So you have your story or a big story is developing. Here are some online tools to find out what is the latest being said or coming from the ground. A lot of these do the same things but in different ways and with slightly different outputs. Play around and pick which one suits you best but bear in mind, stories develop differently and at a different pace so switch tools depending on the type of story and the output you’re looking for.
Who has the story?
Twitter is the place to go and get a live search for the hashtag. Often time for a big story you get noise and retweets. When you’re chasing something specific then go to Twitter’s advanced search. I’m not sure why it’s not in a more convenient place on the twitter site itself. This gives you loads more options especially location, people and even language. By far and away the best resource for big breaking events. And if they’re in another language just throw the tweets into Google Translate. The best thing I find is to explore the links to find pictures and video. If it looks good translate the tweets making sure you have the original tweeter and not a retweet. If the location isn’t given (remember, locations they have input themselves are sometimes their hometown and not where they are at time of tweet) scroll through their tweets to look for a foursquare entry. I always copy and paste the tweet and tweeter into a word doc as refinding things on twitter can be a real nightmare for big stories.
My next favourite is Topsy. If you search for a word it’ll include the hashtag. The presentation and navigation are great with hashtags being linked as well as the links to web articles appearing as in Google and not just a constricted url. To look at how much interest is being generated regarding the term you’ve searched there’s a nifty count on the left column. You can search by relevance or the latest and by web, tweets or photos. There’s a category called ‘exerts’ which I imagine is more the business model of this search as I don’t find it particularly useful or logical. What I do find useful is that to add colour to a story you can measure the volume of buzz generated by a term and compare it to another. This works particularly well for sports stories where you want to see which players fans are talking about which their club might buy, etc. The downside is Topsy is not real time so you’ll have to hit ‘search’ to get the latest.
Now we move on to Facebook and Twitter integrated searches in the form of Kurrently. As it’s name suggests it is live but thankfully you can change the stream speed. The benefit of searching Facebook is really to see what YouTube videos people are posting in their status and to a certain extent some sentiment. You can’t contact them as this application does not get past Facebook’s privacy settings. Their status will appear even if they are closed but click on them will lead you not to that part of their profile they allow non-friends to seen but to a search for their name. You gotta match the picture to the profile and try and message them.
The next step up is socialmention. This has the added benefit of an alert system for those investigative stories but for big breaking news like earthquakes and coups a real time search in your browser is going to be the best tool. There is the option of a web widget but since social content is unfiltered by nature there’s really no use for news agencies. It takes a while to load but it does crawl a magnitude of sites, from news to blogs to social networks. The added information that is most useful are the top keywords and users. It helps gauge what people are referring to and who are the most outspoken. The extra stuff about strength, passion and sentiment aren’t useful. Social sentiment analysis online is nascent and really not trustworthy at this stage.
The next one is icerocket. I like it for its simplicity. Although the name doesn’t make much sense its layout does. There’s a bit of buzz and top searches on the home page but once you search it lays it out like unrolling a carpet. Blogs, twitter, Facebook, videos, news and images. There’s even the option to have it update in time increments. What I like about this is that it puts blogs in the spotlight. The trend is social media, probably for its brevity both in space and time but I don’t think the media industry has explored the humble blog fully as angles and attitudes can be gleamed from people who have a passion to publish rather than post. Again, everything you need is linked. Lovely.
I know Twitter is the big trend because it is so much like a social wires service which is why twitter search tools like Searchtastic have popped up. You can search within your following and expand the links as so many contracted links have no information on the content in the tweet. If you’re a dedicated new media journalist then you’ve nurtured your account to work best for you and this is a nice way to keep tabs. But the best tool by far for a journalist is the option to export the results as an Excel sheet with the expanded urls.
I’m not sure how useful Facebook is as I haven’t found much use for it but a Facebook specific search is Open Book. One strange fact is that you can filter the statuses by male or female. Not sure how you’d use that. The only links are the users and that takes you to the Facebook search. For local news concerning friends of victims or eye witnesses to specific events this may be useful but you’ll have to check out their profile for location.
My latest favourite is Who’s Talkin. Not only is this all encompassing when it comes to searching news, blogs and social media but there’s the Excel export option, an API and even an iGoogle gadget! For refining searches by online medium nothing compares to this. But this is the next level in refining your search as there’s no great general overview page. No quick ‘here’s a bunch of the best updates, posts and videos’ page. This is when you’re looking for a specific angle and the person who has it. If you’re investigating and you’re waiting for someone to mention something specific to your case then check this one out. For big breaking news when you need the latest this will not work as it’s not real time.
And finally, a nifty tool for searching beyond the here and now is SnapBird. Once you’ve found someone saying something interesting you can check back on their tweets that are over 10 days old. It may give you a bit more background to their story or a foursquare post could put them where you need them to be. If you’ve nurtured your twitter account then this will allow you search back through your friends’ tweets as well as your direct messages and favourites. Often times you find an interesting tweet but need to know more on how the tweeter has reached that part of the story. I haven’t had to use this myself but it’s good knowing it’s out there.