In January 2012 I wrote Ten of my favourite reporting and analysis tools for Twitter. Lots of people commented and suggested their own favourites, so a couple of months later I wrote a follow-up, imaginatively entitled Ten (more) of my favourite reporting and analysis tools for Twitter.
I re-read both posts a few days ago, and tried out some of the links I’d not used recently. As expected, a lot has changed over the last few years.
In this post, I’ll revisit the two lists from 2012, noting what’s changed, what’s working, and what’s kaput.
Choose a subject
For all of the tools mentioned here, I’m going to see what they can tell us about Twitter activity for the hashtag #opendata. In case you’ve not heard of it, ‘open data‘ is data (like spreadsheets, files, videos, images etc) that anyone can access, use and share.
Before we begin
If you choose to try any of these tools yourself, you’ll need a Twitter profile, and – due to a change in the Twitter Application Programming Interface (API) – you’ll probably need to log in, and authorise the tool to access Twitter on your behalf. If you do so, please take care before agreeing to anything, and note you can easily revoke these permissions again via the apps settings in your Twitter profile: https://twitter.com/settings/applications
Yes, based on the previous two titles, the total should add up to 20, but I tagged on a couple of extras at the end of my second post, so I’ve included them here as well.
Sentiment 140 (which in my first post was called Twitter Sentiment) assesses the sentiment or ‘mood’ expressed in individual tweets. I’m generally pretty skeptical about automatically detecting sentiment in individual tweets, particularly as a tweet could be sarcastic or might be issued by a parody account, but a quick look can be useful to assess the overall mood on a given topic.
In this example, at a glance, the mood about open data appears generally very positive, with just 1 negative, 14 positive and 4 neutral tweets. From this single snapshot, I’d say that Sentiment 140 has summed up the mood pretty well, as open data is generally perceived as a good thing, but there’s still lots to do (like have a coherent set of standards).
2. Tweet Archivist
Tweet Archivist (which in the earlier post was called The Archivist) is presented as “Essential analytics for tracking and archiving Twitter.” In 2012 the tool was completely free, but functionality is limited to a snapshot in time, and there’s more available when you subscribe. This is what you now get when you enter a search term and hit “Try it for Free”.
It’s clear that this is just a snapshot, and you would need to subscribe for the list to be updated regularly.
Each of the headings on the right can be expanded by clicking the arrow on the right. Some of the word clouds potentially be quite useful as quick pointers to who the most active / influential users are, what other hashtags are being used. From this, you might note that opendata commonly appears with other hashtags, like #bigdata and #openscience, and that there are some particularly active opendata tweeters like @OpenDataSoft and @DSMeu.
If you find a heading interesting, you can click on the word or magnifying glass, and see more information. One aspect I really like about Tweet Archivist, is that it lets you embed the charts on your own web site if you wish to do so, or in a blog post like I’m doing here (note you can scroll down through the chart to see a list, which is clickable). It also looks like these individual charts are updated regularly, even with the free version.
Appears to be defunct, and the link times-out.
I still use Hashtagify regularly, and I think it’s one of my favourite favourites. It’s basically a quick, easy and friendly way to explore which hashtags people use in conjunction with each other. From the front page, you type a hashtag and hit return. You’ll then be presented with a summary screen, and you can click between the tabs to see top influencers, how the hashtag is used over time, and individual tweets displayed on a wall.
I particularly like Advanced Mode to explore related hashtags, as in the screenshot below. It can be really useful to know which combinations of hashtags people use when tweeting. In this example, I’ve started with the #opendata hashtag, then switched to advanced mode, and clicked on the SmartCities bubble to see all of the other hashtags which people use when they talk about Smart Cities on Twitter
Table Mode is another useful view – showing whether hashtags are increasing or decreasing in popularity over time.
All in all, there are some really good features available for free with Hashtagify, and it looks like there are many more available with the various subscription options. I’d personally welcome the ability to embed charts, but that doesn’t currently appear to be possible in either the free or paid versions.
Topsy Social Analytics
Topsy, and it’s associated Topsy Social Analytics is defunct, and the link times-out, which is a shame, as the analytics used to have some pretty neat features.
tweetreach is still going strong, and I’ve used their service a few times over the years. This is an extract of what you see once you’ve selected a search term from the front page. You get a list of up to a hundred free, and thereafter you can buy a full report. You can also download the data or get it as a PDF report if you prefer. It’s fairly basic, but quite useful as a snapshot record.
In my previous post I described Hashtags as “a simple tool that allows you to specify a hashtag and see recent tweets using that hashtag”. That’s still very much the case for the free version, as most of the functionality is only available to paying subscribers. There really isn’t enough substance in the free version for it to remain on a list of free tools.
Defunct, and the domain is up for sale.
Still exists, but I couldn’t find anything worth mentioning, and it wouldn’t feature on my list nowadays. If you like celebrity gossip, then maybe have a look at Favstar.
Currently unavailable and the site says “Due to Twitter’s API changes, TweetGrid will be down for a bit. Be back soonish?”
Crowdbooster still exists, but only offers a ‘free trial’, so no longer counts as a free tool
I’m pleased to report that Trendsmap is still a useful tool, which gives you information for free! In the example below – whilst there’s nothing relevant to my chosen hashtag open data – there are various tags and words displayed on a map for a chosen area. If you’re interested in Twitter activity for an area or region, then this could be really useful. In this example, there are quite a few tags and words which refer to running, and specifically the Great South Run, with a higher concentration near Portsmouth. If you find something which interests you, Trendsmap allows you to click on a word, and a selection of tweets associated with that word will be displayed on the right hand side. For a free tool, that’s pretty good! There is also more information and detail available to paying subscribers.
Tweetstats offers to graph tweets for an individual profile. In my original post I noted that it takes a few minutes to generate the graphs, but that it was worth the wait. However, at the time of writing it’s been longer than half an hour with the message “magic happening”, so I am reluctantly concluding it’s no longer working (either that, or it’s a long term spell!)
Another one bites the dust. Sadly, Nutshellmail is no longer available.
Crowdfire (formerly Justunfollow) is another tool pitched at individual users. I use it occasionally to see if there are accounts I follow which have stopped tweeting (in which case I unfollow them). There are various other facilities as well – recent followers / unfollowers, keyword follow etc – but I tend not to use them. Crowdfire also offers to automatically send a Direct Message (DM) to new followers. Please do not use this as it is extremely annoying!
Bing twitter maps
Another one which is defunct.
The site still exists, but the tool no longer works
The site still exists, and offers some results for a few news sites, but no longer works for Twitter (as it has not been upgraded to work with the new Twitter API)
The site still exists, but only a few search results are displayed and I gave up waiting as the screen seemed to lock-up.
Twazzup offers real time monitoring of Twitter, and highlights the top keywords associated with a search term or hashtag. You can also hover the mouse over a keyword to see a list of tweets, with the keyword highlighted within individual tweets. This can be useful in finding out what’s going on in the world of opendata at a particular point in time.
Aaron’s Twitter Viewer
Site exists, but is unusable (returns an error message)
Surviving free tools
So, that’s 15 eliminated from my original list of 22. Here are the survivors as a simple list:
So, only seven free tools which are still worth mentioning. That’s it for this post. In the next one, I’ll have a look around for new tools and add them to the list.
If you know of any great tools, please ping me a comment with a link and I’ll add it to the list.
Bye for now
Featured image The British Library on Flickr: Image taken from page 391 of ‘Memoirs of Bartholomew Fair … Fourth edition’ https://www.flickr.com/photos/britishlibrary/11126167773/in/photolist-hXbw3R Slightly embellished to colour the bird blue.