RSS aka twitter

In their using twitter as a social media Statistical Institutes are in good company.

A new study asks what role twitter plays for news organisations and says:  …. that 13 major news organizations ‘use Twitter in limited ways-primarily as an added means to disseminate their own material. Both the sharing of outside content and engagement with followers are rare. The news content posted, moreover, matches closely the news events given priority on the news organizations’ legacy platforms.’

‘For nearly every news organization, Twitter has become a regular part of the daily news outreach. But there are questions about how those organizations actually use the technology: How often do they tweet? What kind of news do they distribute? To what extent is Twitter used as a new reporting tool or as a mechanism for gathering insights from followers?’

Nieman Journalism Lab (Megan Garber) summarizes:

‘As much as we tout Twitter for its conversational abilities — for its revolutionary capacity to create discursive, rather than simply distributive, relationships with news consumers — many major news organizations are still using the service as, pretty much, a vehicle for self-promotion. ……Twitter functions as an RSS feed or headline service for news consumers, with links ideally driving traffic to the organization’s website.’ … ‘As a microscopic — and, also, telescopic — look into news outlets’ practices, the study’s findings offer a pretty strong counterargument to the assumption that social media in general, and Twitter in particular, are ushering in a golden age of audience engagement, democratic discourse, etc., etc.’

Visualisation reduced to the max: sparklines

Sparklines are small diagrams which can be inserted in a text. They give a fast impression of an evolution, so for instance this sparkline ▇▇▇▅▃▁▇▅▃▇▅▃  . It shows the number of views of this blog over two weeks.

A sparkline generator can be found here: And sparklines can be inserted into tweets!

Lost in Social Media

There are lots of applications offering the possibility to publish our personal impressions and meanings to friends and to the general public. And there are lots of companies behind it trying to get tons of subscribers and gaining money from advertisers.

Look at this overview …

or this one of twitter alone …

… and you will be lost.

What to use with which effects? Use one or many? Publish some text  in WordPress or in twitter, upload some commented pictures in flickr or Picasa and transfer (feed) all this automatically to facebook and Google Buzz … or the other way round or …??

There are other companies built on this question, a whole new industry has emerged. Which one to choose (if any) to help us reaching which objectives with social media? And do we really need social media?

A lot of fascinating questions! Fortunately the year has just begun to find the appropriate answer -;)

For the moment I personally prefer a blog (this one) and I love twitter (because there are no ads … not yet).


Some more links:

Aggregating statistical news with twitter

More and more statistical agencies are using twitter to spread their news. It’s quite simple:  Opening a twitter account and populating it via the RSS-feeds the agency already offers.  Several tools like twitterfeed, hootsuite or Google’s feedburner help to do this.  Here the Slovenian example (using twitterfeed).

Make a list

But how to get an overview of the many twitter accounts you are interested in? You can follow their twitter in your own account (and only you see these) or you can populate your or another twitter account with all the RSS feeds of the many agencies.
But there’s an even better solution. Twitter offers a good tool: lists. Put together all the twitters you like in a list and you will find the news in one place.

An example: I put (surely not) all twitter offers of statistical agencies into the list ‘stats-all‘  .

Here it is:

Embed the list

The advantage of a list: It can be embedded in a third-party website using the twitter widget service . And there it is updated continually.

See this example:

And this example, embedding the list in another aggregator like netvibes ;).

Netvibes. International Statistics. Experimental.

Create a magazine

And that’s not all: With such a list you may create a Statistical Magazine on the iPad without any further programming using one of the great free apps, so i.e. flipboard.
Add this list to flipboard and it’s done. flipboard shows more than two or three lines (like twitter) and allows a first insight into the twitter update.

Statistics by Twitter

Some time ago we heard about  tracking flu with the help of Google’s search engine. Now the same – and more accurate, as some pretend – is done by analysing tweets from Twitter.

‘We analyze over 500 million Twitter messages from an eight month period and find that tracking a small number of flu-related keywords allows us to forecast future influenza rates with high accuracy, obtaining a 95% correlation with national health statistics.’
“This approach is much cheaper and faster than having thousands of hospitals and health care providers fill out forms each week,”  Aron Culotta says in his paper: ‘Detecting influenza outbreaks by analyzing Twitter messages’.
Read more in CNET News


Documentary on Hans Rosling available on-line (now full version)

The TV documentary Rosling’s World is now posted on the website of the Swedish Public Service Television (SVT) website, with English subtitles.

The documentary, by the journalist Pär Fjällström, follows Hans Rosling preparing his lecture at the 2009 TED conference. The one hour documentary, which has aired several times on Swedish television will be available at for 30 days (until September 17).

Follow Hans Rosling on Twitter

You can now follow Hans Rosling on Twitter. On his Twitter page you can read his “tweets” about interesting facts and graphics and, if you have a Twitter account of your own, become a follower.

About Gapminder

Gapminder is a non-profit foundation based in Stockholm, Sweden. We are promoting sustainable global development and the achieve- ment of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by unveiling the beauty of statistics for a fact based world view.

Click here to see what we look like.


On our website you will find Gapminder World and all other products from Gapminder.

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How Twitter can make history by Clay Shirky

About this talk

While news from Iran streams to the world, Clay Shirky shows how Facebook, Twitter and TXTs help citizens in repressive regimes to report on real news, bypassing censors (however briefly). The end of top-down control of news is changing the nature of politics.

About Clay Shirky

Shirky, a prescient voice on the Internet’s effects, argues that emerging technologies enabling loose collaboration will change the way our society works.

Full bio and more links