1. Description of the tool:
Trendsmap is a Twitter based tool that displays current trending Twitter hashtags around the world. It can be used by a media professional to find breaking stories that are emerging on social media or track Twitter trends at both a local and international level, as well as a number of other functions.
Trendsmap has uploaded an introductory video on YouTube that outlines how Trendsmap works and its uses. Trendsmap received a significant amount of hype and generated mostly good reviews when it launched in September 2009. Social media news website Mashable did a story on Trendsmap after its launch; outlining the website’s uses, praising its detail and how the tool allows users to find popular Twitter hashtags both locally and internationally. Blogging website ‘Programmable Web’ also did a review on Trendsmap.
Since its beginnings a number of improvements have been made to the site. In March 2011 Trendsmap announced on its blog that it has introduced Twitter alerts, which tells users when a new story or trend has appeared. In 2010 Trendsmap announced that it had added foreign language options and increased its geo-location accuracy. This news meant that Trendsmap was now more accessible and geographically correct, as seen in this CNET News article.
2. A How To Guide for Trendsmap. Instructions:
2.2. At the bottom of the page breaking news stories are listed by name and search options for countries and cities are displayed, as well as a short list of current globally trending users (See figure 2).
2.3. The user interface allows for narrowing searches to find specific localized information. Users can zoom in on the map using the zooming tool (see Figure 3). The navigation of the tool works much the same as Google Maps. The four buttons to the right of the zoom function (See Figure 3) are for directing the map viewer to their location, city, region or back to the world view.
2.4. For more information and to see specific tweets and statistics, click on the hashtags or titles. Trendsmap’s blue information box will then drop down and display related tweets, popularity statistics and the subject’s 7 day history (see Figure 4).
2.5. The user can search for locations or subjects in the search bar at the top right corner of the screen (See figure 5)
2.6. This function allows the user to see where a particular subject is being spoken about on Twitter around the world. For example, if one searched the word ‘Twitter’ the map would then display where in the world Twitter was a trending topic (See Figure 6).
3. Affordances and Constraints analysis of Trendsmap
Affordances and constraints are the limitations and possible uses of an object or device, as outlined by Hutchby(2001) and Norman (2001) (Rintel, 2012). Affordances and constraints can be the physical structure of the object, predetermined by the designers or creators; or they can be perceived, as in variable possible interpretations of the objects functions by users. In order to comprehensively report on Trendsmap’s uses the user interface’s technological and purposive affordances and constraints will be considered (Rintel, 2012).This is the theoretical lens through which Trendsmap will be analysed.
The technological framework of Trendsmap’s user interface is based upon harnessing and disseminating the content produced on social media platform of Twitter. The massive amount of communal information shared means that the interface is very much open to interpretation. Media and PR professionals can use this material frame as a recourse for meaning (Rintel, 2012).
The success of social media platform Twitter has changed the way that modern media operates. Mainstream media not only posts content on Twitter, it finds stories via Twitter. Using Twitter as a source for breaking news is becoming an increasingly popular method. As the Associate Press Editor Eric Carven commented recently,
“We go to Twitter for breaking news, not Facebook. If it’s important, we’ll toss it onto Twitter right away. We go to Facebook only when it’s transcendent. Twitter is a breaking news platform, both in terms of what we put out and how we gather news. If news breaks, we look to Twitter more than Facebook”. (Sternberg, J. 2012)
Trendsmap’s Twitter dissemination makes it a tool that would be very useful in finding breaking news stories. In fact, that would be one of the interface’s primary functions for a media professional.
A new affordance of the technology that was recently implemented is that of Twitter alerts (Hanney, L. 2011). This technological allowance means that a media processional is alerted every time a new story emerges, optimizing its function as a source for breaking news.
Journalists are using Twitter in variety of ways. One particular way that the press are using Twitter, as described by Matthew Clayfield in Informit online journal, is for crowdsourcing; where the author tracks down individual’s contact details or requests facts or interviews via Twitter or facebook (Clayfield, M. 2012 pp 92-97).
Crikey’s associate editor, Jason Whittaker, spoke about the professional uses of Twitter,
“Mostly I’ll crowdsource facts and among the responses I’ll get will be a fair number with links to reputable sites. The rest is the usual process of triangulation to work out authenticity” (Clayfield, M. 2012 pp 92-97).
Trendsmap allows journalist or public relations professionals to ‘crowdsource’; as well as search for breaking news and survey public opinion. For example, in a major event a journalist can search Trendsmap for users that are talking about or are present at the event and derive facts from tweets. See the Trendsmap video timeline on YouTube of the Samoan earthquake and tsunami for example of this allowance. Because Twitter works as a live broadcasting service, a journalist could find out what was happening on the ground in real time, as citizens who are present at the event update and post information via Twitter. Media coverage of natural disasters is often hampered by isolation or inaccessibility. Twitter and Trendsmap allows those experiencing such events to relay messages on Twitter that can be easily seen instantly on Trendsmap and therefore by the media.
A technological constraint of Trendsmap is that it only displays the most talked about or retweeted information; it does not offer any explanation or interpretation of the data. The interface is also limited in the amount of detail it provides about an issue or topic. As suggested previously, Trendsmap is ideal for seeing breaking news pop up and develop on the map. However, it is not designed for in depth analysis or reflection on the news.
Another technological constraint that is not design preferred is how the tweets which are grouped into subjects are not always related. For example, if the word medal was trending in Melbourne, it could be for a number of reasons; such as the olympics, local sports or other meanings (See figure 7). Nonetheless they are all grouped together under the same topic. This makes the popularity data somewhat distorted.
The foreign language option now included in Trendsmap makes it more globally accessible. A technological constraint of this software, however, is that it does not translate all the content into one language. So if you wanted to find out what people were talking about in the Middle East, for example, and you only spoke English, you would not be able to read or interpret the information (See figure 8). If the software had the availability of selecting a preferred language and then translating all the tweets to that setting, then the reader would be able to see posts from around the world; rather than just in their own language.
A major technological constraint of Trendsmap is that it is confined to only displaying information that is publicly available on Twitter. If the user needed specific details or to confirm facts, then they would have to refer to other available resources.
Trendsmap is built upon the social and cultural phenomenon of Twitter. It relies heavily on the public using Twitter to share stories and topics. Although Twitter is increasing in popularity around the world, becoming less of a western cultural practice, the website is till limited in its demographic. As seen in the `Pew Centre for Research’s survey on social media, the average Twitter user is aged between 18 and 49, with women slightly more likely to regularly use Twitter than men (Brenner, J. 2012 ). A large number of the population do not use Twitter and are therefore not included in Trendsmap’s statistics.
4. Summary matrix:
|Selecting a topic Trendsmap shows all the current news and trends|
|Media research (Ricketson 2004, pp.95-186; Spencer 2006, pp.25-122)||
Trendsmap displays comprehensive data for audience research. It also shows breaking news stories as they appear live on Twitter.
Trendsmap only provides information posted on Twitter
|Newsworthiness (Ricketson 2004, pp95-186; Spencer 2006, pp25-122)||
Shows the current biggest stories and breaking news being talked about on Twitter. The topics displayed are already newsworthy due to the number of people talking about them.
As most media organizations have access to Trendsmap, it isn’t the place to find an exclusive scoop or story
|Angle (Ricketson 2004, pp95-186; Spencer 2006, pp25-122)||
Trendsmap only displays trending subjects; it does not offer any interpretation. It is up to the user to decide how to use the data.
|Defining topic (Ricketson 2004, pp95-186; Spencer 2006, pp25-122)||
The user must look to other recourses for in-depth details
|Choosing sources (Ricketson 2004, pp95-186; Spencer 2006, pp25-122)||
Trendsmap’s Twitter feed will show who is talking about the subject and may direct the user to appropriate sources
Due to the massive amount of retweeting, finding original and relevant sources may be difficult
|Facts and figures (Ricketson 2004, pp95-186; Spencer 2006, pp25-122)||
Trendsmap provides a graph on the subjects popularity over the past seven days. It can also show where in the world an issue is trending
Does not provide analysis of the content posted (i.e. sentiment analysis or number of tweets made)
|Interviews (Ricketson 2004, pp95-186; Spencer 2006, pp25-122)||
The user interface is not designed for direct communicative purposes
|Anecdotes (Ricketson 2004, pp95-186; Spencer 2006, pp25-122)||
Stories or comments can be sourced from Twitter feed
It not suited to lengthy and detailed stories. There is a 140 character limit on all text posted.
|Documents (Ricketson 2004, pp95-186; Spencer 2006, pp25-122)||
Tweets often contain links to relevant supporting documents
|Photographs (Ricketson 2004, pp95-186; Spencer 2006, pp25-122)||Trendsmap displays the top images that are trending in cities||
Does not provide real-time images of the event
|Checking credibility (Ricketson 2004, pp95-186; Spencer 2006, pp25-122)||
The user can compare and contrast what Twitter users are saying, both locally and internationally to cross-check facts.
Twitter is notoriously unreliable and untrue stories can spread fast before the facts are confirmed. Not reliable as a sole source for checking credibility
|Selecting most important data (Ricketson 2004, pp95-186; Spencer 2006, pp25-122)||
Displays Twitter posts that are often repetitive retweets. Does not outline the specifics of the issue or address important related data.
|Writing the article|
|Pyramid structure (Ricketson 2004, pp95-186; Spencer 2006, pp25-122)||
|Flow/clearness (Ricketson 2004, pp95-186; Spencer 2006, pp25-122)||
|Designing layout (Ricketson 2004, pp95-186; Spencer 2006, pp25-122)||A video timeline of Trendsmap can be incorporated into an article|
|Audience reach||The medium is highly compatible with Twitter.|
|Accessibility||Trendmaps is available to anyone online|
Brenner, Joanna. “Pew Internet: Social Networking (full Detail).” Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Pew Research Centre, 31 May 2012. Web. 01 Sept. 2012.
Clayfield, Matthew. “Tweet the Press: How Social Media Is Changing the Way Journalists Do Their Jobs.” Informit 171 (2012): 92-97. Informit. Web. 01 Sept. 2012.
DuVander, Adam. “Trendsmap Shows What??s Happening Where on Twitter.” Programmable Web, 23 Sept. 2009. Web. 03 Sept. 2012. .
Guardian.co.uk. “Trendsmap: Trafigura on Twitter.” Media News. The Guardian, 25 Jan. 2010. Web. 01 Sept. 2012. .
Hanney, Leigh. “Trends That Matter -?? Follow Local Twitter Trends.” Trendsmap Blog. Trendsmap, 28 Mar. 2011. Web. 03 Sept. 2012. .
J, Sternberg. “Inside the APs Social Strategy.” Making the Modern Publisher. Digiday, 26 Apr. 2012. Web. 01 Sept. 2012. .
Parr, Ben. “Trending Stories.” Social Media. Mashable, 22 Sept. 2009. Web. 03 Sept. 2012. .
Rintel, Sean. (2012).Lecture 04 Download: powerpoint%20slides
Trendsmap. “Samoa Earthquake & Tsunami – Events Unfolding on Trendsmap.com.” YouTube. YouTube, 15 Oct. 2009. Web. 01 Sept. 2012. .
Trendsmap. “Trendsmap Intro.” YouTube. YouTube, 15 Oct. 2009. Web. 01 Sept. 2012. .
Can’t keep a good Tweet down
The Guardian.co.uk used Twitter dissemination tool Trendsmap to hit back at oil company Trafigura, after the company sought and obtained a superinjunction against reporting on its dumping of toxic waste.
Once the old conventional forms of media had been barred, the incensed editor of the Guardian turned to new forms of media to spread the message. After receiving a ‘gagging order’ from the courts, the guardian used Twitter to suggest that the press had been prevented from reporting on Trafigura.
(Image from The Telegraph)
Twitter exploded with debate and discussion on the event and the Guardian used Trendsmap to record and track the discussion. It then posted the video of the Trendsmap timeline on its webpage.
(See the Guardian.com for full video)
Through the use of Twitter and Trendsmap the Guardian effectively managed to report about the issue, without having to directly write about it. The only thing posted about the story was the Trendsmap video. Despite a legal gagging order, the message was effectively relayed to the public and it was done without breaking the rules of the superinjunction. An excellent case in point of Twitter’s continual and growing importance in protests and how social media can operate outside the confines of censorship.
(Image from PRmoment.com)
The specific content that Trafigura was trying to publically suppress was the response to a question asked in parliament by MP Paul Farrelly. The question was in relation to allegations made in 2006 that the oil company had dumped toxic waste near the Ivory Coast, which may have caused a number of deaths. Many citizens and journalists saw the success of the injunction as an affront to democracy. It was also in violation of a long standing law that dictates that all parliamentary proceedings should be freely accessible and publishable for the media.
Trafigura’s lawyers eventually gave up the bid to suppress the British Press and the injunction was overturned, after Twitter users spread and relayed the Guardian’s messages in protest. The success was celebrated by many a victory for free press, enabled by citizen participation in social media.