Trendsmap is a web tool that allows users to track Twitter trends on a local, state or global scale (Integrated Marketing, n.d.). The tool collates features from Google maps and trend-trackers such as twitscoop (McMillan, 2012) to create a real time, visually enhanced version of a Twitter feed (Fitzpatrick, 2012). Social media has become a vital technology for 21st Century mass communication (LaMothe, 2009), particularly for media professionals reporting on breaking news (Hacker, Seshagiri, 2011). If used effectively, the Trendsmap platform has the potential to augment the processes of reporting breaking news.
How to use Trendsmap
Trendsmap is powered by geoip, Google’s geolocation tool which locates a user by assessing geographical position via the computer or mobile phone device. The user is automatically directed to the country they are in. Once the site is loaded, the user may choose to zoom in to a more localised area or zoom out to another location.
Once the target area is found, size- and colour-coded Tweet topics appear in real time. The user can select a trending topic and its Twitter feed will appear. As demonstrated in Figure 2, selecting “crows” results in all current tweets about Adelaide Crow’s AFL team filing into the feed.
If the user wishes to search for a particular topic, there is a standardised search engine located in the top right-hand corner of the user interface. If there are existing Tweets at the time of the search, the trending topic will appear in the search engine as seen in Figure 3.
As well as Tweets on the trending topic, the Trendsmap feed provides a chart of the topic’s local and global popularity over the previous seven days and links to additional media, as seen below. The tool also features a list of global, city, country trending users and topics, providing the user with hyperlinks similarly to Twitter’s trends lists.
Trendsmap for media professionals
Trendsmap is an ideal tool for media professionals reporting breaking news stories. Trendsmap’s most useful feature is its ability to show the user news as it unfolds faster than ever before.
Twitter’s original notion of trend-tracking is in list form, as seen in Figure 5. Its trends lists provide hyperlinks to the main topics streaming in real time.
Trendsmap has purposively replaced list form with map form to allow users to access trending Tweets more quickly and easily. The Twitter tool provides journalists with a visual way of monitoring breaking news, as demonstrated in Figures 6 and 7.
In today’s journalism world, news is breaking on social media platforms before it reaches news outlets and trend-tracking breaking news is not a new concept for media professionals (Hodge, 2010). Academics are continuously finding social media trend-tracking taking over the avenues to find news first (Diakopoulos, 2012). Barb Palser (2012) writes that “the media are working through Twitter, not racing it.” Like to the Facebook effect, it is becoming hard to remember what communicators did before the invention of micro-blogging and social networking.
“Is Twitter breaking news now? Is that a thing?” (Palser, 2012). In most fast-paced newsrooms, media professionals monitor Twitter for breaking news topics. It significantly reduces the time it takes to release important news stories. News outlets link Twitter and Twitter tools to support their online story content (Colorado Theater Shooting, 2012). While it is the place to find original breaking news, reactions, opinions and statements, Twitter’s user interface does not always provide the quick, visual indicators of news that journalists need in a newsroom.
From a media professional’s viewpoint, this is where Trendsmap beats Twitter. Diakopoulos (2012) describes the use of Seriously Rapid Source Review (SRSR) in relation to Twitter and automatically identifying eye witnesses. Trendsmap applies the SRSR concept to the world’s top, real time topics. Eye witnesses who use social media platforms – whether frequently or not – are very likely to Tweet if they observe a significant, unanticipated event. Twitter applications on mobile devices have given Twitter-users the ability to Tweet from almost anywhere.
Journalists can rely on Trendsmap’s ability to keep them accurately informed in the wake of a natural disaster. Not only does Trendsmap keep media professionals up-to-speed on an event, it can help visually improve a story. Here is a demonstration of how the website works during a natural disaster. After watching the sequence, consider the ABC’s coverage of the Samoa earthquake and tsunami and imagine how well a frequently updated version of the Trendsmap clip would significantly enhance the story.
Constraints for media professionals
As a direct product of Google maps and Twitter, Trendsmap shares some of those sites’ limitations. Google maps and its locating feature can become unresponsive to the zoom feature, as seen in Figure 9.
Opinions shared on Twitter may not be written in a format that complies with news outlets; trending sources may lack credibility; and it may be difficult to source an array of differing opinions on the topic without researching elsewhere.
Trendsmap has the potential to benefit from additional features such as an application that allows users to drag Tweets found on the user interface into a place to write a story. This idea is modeled on features used by storify (Diakopoulos, 2012). However, using Trendsmap to present a story is not the design-preferred intent for the tool.
It appears that there are very few constraints that apply to the most effective use of the tool: discovering breaking news fast. While constraints on the journalistic process of preparing and presenting news stories do exist on Trendsmap, the tool affords journalists being made aware of significant breaking news stories in real time. This feature far outweighs any contraints or cons detailed in the following summary matrix.
Trendsmap pros and cons summary matrix
|Selecting a topic|
|Media research (Ricketson, 2004; Spencer, 2006)||- Tool allows user to research certain topics in a real time format||- Hard to find information related to topic that is not real time. User may need to go elsewhere to find background of topic.|
|Newsworthiness (Ricketson, 2004; Spencer, 2006)||- Tool provides the world’s most newsworthy stories in real time according to Twitter||- Not all information is newsworthy. Spam and unreliable chain Tweets are often transferred onto Trendsmap.|
|Angle (Ricketson, 2004; Spencer, 2006)||- Tool allows user to discover more angles that potential audience are most concerned about||- The array of objective opinions required for a story may not always be found with the tool. User may need to go elsewhere for various sources|
|Defining topic (Ricketson, 2004; Spencer, 2006)||- No feature to define. Unless user has prior knowledge or Tweets provide definition, user may need to go elsewhere to define topics.|
|Choosing sources (Ricketson, 2004; Spencer, 2006)||- User can track peoples reactions to sources with the Twitter hashtags/@ features|
|Facts and figures (Ricketson, 2004; Spencer, 2006)||- User may not find accurate facts and figures on Trendsmap. Twitter users can not always be relied on to pass on accurate information.|
|Anecdotes (Ricketson, 2004; Spencer, 2006)||- Tool gives user the ability to provide a wide range of accounts of the trending topic as defined by real-life users|
|Images, Video (Ricketson, 2004; Spencer, 2006)||- Tool provides access to images and videos related to the topic at the bottom of the page and in the feed|
|Checking credibility (Ricketson, 2004; Spencer, 2006)||- No feature to check credibility except for a cross-check of Tweets. Unless user has prior knowledge, they may need to go elsewhere to check credibility.|
|Selecting most important data (Ricketson, 2004; Spencer, 2006)||- Tool provides the most relevant, newsworthy information according to Twitter.||- Tool may not allow user to access the minority view on a topic.|
|Writing the article|
|Pyramid structure (Ricketson, 2004; Spencer, 2006)||- Tool helps to provide the essential elements to the pyramid structure including who, what, when, where, why, how; quotes and links to sources||- Hard to order information in a reversed timeline for pyramid structure. Tool restricts user to information in real time. User must go elsewhere for background information.|
|Flow/clearness (Ricketson, 2004; Spencer, 2006)||- Can be difficult to incorporate tool into a breaking news story. If forced, the tool can hinder story flow.|
|Spelling/Grammar/Punctuation||- Tweets often do not fit the standard of spelling, grammar and punctuation that media outlets require|
|Audience reach||- User is more likely to pick up information, sources and opinions that social media users care about the most. Non-social media users may not get their say.||- Not all audiences use Twitter or Trendsmap or know how.
- Tool does not yet support many languages other than English.
|Accessibility||- Great for users with access to a good Internet connection. No sign up fee, simply supply geographical information for geoip.|
Trendsmap in its current form could certainly become a trend-tracking real time world map used effectively in newsrooms by providing journalists with a significant head start on breaking news stories. In fact, it seems inevitable that this type of tool will start working its way into newsrooms just as other social media platforms have in recent years.
While Trendsmap is mostly a stable tool, it still requires some feature development before journalists can rely on it entirely for breaking news (Trendsmap blog, 2012). 21st Century media professionals may also find that trying to use Trendsmap as an inclusive feature in a story could be an ineffective use of the tool. Instead, journalists should consider Trendsmap as the perfect tool to use in the preparation of a story, putting them miles ahead in the 21st Century media race to report on breaking news as it happens.
About Trendsmap. (2009-12). Retrieved August 26, 2012, from http://trendsmap.com/about-faq.
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PM defends progress in Afghanistan
Prime Minister Julia Gillard is defending the decision to keep Australian soldiers in the Middle East in the wake of the single deadliest day for diggers since the Vietnam War.
Two other Australians died in a helicopter crash hours later.
The Australian Defence Force have since acknowledged concerns surrounding Operation SLIPPER, with insider attacks making up 14 per cent of the overall death toll in the war this year.
Yet the Prime Minister continues to stress that early withdrawal is not an option.
“We cannot allow even the most grievous of losses to change our strategy. We cannot have a cirumstance where loss dictates how we will engage in this war and see our mission through.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urges Australians to remember the importance of Australia’s presence in the Middle East.
“Every time this happens, soldiers and civilians alike, we are reminded of the incredible sacrifice that our nations our making.”
Despite the Prime Minister and her US counterparts defending Australia’s role, politicians back home are speaking out about this weeks events.
Liberal MP Mal Washer spoke out against Australia’s involvement this week.
“The reason’s obvious and transparent – we’re there to appease the Americans and it’s part of our closeness to America.”
Dr Washer’s comments came after Independent MP Andrew Wilkie’s public criticism of the Prime Minister for not pulling Australian soldiers out of the Middle East.
“Andrew says we might have blood on our hands. Certainly, I feel like that it’s on my hands and that’s why I speak out against this. This is utter stupidity.”
“Why are we risking more lives when, if you’ve been there for 10 years and this is the result of it, what’s the point of staying any longer?”
It seems Australians remain supportive of the soldiers’ efforts but the tragedy prompted question of the government’s commitment to the Middle East mission.
Trendsmap has been rife with social media users Tweeting about the deaths and questioning the Australian government’s motivation.
Twitter is still flooding with messages of support for the families of the five soldiers.
The manhunt continues for the Afghan soldier who fled the scene after the attack.
The ADF has warned he may never be found.
Photos: Australian Defence Force, AFP, Reuters, Trendsmap
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