My personal feedback loops

As a sort of companion piece to the previous entry, I figured it might help other web writers to know what tools are available to them, as well as to possibly fill in some gaps I have in my own process (I bet someone reading this knows how to find info on the things I'm blanking on).

So there are several communities I'm familiar with that might republish or comment on something I've created and they are as follows:

  1. Twitter
    1. tweets mentioning my username
    2. tweets mentioning my full name
    3. my tweets retweeted
    4. my tweets marked as a favorite
    5. mentions of my blog posts in twitter
  2. Tumblr (any mentions of my posts)
  3. FriendFeed (comments on my blog posts and/or tweets)
  4. Delicious links leading to my blog
  5. Google Reader
    1. Number of times and who shared a blog post of mine
    2. Any "shared with note" of my blog posts
    3. Times someone hit "Like" on my blog posts
    4. Any comments on my blog posts
  6. Facebook (any comments or likes on my photos, blog posts, and/or tweets)
  7. Flickr (any comments or favorites on my photos)
  8. Other blogs linking to my posts
  9. Google's Buzz? (mentions of my blog posts, tweets, photos, comments on them)

Now, here's my toolset.

For Twitter, I check my "mentions" within various Twitter clients as well as a search for my username "mathowie" and my full name. There's a new "your tweets, retweeted" feature only available on twitter.com itself (is it in the API yet? I haven't found any other clients with this information). I'm a bigger fan of favorites than retweets and I usually find enough info from favstar, where I look at my recent posts with favorites, but of course that's an outside service that scrapes the content and it's not complete (I've tried 2 or 3 other twitter favorite trackers and they all report different # of favorites and often show different people). The service BackTweets.com lets me track a feed of mentions of my blog URL in any tweet and it does a pretty good job.

For Tumblr and other blogs mentioning my posts, I use an old citations search at bloglines set to search all RSS feeds for my domain. I do this for several domains where I write stuff. Here's the search for my personal blog URL. I've used this tool for almost five years and it still does the trick.

I have an account at FriendFeed, and it thankfully just emails me when someone comments on anything in my feed, which is handy and direct (but could get annoying if it was more than once or twice a day).

At Delicious, I follow a network of 63 people that mark interesting stuff and sometimes my own stuff shows up there. If not, I can do a backlink search and save the resulting URL to see how many people liked it enough to save it and if they said anything about it. I wish the backlink search let me look for anything with my domain in it, but it is specific to every single bookmark but something is better than nothing there.

For Google Reader, I'm pretty much in the dark. I once tried out the Firefox extension feedly and was taken aback by the tool's overlay on my blog showing tons of Google Reader activity on every one of my posts. My initial reaction was "who the hell are all these people and why didn't I know they were talking about my stuff before?!" I'd like to see some tool beyond a special browser plugin or bookmarklet hack for aggregating Reader activity on my stuff because it's currently a blind spot.

Facebook is much the same way. Once in a great while I look at web stats and I might see a bunch of facebook.com referrers and sometimes (if it wasn't followed from their main page) I can figure out where something I wrote was mentioned. This is another feedback black hole.

Flickr offers the wonderful Recent Activity page that I loved so much I copied it for MetaFilter. It's pretty much the ultimate tool for finding what has happened with your content on the network and I hope other services are watching and following suit. I would love to see an internet-wide tool that worked like this to track stuff people have said about my writing/photos as well as any followups on comments I left on any other blog. Many companies have tried, no one has succeeded yet.

Google Buzz is another new mystery. Given people can post links there, I have no idea where, when, how or what they've said.

Conclusion

That's about it, and I know there are other communities like StumbleUpon, reddit, and Digg that might rate and/or comment on my work, but I generally don't feel like tracking them and only occasionally see them pop up in web stats.

I'm aware it may seem like I'm sitting here pushing 25 buttons like a Skinner box every hour trying to figure out if people like my stuff, but really most of this stuff is automated as RSS feeds in Google Reader, so I can just pull up GR and see that maybe two new tweets mentioned my blog, four tumblr blogs reblogged something I said, etc.

If anyone has any tips on how to track your own URL mentions in Facebook or Google Reader (or Buzz), I'm all ears.

10 Comments

  • The iPhone edition of Tweetie has “Your tweets, retweeted” if you go to your profile. Regrettably, the desktop edition has fallen far behind in terms of functionality.

  • “Retweets of me” is in the API but apparently it hasn’t caught on with many clients yet.
    http://apiwiki.twitter.com/Twitter-REST-API-Method%3A-statuses-retweets_of_me

  • Yahoo Site Explorer has an inbound links API
    http://developer.yahoo.com/search/siteexplorer/V1/inlinkData.html
    which I’ve used in previous lives to track this kind of stuff.
    I’ve also used Google Analytics to directly measure inbound links that are clicked on from wherever they come from; this would let you pick up details even for systems that have links to you on pages that are hidden from view.

  • Keeping on the theme of watching actual traffic, I used to use MyBlogLog before Yahoo seemed to have abandoned it; it gave me as close to real time feedback as I have ever had on who and where traffic was coming from.
    Several of the URL shortening services have traffic analysis tools; I have been using bit.ly . It consolidates tracking of those URLs which have been compressed down to the point where a string search won’t find them.

  • Here’s a tip for Delicious that might be helpful: several months ago it quietly released search syntax for finding all the bookmarks from a specific domain. From the main search box, you can enter a domain query in the format “site:flickr.com” (or a subdomain like “site:en.wikipedia.org”). You can also query for results including part of a URL with a different keyword: “url:flickr.com/photos/whitehouse”. I’ve found that these results occasionally include a couple of random pages from other sites, but it definitely worked to find a few bookmarks of my stuff that I didn’t know people had saved.

  • Thanks Britta, I had no idea that existed! Too bad you can’t sort by date of last addition to delicious, but it’s at least kind of what I was hoping for (and what I used to bug Joshua Schachter incessantly to build)

  • You’re welcome! You can do a crude type of sort-by-date query by clicking around the time chart on the upper right hand of most search results pages. Under “Everybody’s Bookmarks Saved From:”, try clicking the area graph and sliding the little controls to choose a chunk of time to search inside (or pick the listed options for “1M”, “1D”, etc). It’s a bit tricky to describe without screenshots, but there’s a little more explanation here: http://blog.delicious.com/blog/2009/09/good-things-just-got-better.html

  • You can get nice Atom/Action Stream feeds of individual users on Buzz just now – http://buzz.googleapis.com/feeds/username/public/posted – but there’s no Twitter-style ‘firehose’, and no mention of one coming soon.
    I suspect Buzz is going to be amazingly useful for this sort of ‘mention tracking’, though. I bet you could do some really cool stuff with, say, MetaFilter FOAF data, the Social Graph API and Buzz feeds to see how a URL flows around an increasingly wide social network, before making it’s way out into the wider web (and in the case of MeFi, all the way back again, resulting in a double post two years later!).

  • I’ve always had a bit of an issue with LiveJournal’s local-comments-on-RSS-items thing, too. Several people read some of my content through LiveJournal, and they don’t realize that comments posted on LJ just disappear into the aether after a couple weeks and I never know about them to begin with.
    When I found that out because a friend of mine who should know better (namely a software engineer at Six Apart, back when they owned LJ!) mentioned leaving a comment that I never saw, I made it so my RSS feed adds a note to that effect at the bottom of every item if it’s LJ’s RSS useragent consuming the item.

  • Brad Fitzpatrick talked about LiveJournal/Buzz integration on his LJ and mentioned the Salmon Protocol, which looks to be an effort to unite conversations around the web. I’ve never heard of it otherwise, but anything Brad says in this area is interesting.

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