Forget Real-Time, Give Us Over Time!

In a recent announcement, Twitter Platform / API Product Manager Ryan Sarver tells us that Twitter is:

committed to providing a framework for any company big or small, rich or poor to do a deal with us to get access to the Firehose in the same way we did deals with Google and Microsoft. We want everyone to have the opportunity — terms will vary based on a number of variables but we want a two-person startup in a  garage to have the same opportunity to build great things with the full feed that someone with a billion dollar market cap does. There are still a lot of details to be fleshed out and communicated, but this a top priority for us and we look forward to what types of companies and products get built on top of this unique and rich stream.

That and some other details, like raising the API rate limit from 150 requests per hour to 1500,  may well bring on what Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb calls “Twitter 2.0“. But it was something else in Kirkpatrick’s write up that caught my attention–this quote from co-founder Kevin Marshall:

The more I do with and around social data, the less interested I seem to become in ‘realtime’ and the more interested I become in ‘over time.’ When I first started hacking on Twitter (and Facebook) apps, I was in love with the idea of parsing and analyzing data in real-time and I was very link/content focused. But the more I build and use these tools, the more I see the value in the history and the trails of the data set.

I couldn’t have said it better! Not that I haven’t tried: you look back at my post about Topsy, you’ll see where real-time and over time meet. Recency matters, but the signal is far too sparse without some way to aggregate and analyze over time.

I’m thrilled that Twitter plans to open up its platform in a way that could enable analysis over semantic, social, and temporal dimensions. Now I’m curious to see what that access will look like, and what everyone has been clamoring for that access will do with it.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.

One reply on “Forget Real-Time, Give Us Over Time!”

There has been lots of academic research into the value of “over time” w/r/t search results, as well. When doing a search, you don’t always want the best result, right now. You want to be able to see the trails, the histories, the patterns, the changes, over time.

One great way of enabling “over time” search results functionality would be for the search engines to “Open Data” their search results, so that users could store, share, refactor, and remix those results, providing over-time information themselves in cases where the search engine was unwilling or unable to do so.


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