Your Twitter Stream Just Got More Interactive!

Twitter announced today that tweets containing links to a whole new set of partner sites will become interactive. It will allow for users to preview content, view images, play videos and more. The list of partner sites contains TIME, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and more. The feature will be made available both the regular and mobile twitter sites.

More details available on the Twitter Blog

Facebook Messaging: It Is Not Email, But Might Just Be Email’s Nemesis


Facebook announced its new messaging system earlier this week. They have also released the above nifty video that walks through the changes brought about by the new system.

Two things jump out from the video. Firstly, you bet they are serious about messaging this time around. It is fair to assume that the current messaging is the best kept secret among Facebook’s features. Even the few users who are aware seldom prefer it to regular email. The new changes promise to change that and make messaging a crucial tool for Facebook users.

The second thing that jumps out is that the new system is not email. What it really is may be a little less obvious, even after watching a four minute video, but it definitely is much more than email.

If not email, then what?

The best explanation is to think of it as a system that could replace email for casual messaging. Facebook has already replaced email for non-private, casual messages. But, thanks to the myriad Facebook privacy issues, email continues to be the popular fallback for private messaging. The new system aims to change that by bringing the sense of privacy users get from email, right within Facebook, where they already spend a lot of time.

Another reason users have had to go back to their email is to communicate with people outside Facebook (or those that are not active on Facebook). The new messaging system makes it easy to send messages to the email boxes and phones of such contacts. Further, by providing a account, it also lets those outside Facebook to contact Facebook users via email.

Lastly, by providing the option to specify if we want to receive our messages via email or SMS or on IM, the new system further lets us untie ourselves from the email paradigm. Admittedly, this last feature is a little too remniscent of Google Wave.

One thing that may not be worth looking forward to is that Facebook will also have access to our private conversations and can use it for targeting us with more ads. Lucky for us, Gmail has got us used to having our private messages parsed!

A First Look at RockMelt

In a day and age where people are spending a majority of their time online RockMelton social networking sites, it was only a matter of time before a browser came along that was built around social networking. RockMelt does just that.

Facts first. RockMelt requires you to have a Facebook account. You need to log into your Facebook account before you can do anything. Once inside, the browser is broadly divided into three areas for the three main jump off points for browsing. The left side of the browser is for interactions with your social graph. The sidebar holds the list of your Facebook friends and you can post to their walls or initiate chat sessions with them. The middle area is for Search initiated browsing, complete with a Google Search box. The right side bar holds the list of your subscription feeds, including your twitter feed. Selecting any single feed brings up the list of stories with a brief preview.

There are several things that RockMelt has gotten right. Firstly, they have leveraged the Chromium project. Not only has Google done a great job of building a solid browser in Chrome, but RockMelt can completely leverage Chrome’s rapidly growing user base.

Secondly, RockMelt has stolen a huge stride over social networking clients such as Seesmic and TweetDeck. While these tools are sophisticated in working with Twitter and Facebook, they still force users to switch back and forth between their social interactions and their browsing. RockMelt truly recognizes the narrowing of the separation between the two.

RockMelt also does a great job with the onscreen real estate. Widescreen monitors are fast becoming the order of the day. There is really no reason to hang all features off the central area like browser plugins have done for ages. By making use of sidebars and also clearly associating different functionality to different areas of the screen, RockMelt vastly simplifies browsing.

There are however a few things that RockMelt needs to watch out for. The basic concept of incorporating social networking aspects within a browser is more evolutionary than revolutionary. Considering the number of browsers fighting for attention, it is only a matter of time before one of the major browsers come up with a matching feature. In fact, Mozilla Labs has released a Firefox extension that enables in-browser link sharing across social networks.

Google and Facebook’s increasing hold over our online lives have led to many privacy concerns recently. RockMelt will be in a unique position to gather data from users’ Facebook and Google usage. RockMelt claims that it will not gather such data, but it will perhaps be a question that they would have to answer more than once. At least until they become as big as Google or Facebook.

F1 by Mozilla Labs Makes Social Sharing a Breeze

Mozilla Labs has released a new Firefox extension that makes sharing links an easy, fun experience. Named F1, the extension currently connects to Twitter, Facebook and Gmail. Connecting to the services is straightforward and is done within seconds. Once connected, users can share links from any webpage, without having to interrupt their browsing experience.  

The extension also takes care of URL shortening, in the case of posting to twitter ( being the URL shortner used), and including a screenshot and description, in the case of posting to Facebook.

The following video provides a demo.

Mozilla Labs F1 from Mozilla Messaging on Vimeo.

Venturing into the Stock Markets? Check the Twitter Mood First!

stock marketTwitter Mood can predict stock markets. That’s the conclusion arrived at by a group of researchers after analyzing 9.7 million tweets sent out by 2.7 million twitter users, between March and December of 2008.

The Indian University research team comprising of Johan Bollen, Huina Mao, and Xiao-Jun Zeng described the discovery as accidental. Bollen and team were actually looking to build a better emotional barometer for tweets. Once the system was developed, they were experimenting with it to see if the emotional state of the twitterverse had any correlation to other events. That’s when they stumbled on the connection.

How do you gauge the Twitter Mood at any given time, anyway? Turns out, it is done by looking for the presence of any of a set of words which are strong emotional indicators. The research team initially came up with 72 adjectives. Subsequently, they leveraged a Google (Google is always in the mix somewhere!) Open Source project called Profile of Mood States (GPOMS). The GPOMS algorithm uses a much larger database of mood indicator words to determine the levels of six states – happiness, kindness, alertness, sureness, vitality and calmness. The eureka moment occurred when Bollen and team noticed a correlation between the levels of calmness in the twitter stream on a particular day and the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the next two to six days.

The significance of the discovery can be gauged by the fact that when solely using stock market data from the past, the accuracy of predictions is around 73.3%. However, when the data associated with the levels of calmness is added, the accuracy jumps to 86.7%. A more sophisticated prediction algorithm could perhaps better leverage the mood data and get to an even better level of accuracy.

There are however a few holes to be addressed in the theory. First and foremost, there is currently no explanation as to why the calmness in the twitterverse affects the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Secondly, the research used tweets sent out by users around the world. Again, there is no plausible explanation for how tweeters outside the U.S. can alter the course of an American stock index. Yet, the model was able to predict the stock market during the depths of the 2008 recession, arguably one of the most challenging times from an economic perspective. Not bad for any model, let alone for one from outside the economic world.

Sources: Wired, Technology Review

Image Credit: Katrina Tuliao (Flickr)

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