About a year ago, I finally got tired of reading websites, blog, and social networking sites for the things that interest me and got organized. I set up feeds from sites I visited aggregated into a single place using Google Reader. Now, when I open my browser, it opens to a list of content that I subscribe to that give me a more targeted set of news I have opted to receive. I have it organized by topic, and grouped into folders. This is a great way to ensure I actually read the sites I am interested in and stay current as a casual reader, but there are some things missing from this approach of gathering content if I am really looking for targeted content.
First, I had to know what sites I would want to read and get news from – that could be a lot these days. What if I dont know all of the sites that have the content I want to read? Surely I dont know who is writing about my topics of interest at any moment. So how will I find them?
Even if somehow I did manage to find the exact sites I need, I would have to go to each of these and find how or whether I can even subscribe to RSS feeds from those sites and enter them one by one into my reader (in this case Google). Next, I have to filter through every item I receive from these feeds to determine if it is about the things I am interested in reading about. If my feeds overlap and collect multiple items then I get duplicates. In many cases I am just getting blog posts or articles that are republished or syndicated so I dont even know the original source (website) that authored an article or blog post until I go to the link – only that it came from a feed from news service or aggregator.
Today we are releasing our first publicly available open source version of Tattler on Drupal.org, something we believe can help do a better job of this process. Tattler is a way to monitor topics you are interested in and learn who is talking about them, where, when and how. You can read more about it and download v1 on the Tattler website. It is built on Drupal and therefore makes a great starting platform for all sorts of interesting aggregation solutions.
Tattler might be used by a researcher, journalist, blogger, technology analyst, or PR specialist or anyone looking for a better way to research and monitor specific issues on the web. In other words, Tattler is for those that don’t just listen to, but help shape the public policy debate – either with coverage or research. What that person wants is to collect information from places they dont necessarily already know, organize it, and use it.
So what is unique about Tattler?
It finds information on what I tell it to. Wherever it comes from.
The idea behind Tattler is that I dont have to know what sites (sources) I have to follow nor create and organize feeds from those sites. Tattler lets me enter the things (topics) that I want to learn about and it goes out and gets me what is being said on the web about those topics. Typically this includes news sites, blogs, social networks, multimedia sites, etc.
It tags content it collects.
Using our favorite API OpenCalais, Tattler runs the content it collects through natural language processing to determine what it is about and tags it with those things for you so you can make relations and connections more easily. So if Tattler determines an article it has collected is about swine flu in Tennessee and the community’s reaction, I might get tags for “swine flu”, “Tennessee”, and “Governor Bredesen”.
It shows me trends.
While the functionality here is quite rudimentary on the initial release, trends are graphed on the things the content I collect is referencing the most so I can see connections, relations, and find related content. This can tell me what other people, places, and organizations are most referenced with the content I collected.
It helps me collaborate on the content.
I can vote, share, comment, or bookmark content I find using Tattler which lets me tell others I share Tattler with what I think about the usefulness of the content it collects.
It makes it easy for me to republish.
I can tweet, email, post to social networks, or create a feed for content I find using Tattler allowing me to enter the conversation and use the content for my own needs. So if I have the ability to repurpose this content, I can “round up” news, or make a custom feed on my own site (very easy to add to any Drupal site) of the coverage of a particular topic.
It is open source / Built on Drupal.
Tattler is built on Drupal 6 using a mixture of community modules and custom modules developed by Phase2. For most people, Tattler can serve as a turn key topic monitoring tool. For some of those people who want to use but not have to set up and manage Tattler, we will offer a completely hosted, fully managed product out of the box. But for others, it might make a great starting platform for all sorts of new and interesting aggregation solutions, which we welcome. In fact, it is our hope that this serves as another shiny example for the Drupal community of cool stuff that can be built upon Drupal as a development platform.
So what’s next for Tattler? Lots. We have only had the time so far to get this basic community version 1.0 prepared for release, but the community, our clients, and beta testers have logged a lot more ideas for where to go next. For starters, we believe greater trending, charts and visualization is in store. Likely future releases will also incorporate sentiment analysis we could not include in this first release.
What we see in Tattler in general is openness through the transparency and freedom of information. At the extreme, you could call this a way to open the collective consciousness and listen to what people are saying on a particular topic or topics. We hope you see the potential we do and help us explore what could be in the next release of this tool – perhaps even help us build it!