Monday, February 22, 2010

TOPSY, a Search Engine for Evaluating Credibility

I came across a new search engine while preparing for a workshop at ICE. retrieves twitter posts and does so in a way that may help to inform the credibility of information being evaluated.

For example, if I wanted to see who is tweeting about 21st Century Information Fluency, I would enter that string in topsy. The results (click here) show me the way in which the search terms were referenced and the number of related tweets. The largest category indicates there are 24 tweets. By clicking that I can see who tweeted about 21cif and what they said, whether good or bad or otherwise. It's who siad what that may information my evaluation of 21cif.  In this case, a typical tweet is:
"a great collection of tutorials, podcasts, wizards etc."
If I didn't know anything about 21cif, this at least would help me see some people's opinions of it. Who those people are is possibly more important. It turns out that the person quoted above describes herself as a knowledge librarian. Sampling the others who tweeted reveals a statewide tech integration mentor, a consultant, an eLearning director and online instructor.

It's a search that takes less than 5 minutes and tells me that people who work in relevant information fields value 21cif enough to write about it and recommend it to others they know.

I suspect if an author or organization was very popular, it would be harder to sift through the results. Nonetheless, it's a novel approach to evaluation. The strength of practioners' comments may help to vet information about which you may have little knowledge.

Try Topsy to find and evaluate the comments of tweeters for the following authors and organizations:
  •  (check out the descriptions of tweeps who favor the site,  compared to those who oppose it)
  • Lyle Zapato
Always pay attention to the person who says the positive or negative thing. Why should that person's opinion count? What picture starts to form about who is for and who is against? What does this say about the subject being evaluated?

Can you think of other searches? Share them here.

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