Sunday, September 18, 2011

Twitter scans - Location based scans using Tweetdeck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NUS library OR libraries OR librarian OR librarians

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

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

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

Other methods?

Again quoting myself....

3 Techniques were suggested to find relevant tweets

1) Keyword match -e.g. NUS Library
2) Geolocation - e.g. Finding tweets about library within 1 km of your location.
3) Filtering based on person Tweeting - e.g. If user is following you or organization related accounts and tweets about library, it's probably about you.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 10, 2011

8 different tools to add "flash" to your presentation

I don't have much artistic or design skills so I like playing with tools that help mask this lack of skill. The following are some tools that allows even someone like me to create more flashy presentations/visualizations/mashups without much skill or effort.

Some of the tools below could be used at presentations, others could be a unusual visualization that you show on LCD monitors and other digital signages.


The first is Flotzam, I mentioned this back in 2009, it can mashup your library Flickr, Twitter, Youtube, Digg , Facebook and RSS feeds.

It doesn't seem to be supported anymore. Do note that this is not a web online service, but the program needs to be downloaded and run on your computer.


Interestingly, the next one I have played with like Flotzam is also associated with Microsoft but this one is actually a website. It allows you to create a Montage :)

The number of options are quite varied, you can add flickr, youtube, blogs via RSS feeds or add Twitter (keyword or Timeline) in various styles (list vs Slideshow, animation direction etc). In the example below, I have sources from the library YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, LibAnswers RSS and various blogs.

The main issue is that I can't find a way to embed this so below is a static picture (click on the url below to see how it actually looks like with animation).


I've also blogged about this one in 2009, it's still going strong.  Recently, my library adopted it officially to show a timeline of developments. The example below does all entries manually I believe, but one could also plugin entries from RSS, Twitter, YouTube etc.

Google Search Stories

This one isn't a mashup, but is interesting in it's own right. Google Search stories, allows you to create nice videos based around google searches. There was even a competition for it specific to libraries. BTW in case you are wondering many of these searches are real, an increasing number of students are googling for library related information like borrowing limits rather than navigating through our portal pages from the front page.

Prezi, PPTplex

This is more of a presentation tool (an alternative to powerpoint). Plenty has being written about this including my own post covering Prezi and similar alternatives. Prezi is not easy to use well, The Wikiman (Ned Potter) is perhaps one of the most effective users of Prezi I know of in Libraryland and he has written several posts on how to use Prezi well (here and here and the "ultimate guide").

Below is a very impressive use of Prezi by the master himself (another nice one here). Others have used it for review games for Information Literacy classes. An alternative to Prezi is Ahead and PPtplex (another Microsoft product).

A test  PPtplex I converted from a powerpoint

Personally I like PPtplex because it is easier to use then Prezi, as it is a Powerpoint plugin you basically create it the same way as a Powerpoint so the learning curve is less.


Xtranormal has the tag line "If you can type, you can make movies" and it's really that simple! Just select a background, select 1 or 2 characters, type in dialogue, select a couple of camera angle and special animations using point and click and you get a cartoon animated movie with no programming required.

Below shows a recent library related one that is pretty funny, though you get the joke better if you know about cataloguing and FRBR.

Conversation Between a Patron and the Library Catalog-short
by: j.weinheimer

Want more? See my coverage of funny library related Xtranormals


What about if you want to mix videos, photos with a soundtrack and animations/transitions in a slideshow? Traditionally you would use something like Finalcut or Windows Movie Maker but there are services and tools that make it easier.

Animato is probably the most famous, such tools have algorithms that automatically match the best soundtracks, transitions etc, or you can decide yourself. Animato is limited to only 30 seconds though.

Flixtime directly competes with Animato and is slightly less limited allowing up to 60 seconds.

There's a iPhone/iPad called Videolicious  that reminds me of Animato and is totally free but it is strictly for short 60 second videos only.

These are not all that are available of course, there are others listed in 10 Great Ways to Create Library Videos many are similar to slidesix , basically online slide creators.


Of course, presentations are not about the tools you use but a little flash and novelty never hurt anyone! What other tools do you use to create interesting, unusual presentations/visualizations?

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