I will come up and say hi at lunch ;)“.”

I did have lunch with Ruth Ellison and Lisa Herrod (scenariogirl) and discussed our interests in Web accessibility – which led to Ruth and Lisa providing case studies which were included in the paper.

On-the-fly Professional Development

There have been a number of occasions when I’ve arrived at work and discovered my Twitter community using an event hashtag to discuss talks being presented at a conference.  There have been several times when the Twitter discussion is informed by access to live video-streaming of the talks.  So I can say that Twitter has supported by professional development by alerting me to events and allowing me to contribute to the discussions rather than simply passively consuming the content.

Engaging In Discussions

Over a year ago I described use of Twitter For JISC Bid Writers And Web Developers In this example Grainne Conole asked “just about to do presentation at OU on how t get JISC dosh – any tweet suggestions to throw into the pot??? use #JISCBIDS” valuating bids.  Grainne received advice and I concluded with the remarks “What a wonderful example of how people involved in writing JISC proposals, those who have been involved in bid-writing previously, potential  markers and JISC programme managers themselves are willing to share their thoughts and suggestions. And, of course, such sharing is good for everyone – better submissions should be prepared which makes it easier for the markers and JISC and the wider community should benefit from the project deliverables“.

A few weeks later Twitter discussions centred about the evaluations of bids. In “What Are the #jiscbid Evaluators Thinking?” in which I summarised an “insight into the evaluators though processes by looking at the Twitter stream for tweets tagged with “jiscbids”.

So over the past couple of years I haven’t just ben involved in discussions about the #WorldCup or the #GeneralElection – much of the discussions have been about work activities.

Sharing One’s Work

Twitter provides an opportunity to sharing my wok with others and, unlike RSS, ensures that there is both a feedback mechanism and a simple means by which they can share such information across their own community. Twitter might be described as a viral form of RSS for sharing summaries of one’s work.

Promoting the Work of Others

On Friday 25 June, shortly before an interview on Radio 4, I tweetedTo museum people: I’m being interviewed about future of museums in digital age for Radio 4. Examples of good stuff needed #MakingHistoryLeeds – Radio 4 Making History programme“.  Terry McAndrew responded a few minutes later with the information that “biosci OER pilot project shows some UCL Grant museum to enable it to be accessed across HE #MakingHistory“.  I used this information in the interview and was pleased to be able to inform Terry that@terrymc Your VERB (Virtual Education Resource for the Biosciences) OER project is linked to from Radio 4 Web site“.


What do statistics about my tweets have to say?  The Tweetstats service tells me that “Your top five hashtags: #iwmw10, #online09, #mw2009, #linkeddata, #a11y.” Hmm, it seems that I make use of Twitter a fair amount to support the amplification of events. This service also provides a display of the numbers of tweets posted which is illustrated below.

Histogram of number of tweets posted.


Back in 2008 one Twitter sceptic invited us toImagine a world in which Twitter did not exist (give it a couple of years…) would you really invent a constantly-updated trivia machine as the best way of communicating with [your] audiences?”  A “constantly-updated trivia machine“? perhaps if you wish to use it like that – I don’t and I’m looking forward to the benefits provided by the next 5,00 tweets :-)

Posted in Twitter | 7 Comments »

A Tweet Takes Me To Catalonia

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 Aug 2010

At the end of the month I’m going on holiday to Spain which I’ll be combining with some work.  I’ll be giving a talk on “What can We Learn From Amplified Events?” at the University of Girona. The trip is a consequence of a tweet I posted in December:

Can someone tell me what language is in. And also is there a tool for guessing the language of a page.

I noticed the page from a referrer link to my blog and was intrigued by the following:

Un article clau, que no deixa indiferent, és el de Brian Kelly al seu blog UK Web Focus: “I Want To Use Twitter For My Conference” on exposa bones pràctiques en l’ús de twitter per organitzar un congrès o conferència. Les entrades de Kelly són molt rellevants i es tracta d’un blog que trobo de seguiment obligat, igual que Mashable, Community Roundtable o Social Media Today. Kelly té una entrada rellevant que hauria de seguir:I Want To Use Twitter For My Conference

Per entendre la relació apassionant entre twitter i blogging, Brian Kelly ha resumit idees clares en la seva entrada A Twitter Feed For This Blog i sobretot a Can Your Blog Survive Without Twitter? Jo encara estic en fase experiental en la meva arquitectura digital social. M’ha ajudat molt. (Per cert, en aquesta darrera entrada hi surt el meu retweet de l’article de Brian Kelly. Gràcies!)

I quickly discovered that the post was in Catalan and, via the suggestion that I use Google Translate, I was able to understand the meaning of the post:

A key item, not indifferent, Brian Kelly is UK Web Focus on their blog: I Want To Use Twitter For My Conference” which sets out good practice in using Twitter to organize a congress or conference. The entries are very relevant and Kelly is a blog that I follow up required, just like Mashable, Community Roundtable and Social Media Today. Kelly has a relevant entry to be followed: “I Want To Use Twitter For My Conference


To understand the fascinating relationship between twitter and blogging, Brian Kelly has clear ideas outlined in your post to A Twitter Feed For This Blog and especially Can Your Blog Survive Without Twitter? I’m still in my phase experiental digital social architecture. Helped me a lot.(Incidentally, this last entry, there goes my retweet article by Brian Kelly. Thanks!)

The blog post was written by Miquel Duran – and he was one of the people who responded to my tweet.  Via Google Translate I found that Miquel’s post began “If I must be frank, I was somewhat surprised the evolution of Twitter as a tool for communication and social networking. Indeed, as Facebook has changed to have features of twitter. From my professional point of view, twitter can do three things now: to present an idea, concept or something (a conference, an event calendar … in short) (unidirectional), retrasmetre an event in which different people use same hashtag (semibidireccional), generating conversation (usually public, but can also be closed) (bidirectional).

I subsequently discovered that Miquel is a Chemistry professor at the University of Girona and on his English language blog I recently read his post on Can a scientific meeting be amplified? (9gisem – v) and learnt about The IX Girona Seminar, an amplified conference for which:

First of all, we encourage all attendants and people outside the physical meeting to tweet and use hashtag#9gisem. Remember that the IQC will tweet through its nicks @iqcudg and @iqcgi, while the C4D will tweet by means of @c4dudg.

Presentations will be recorded by the UdG Library, and deposited in the UdG open-access digital library. All lectures must sign a written agreement. Indeed, if they prefer not to be recorded, it is perfectly fine.

Abstracts and powerpoint-like presentations will be gathered in social networking services like

We have, it seems, shared interest in amplified events so I’m pleased to be able to give a seminar on this topic, which I describe in more detail in a video summary about the talk. And I’m also looking forward to visiting Catalonia and will have a few days in Barcelona before travelling to Girona.   It will be a particularly good time to visit the region since, as I have learnt, FC Barcelona won the Word Cup :-)

Without the tweet and without the referrer link to my blog we wouldn’t have made the connection.  So if anyone asks me if Twitter has any relevance for researchers I can provide evidence that it does.

Finally should add that I’ve created a brief video which introduced the seminar. The video is available on YouTube and embedded below – and, as an experiment, I’ve used Google Translate to translate the captions to Catalan. Does machine translation have a role to play in translating such short snippets, I wonder?

Posted in Twitter | 8 Comments »