Putting Twitter to Work with ThinkUp

A File Cabinent Stretching to the SkyEarlier this week I reviewed several ways to archive your Twitter activity on your own server, using Your TwapperKeeper, WordPress, or Tweet Nest. I ended my post by hinting at another solution that I wanted share. I’ve saved the best for last, and here it is: ThinkUp.

ThinkUp is an open source PHP application and the brainchild of Lifehacker founding editor Gina Trapani. ThinkUp began for Trapani as a modest side project, which she called Twitalytic. Her idea was to create a web app that could archive, curate, and thread Twitter conversations. It was a great idea. And Twitalytic soon turned into a full scale development project renamed ThinkUp, sponsored by Anil Dash’s nonprofit organization, Expert Labs.

With its latest beta, ThinkUp has an easy 3-step web-based installation, and it does exactly what Trapani set out to do: archive, curate, and thread conversations.

And it rocks.

I initially installed ThinkUp for its archiving capabilities, but using ThinkUp simply to preserve tweets is like using a Ferrari for its cigarette lighter. Sure, you can use the cigarette lighter to charge your phone, but you’re missing the point of having a sports car.

What Makes ThinkUp Different?

ThinkUp can indeed archive your tweets. And with the included Facebook plugin, it can archive your Facebook status updates, along with your friends’ comments to those updates.

But what makes ThinkUp different from other archiving solutions is that it also archives responses to your tweets. And it organizes them. It works like this: if you ask a question on Twitter and somebody replies, that reply is included in the archive and associated with your question.

Let’s take a look at ThinkUp, using my own installation as a case study:

A list of tweets stored in ThinkUp

White Space

On the left side of the screen are a range of views—ways of arranging and viewing your posts. Right now we’re seeing the “Most replied-to” view (see it live), showing which Twitter posts have generated the greatest number of responses (both retweets and replies). Select either the date stamp or the number of replies, and you’ll drill down to a close-up, threaded view of that post and its responses (see it live):

Closeup view of Twitter Replies on ThinkUp

White Space

In this particular case, I had asked about representations of female graduate students and professors in television and film. I received a flurry of replies, thirty-five of them in fact.

And because ThinkUp was keeping track of them, I didn’t have to.

I simply selected the CSV export option, and I was able to import all of the responses into a Google Docs file, which I was then able to share with my student.

I wouldn’t have even needed to export the replies to send them to my student. Like Twitter itself, my ThinkUp data is open, and anyone can browse it. Yet understanding that not everyone will want their ThinkUp archive public, the developers provide an option to keep an archive private, meaning only the admin can log in to see it. (This is, in fact, what I do with my Facebook archive and various other Twitter accounts that I’m using ThinkUp for.)

Putting Twitter to Work

Crowdsourcing a question for my student illustrates how you might put Twitter to work using ThinkUp. Any time you need to send out a query and keep track of the responses, ThinkUp is your workhorse. In terms of teaching, ThinkUp might transform a class’s backchannel into a crowdsourcing network. For scholarship, what better way to gather meaningful responses to a research question?

What’s Next for ThinkUp?

There are many more features of ThinkUp that I haven’t covered here: follower counts, lists of those deadbeat followers who never post, a separate view just for links that have appeared in your Twitter stream, and even a view that isolates any photographs in your stream. The best way to explore them all is to get your own server and install it yourself!

And keep your eye open for new versions of the application. After all, ThinkUp is only in beta, and there are many features yet to be added to this dazzling application. Most significantly for ProfHacker readers, the ThinkUp roadmap calls for tracking and capturing both hashtags and your friends’ “favorited” tweets.

Have you installed ThinkUp? If so, what do you think? What other features would you like to see? How might you use ThinkUp for your own teaching or research? And if you’re a developer or interested in coding, get involved with the code itself!

[file cabinets image courtesy of Flickr user redjar / Creative Commons Licensed]

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