Every day, internet companies like Twitter, Facebook and Google mine your online social life to advertise to you more effectively. Those companies host and control your data, and you don’t. Case in point: if you’ve tweeted more than 3200 times, you can’t page back to your earliest tweets on Twitter.
The software I’ve been building for the past two years, ThinkUp, left beta yesterday. ThinkUp archives and analyses your interactions across social networks which, more often than not, treat your data as ephemera. This is a rundown of what ThinkUp is, what it does, why it’s important, and how to set it up yourself.
The conversations you have online are worth capturing, keeping and referring back to over time. In fact, the things you share and the conversations you have about them gain weight, perspective and importance over time, not just the moment you post them. Think about the time you announced you were getting married, or posted a photo of your newborn, or launched a project that changed your life on a social network and the conversations that ensued. That’s content you want to keep.
I’ve spent the last six years publishing observations, enquiries and just bits and pieces of my life on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare and now Google+, and having conversations with my friends and readers about them. That’s why I built ThinkUp.
ThinkUp is a free web application that archives and analyses your social media life. You’ll need a web server to run it on, and it’s geared for people and organisations who are very active on social networks and have lots of conversations they want to track, archive, and analyse. When you run ThinkUp, you’ll be able to:
Store your conversations at a permalink on your site
You’ll see the original post and a list a replies, as well as a list of most frequently mentioned keywords in those replies, like my question about what iPad apps I should install.
Visualise social media activity
ThinkUp charts your replies and retweets, followers, friends, likes and list membership over time.
Charts! Charts are awesome.
See how far a retweet or share of your post travelled
Find out how many people saw that popular post that got shared and reshared throughout your network.
Put your conversations on the map
ThinkUp uses the Google Maps API to geo-encode posts, replies and retweets/reshares and displays on them on an interactive map.
Sort your friends and followers by activity and popularity
Filter your friends and followers by who is most talkative, and who’s not.
Search and export your data
ThinkUp liberates your social data. Every post listing is available for search and export to CSV, a plain text format that any spreadsheet can read.
Embed a conversation on any web page
Say you poll your Twitter pals and you want to post the conversation on your blog. ThinkUp can help; see this in action on my blog post about the best books for learning iOS development.
Sound good? Here’s how to set up ThinkUp.
If you have a web server, installing ThinkUp takes about the same amount of effort as installing WordPress. ThinkUp’s system requirements (PHP, MySQL) are the most basic and common for consumer web hosting packages, and the installation process is three steps. All you need is your MySQL database username and password to complete installation. To install ThinkUp, simply unzip the ThinkUp archive into a web-accessible folder on your web server and visit that URL to walk through the process. Our documentation details the installation process step by step.
If you don’t have a web server, check out our Amazon EC2 ThinkUp launcher, which will spin up a server and install ThinkUp for you on it in under 60 seconds.
ThinkUp is an extensible platform that run plugins which capture and analyse data for you. Right now ThinkUp has Twitter, Facebook and Google+ plugins which capture posts, links, friendships, lists, users, favourites and locations from those networks. It also has short URL and Google Maps plugins. Going forward, ThinkUp can incorporate any number of plugins which talk to more networks and display data in more useful ways.
Because ThinkUp isn’t yet another third-party asking for access to your data on social networks, right now its plugins require you to set up developer apps with access permissions to capture your data. We hope to make plugin setup easier in future releases.
Speaking of future releases, now that ThinkUp is a stable platform with proven utility, it’s got a promising future. Going forward, we’ll be working on making the platform ever more extensible with plugins for more social networks which offer new and useful ways to slice, dice, chart, sort, filter and liberate your data. Here’s how you can help make that happen.
ThinkUp 1.0 is the culmination of 20 months worth of work from over 60 coders, designers, and documentation writers in our open source community, as well as hundreds of testers. Congratulations to the community for reaching this milestone. We hope you try out ThinkUp, and let us know how it goes.