August 11, 2008

AppSpot Spy Follows Social Media for Live Keyword Searching

Summize, prior to its acquisition by Twitter, became the unquestioned resource to find out what trends were hot on the service, or to watch for specific keywords. But as good as that product is, it's limited just to the microblogging service. An interesting offering, called "Spy", leveraging Google's App Engine, offers the ability to watch not just Twitter, but also blog posts, Google Reader shares, and FriendFeed.

Spy is a simple visualization of data that flows through Twitter and FriendFeed. You can "spy" on any keyword you choose, looking backwards as little as one hour, or as much as two days. As you would expect, popular topics like "Obama", "McCain" or "iPhone" see updates every minute or so, as do news items, like "Georgia" or "Olympics".

Essentially, Spy becomes a superset, incorporating Twitter Search as well as activity found from the previously mentioned sources, and displays them in near real-time.

The author, Ben Hedrington, explains that he built the service to help as a bridge between the early adopter set and the mainstream when it comes to social media. In his mind, the Spy tool is as simple as sitting back in an armchair and watching TV. Put in a keyword and watch Spy go to work.

Spy In Action Searching for FireFox Across Twitter and FriendFeed

Spy has already been used by some on Twitter to see news come in around blasts in Bangalore, India, and Spy could likely be a good tool in times of fast-flowing news, be it political change, conflict or natural disasters. Twitter and FriendFeed are becoming places for people to react to news in real time, and Spy is now an option to see those reactions, from disparate sources, in one place.

As Hedrington admits, Spy isn't yet the most robust interface in the world. It's more "developer chic" than polished UI, but he says he's working on it. And it's already received the attention of the Google App Engine team (who can be seen using Spy here). As can be expected, Twitter provides a high percentage of the results in Spy, meaning Twitter Search will be "good enough" for most queries, but Spy will also see discussions taking place elsewhere, giving you a bigger picture.

You can find Spy at