Storyful Blog

Making lists: How to fine-tune your Twitter antennae

The Italian Voice on flickr []

I love Twitter lists. You know, those handy groups of Twitter users hand-picked around a topic, geographical location or news story. I’ve been curating them since their introduction in 2009 to help filter content and manage community. And now here at Storyful, they’ve become the backbone of our live news systems. With the endless flow of information in our social media age, they work as the perfect live news filter, allowing us to hone in on a location, a subject or an event and mute the cacophony of all the other conversations taking place simultaneously.

Let me give some examples. We have lists for every country and region in the world, and they come in use daily for monitoring news and events in specific areas. We curate them daily, adding new voices and removing those who may have left the region, to make sure they’re constantly up to date.

Take our Syria list , (see left) a constantly curated list of 200 plus journalists, activists and commentators who offer continuous updates on what’s happening on the ground in this war-torn country. It’s a daily go-to for our journalists, offering us a live feed of the most recent reports and conversations, and letting us know which stories on the day require closer attention. It’s lists like these that are often the first alert we receive of events, with our carefully curated reliable sources in each area providing us with an invaluable early warning system when events bubble up.

It was through this list that we were first alerted to the the destruction of a helicopter near Maarat al-Numan, an alert which led us to pursue the story and come up with some compelling evidence of air strikes and put this Syrian town on the global news map [see Joe Galvin’s blogpost on that process here].

Another busy and useful list is our curated markets list, which offers a real-time glimpse into the world of money markets and economic data. It provides instant updates on market movements and has become an invaluable resource for our business desk. Stocks up or down? Fed rates move? New product for Apple that’s moving the market? It all bubbles up through our list of over 270 news sources, which includes the Twitter feeds of business journalists, financial institutions and government accounts.

While we have over 600 lists built at Storyful, we sometimes have to build new ones in a hurry. This can happen easily around a breaking news event, be it a weather disaster, a mass shooting, or a high profile court case. On the morning the Mladic trial opened earlier this year, I did a quick trawl for journalists who were in the Hague for the court proceedings and put together a micro-list within minutes which let me see courtroom tweets at a glance and follow proceedings there as they happened.

For every news event – be it an electioneering stump speech, a country in crisis or a devastating hurricane – lists are an essential resource. On our live newswire @StoryfulPro, we alert followers to those relevant to stories as they break.

If that all smacks of solemnity, it’s worth bearing in mind that Twitter lists are not just for news. Anybody can curate a list on any topic and many do so on areas of interestcelebrities, or simply people that make them laugh. It’s just an easy way to parse information, and give focus to what you’re taking in through social media in a way that might help your synapses from self combusting.

Many complain about the noise of social media, without realising that they have the tools to filter and manage their streams through lists. It’s as easy as going to your profile page, creating a list, and then adding any account that you find that fits to that list.  Twitter also offers this step-by-step guide for the list novice. Just remember Twitter only allows you twenty lists per account and five hundred members per list. Sounds like plenty I bet, but as someone who lives in the Twitter stream on a constant – even alarming – basis, sometimes I wish it were more.


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This entry was posted on November 5, 2012 by in Uncategorized.
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