Fuego: A Bot That Turns the Twitter Firehose Into a Trickle

A new tool from the good people at Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab can help you find the best links buried among the tweets

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Having troubles keeping up with your Twitter stream? Feel like you wade through hundreds of tweets to find just a few linked pieces you want to read in their entirety? The folks at Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab have just unveiled a new tool called Fuego that they hope will "provide the experience of being on Twitter all day without being on Twitter all day," says Nieman Lab director Joshua Benton -- at least for those who use Twitter to follow news about journalism.

Down the road, Fuego could provide a similar service for areas of interest other than journalism.

Every hour Fuego trawls the future-of-journalism twitterverse and spits back the top 10 links people are tweeting. What goes into determining which links are in the top 10? There are three factors, explains Benton: how recently a link was first tweeted, how many times it's been tweeted in Fuego's patch of Twitter, and the authority of those who tweeted it.

Nieman staffers defined the "future-of-journalism" universe by identifying 10 people they thought had particularly carefully curated following lists (as distinct from followers). Benton estimates that produced a list of about 10,000 feeds and Fuego follows all of them. Some feeds are followed by more than one of the 10 people Nieman selected, and are therefore seen as more authoritative by Fuego's algorithm, with their links carrying greater weight.

Identifying the 10 people whose lists they follow on Twitter is the only aspect of Fuego that necessitated editorial judgment. The rest operates without human input, although editors do have the ability to cut a tweet out of the top-10 list if they find it to be egregiously irrelevant.

There are several services such as Tweeted Times, Paper.li, and News.me that do something similar for an individual's Twitter feed, culling significant tweets from those you follow and creating a personalized "newspaper." But Fuego is different in that it's not personalized but of general interest to anyone interested in journalism. The Nieman Lab staff relied heavily on the work of Lyn Headley and Steve Farrell at The Hourly Press for shaping how they crafted their algorithm.

Benton says it's possible that down the road Fuego or something similar to it could provide a service for areas of interest other than journalism, though it may not work as well for fields in which there is less convergence upon certain stories each day.

Image: Nieman Journalism Lab.

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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