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How to publish Twitter streams on news sites?

socialplumeAs covered earlier on this blog, there are various tools for tracking and engaging in conversations on Twitter, especially where hashtags are used. But how do you publish a themed Twitter stream on your news site or blog, and what other issues are there to consider?

We have experimented with various tools on this blog in order to stream hashtag-themed Tweets (a post on Twitter) into a blog post. The last attempt used a heavily modified WordPress plugin from Monittor. None have been completely satisfactory.

But why would journalists want to do this? Well, imagine if there is an event on your local beat like a football match or other sports game. People are already Twittering from these events. If they could be persuaded to use the same hashtag, then you have the potential of creating a live Twitter stream on your website – a live commentary but from the point of view of several fans, not just one reporter.

Similarly, it could be used to cover breaking news events, basing the Twitter stream on keywords, rather than a hashtag.

For this to work really well though, we decided several functions needed to be in place:

1. The ability to place a stream of Tweets, based on keyword(s) and/or hashtag(s), onto a web page and for that stream to dynamically update (ie not require a page refresh). Ideally the output to be called by <div> tags, rather than a Javascript insert, to cope with content management systems that reject JS in article bodies.

2. Access to legacy Tweets using pagination. The current tools we use only display the last 10 or so Tweets, with no access on our pages to what has been Tweeted before.

3. The ability for administrators to tag certain Tweets within a themed stream and create a new output on another page. The purpose of this is to allow an editor to easily create a summary of the best Tweets for archive purposes.

4. The ability for moderators to manually exclude certain Tweets from a Twitter stream (for moderation purposes).

5. The ability for users to login and post directly to a Twitter stream, from the page on which that Twitter stream is published.

6. Threading based on @replies (probably the most complex proposition in this list).

There did not seem to be any existing tools that covered even half these bases, so we put out a call on a local developer’s email list. Amazingly, it transpired that a local company in Brighton, Inuda, is currently working on a tool that will eventually tick almost all of the above boxes.

Called SocialPlume, the product aims eventually to become a modestly priced subscription service. Jonathan Markwell of Inuda was keen to stress that they are still some way off a public launch, but in the meantime they are keen to hear from publishers and journalists who might be keen to trial the service alongside ourselves. DM @journalismnews or @johncthompson if you are interested.

We would also love to hear other ideas and applications for this service that you might have (please leave a comment).

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  • http://www.yelvington.com/ Steve Yelvington

    There are a lot of ways to do it, and many different reasons for doing it. We are pulling in the @jaxdotcom twitter feed at jacksonville.com (Florida Times-Union); our purpose in this case is simply to announce and publicize the existence of the feed so Twitter users can choose to subscribe.

    See http://www.jacksonville.com/interact and look at the tweets box, fairly well downpage. Click the “more” link to see the paginated full feed.

    In our case, this is being done with Drupal, FeedAPI, a custom content type, a custom View, a simple @username filter, and a bit of theming work. Took about an hour to do the whole thing.

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