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Symplur, a healthcare social media analytics tool,
measures influence and computes "impressions" on Twitter
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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, July 2017


See also Data visualization | Instagram | Instant messaging (IM) software | Libraries on Twitter | LIS Students Starting to Use Twitter

"My work often involves connecting the dots and, for that reason, Twitter can be really useful. There is a lot of information that I need to take in, and there are ways to use Twitter to scout it in various ways...Twitter is like a Bayesian form of information-gathering where the universe of information is the universe of things that other people are noticing and drawing your attention towards. The best information gets amplified through re-tweets and other comments. And the least important information is most likely to dissipate, so I am less likely to get distracted by it. That's what attracts me to Twitter." — Fisch, 2012

Twitter is a popular microblogging service that enables users to send and receive short messages (bursts of information of various kinds) from people around the world but specifically from within their networks of peeps, called tweets which must be less than 140 characters. Twitter is a platform for information sharing and dissemination, social networking and real-time communication. In that sense, it is similar to Facebook's status updates but focused on real-time updates. Twitter has gained a considerable worldwide following and acceptance in the digital age. More than 500+ million regular Twitter users currently generate half billion tweets per day. To see an aggregation of health and medical hashtags, see: Yammer (see video below) is also a microblogging tool, and was acquired in 2012 by Microsoft for 1.2 billion USD. Yammer differs from Twitter in that the platform can be personalized for corporations who want to keep messages private. Using Yammer or Twitter as a digital version of a cry for help has forced Twitter to write its own suicide policy.

Benefits of Twitter

  • For information gathering from people you trust
  • Proliferation of open-access/grey literature increases need for creativity in locating best evidence
  • Changing nature of scholarly communication makes peer-to-peer communication essential
  • Locate many new sources of evidence in one place; as a replacement for RSS; on-the-go using mobile devices
  • Social impressions are important, and may be defined as "...a metric for how many impressions a healthcare hashtag has made in users’ tweet streams. Symplur computes total impressions by taking the number of tweets per participant and multiplying it with the number of followers that participant currently has. This is done for all participants in this time period and then finally the numbers are added up..."
  • Twitter is an example of social media's focus on sharing ideas within a network of contacts, friends and 'followers'.
  • Twitter promotes information sharing and micro-posts as 'presence technology'. Twitter is also "...a global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing?" Users' posts on Twitter are called "tweets" and, its community, the "twitosphere". High-profile participants form part of the twitterati. Twitter includes an API (application-programming interface) that twitterers can use to create applications. For example, a mash-up with Google Maps called Twittervision shows users geographical locations of Twitter users.
  • When updating Twitter, check out Twiddict to accept posts from Twitter-users and queue them.

Twitter & copyright

An interesting unresolved debate is whether tweets are copyrightable. Read American legal view 'Tweet Copyrightability'. In Canada, the concept of fair dealing governs tweets. Where it gets interesting is when tweets represents intellectual property / ideas of the author and whether they are intended for communication or larger purposes.

You can explore Twitter by setting up an account. Find friends to follow and start posting. The premise is simple - post tweets based on "what you are doing". Share content with your network. Networks are there for support; questions are asked, resources are found, and opinions are shared. It's the best ongoing global discussion going

Twitter search tools

Twitter has inspired third-party clients and open source tools such as WittyTwitter, Twhirl, TinyTwitter (Windows Mobile) and, which supports short messaging services (SMS) to send and receive tweets with no client or user interface (UI). For real fans, statistics sites are set up such as Twitterholic, Tweeterboard and Twaiku (Twitter Haiku's) and Twoosh when using exactly the maximum of 140 characters. The issue or phenomenon of digital presence in the 21st century is directly linked to Twitter. Digital access to friends is important for twitterers as they can tweet each other, have meet-ups or talk about books (see Public Reading with DailyLit via Twitter).

Tweet streaming, aggregators & widgets

Twitter terminology

  • Tweet is a post on Twitter, a real-time social messaging system and microblogging service
  • A handle is a username designated by the "@" sign and an accompanying URL,
  • Follow is follow (or subscribe) to someone's tweets or updates on Twitter (or by using a dedicated application)
  • Mention means to refer to another user in a tweet by including that user's @username handle
  • Timeline is a collected stream of tweets listed in real-time; when a user logs onto Twitter, their home timeline is a long stream showing all tweets from other users they follow, with the newest messages at the top
  • Retweet (noun; RT) is a tweet sent by another user, forwarded to you by someone you follow. RTs are often used to spread news or share valuable findings on Twitter
  • Retweet (verb; RT) is a rebroadcasted tweet to your followers by adding RT at the beginning of the tweet.
  • Modified tweet (MT) is metadata that indicates that the user has added some additional text to the original tweet being rebroadcast, typically commentary or an indication of approval/disapproval.
  • Partial retweet (PRT) is a tweet that has been edited, usually to fit a username within the character limit.
  • HT is short for “heard through” or “hat tip,” a piece of metadata added to a tweet to signify that content originated with another user external to Twitter
  • Hashtag is a community-driven convention to allow users to add additional context and metadata to a tweet. Hashtags are added in-line to a Twitter post by prefixing a word with a hash symbol (or number sign). Hashtags (eg, #followFriday) may be used to aggregate, organize, and discover relevant tweets.
  • Reply is a tweet posted in reply to another user's message, usually created by clicking the “reply” button next to the tweet of interest using the Twitter Web site or a dedicated Twitter app. A reply always begins with @username.
  • Direct message (DM) or “message,” these tweets are private messages between the sender and recipient. DMs begin with “d @username” to specify to whom the message is directed. Only the designated recipient can read the content.
  • List is a list or grouping of users typically sharing common attributes. One user creates the list of other Twitter users that share interests.
  • Trending topic is a subject algorithmically determined to be one of the most popular on Twitter at the moment.

Canadian context

A number of Canadian librarians use Twitter such as Amy Buckland, Connie Crosby, Amanda Etches-Johnson, Darlene Fichter, Steve Matthews, Stephen Abrams and others. In 2008, I used Twitter as an information sharing tool in a health librarianship course at SLAIS with mixed results. For participating on Twitter, students were given bonus marks. Some Canadian health librarians on Twitter include: Dean Giustini, Tim Tripp and Mary-Doug Wright. See Canadian health librarians that use Twitter

Benefits of microblogging


Vine is a so-called "short looping video service" owned by Twitter. (See Instagram vs.Vine) Vine was acquired by Twitter before its official launch in 2012. The service allows users to record and edit seven-second long video clips, which can be published through Vine's social network and shared on Facebook and Twitter. Vine's app can be used to browse videos posted by others along with groups of videos by theme, and trending videos.


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