Real Time Information

By joshuaaajoshuaaa (1261281408|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

Real time has become prime time. In today's fast paced world, we need information, and we need it now. Tools like Twitter (and the mass of "twools" that have come with it), Delicious, and real time search engines have given us the ability to see what the world is talking about right now.

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Twitter

First it was MySpace, then Facebook, now it's Twitter. Or at least that seems to be the current sentiment; however, studies show that Facebook is much more prevalently used than Twitter, as depicted in the graph below, on the left. This sentiment can most likely be due to the newness of Twitter, and the very quick, large increase in usage at the beginning of its life, shown in the rightmost graph. Just for kicks, here's a link to a recent list of the most popular sites on the web.

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Regardless of usage, the usefulness of Twitter is becoming known. I do not think there exists a better tool for metering popular sentiment about a particular subject at any one point in time. When we first signed up for Twitter at the beginning of BIT330, I wasn't particularly excited, nor upset, just indifferent. It was kind of cool to tell all my friends that class was cancelled one day via Twitter (although the reasons for which it was cancelled were not cool), and that I got "tweet texts" from my professor every now and then, but at the beginning I didn't quite see the point. Now, however, Twitter provides me with multiple RSS feeds, a good amount of my news events, and great updates on all three of my companies. For example, I am following UPS News, the USPS Official Blog, and FedEx News on Twitter, and receive text messages whenever they make a new post.

And not only is Twitter itself useful, but the multitude of tools that have been created to better harness the power of real time information are great. Pretty much any word you can think of has a "twool" named after it, created by replacing the first few letters so as to make it "twitterfied" (i.e. Twendz, Tweetube, Twittorati, etc.).

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While these tools haven't been very useful for my term project, I can definitely see them being useful in everyday life. Dilemmas such as looking for a good movie to watch, a fun place to hang out, or a good place to eat can all be solved using these handy tools.

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Delicious

Delicious (sometimes alternatively called del.icio.us) is a very convenient tool when an RSS feed is not available. It is an online bookmarking tool, allowing you to "favorite" as many pages as you could ever need. In trying times, one's bookmark bar can run short on space — it is in these times when Delicious becomes even more useful.

In addition, this tool also allows you to tag your bookmarks, making them categorized and easily searchable. To the right is a screenshot of my BIT330 bookmarks; as you can see, it is very neat and organized, with customizable bookmark titles and descriptions. In addition to that, you can also search for other users' bookmarks by running a query in the search box. This means that not only are you relying on the pages that you've found, but you also have access to every other Delicious user's bookmarks. Wisdom of crowds strikes again.

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Real Time Search Engines

Tools such as One Riot, Scoopler, and Collecta allow you to search for real time information, typically across sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Digg, and MySpace. These tools haven't proven to be as useful as Twitter itself, as my queries generally result in the recent tweets about that topic. I can do this by searching Twitter, and even better, I can then subscribe to an RSS via Twitter. Unless you have a query that produces quality results from multiple sites, including Twitter, I don't think real time search engines are very useful.

For example, when I ran my query regarding USPS, all the results were tweet, half were about topics I already knew about through other sources (this somewhat defeats the usefulness of "real time"), and few were useful.

Conclusion

Real time has become a decent addition to my information arsenal, particularly (surprisingly) Twitter. I access Twitter at least once a day, whether it is from my Google Reader feeds, my cell phone, or online. Twitter is one of the tools that I will definitely maintain after this class has concluded.

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