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Navigating the World Live Web: An Exploratory Talk on The Way We Look to Us All

BY Micah L. Sifry | Sunday, December 6 2009

Who are we? What are we thinking about or responding to or passionate about or interested in? On October 21, 2009, I gave a talk to NPR Weekend Edition and Digital staff, during their staff retreat. The topic was "Navigating the World Live Web." My goal was to look at how we can tell new kinds of stories from the intentional and unintentional data streams being created by millions of users of the internet. Or, to use Paul Simon's memorable phrase, "the way we look to us all." Here's the video:

During the first part of the talk I explore how people "vote" with their attention around political candidates and themes, and look at tools for unearthing interesting trends in public attention, focusing on indicators like blog posts, "friending" on social network sites, and the like. I also look at tools for discerning trends in what people are searching for, as another way of discovering shifts in the public mood.

In the second part, I dig into the really live web, not just the recently indexed or searched web, and explore several tools for sifting tweets on Twitter to discover important trends.

I close by suggesting that a new kind of journalism is yet to be invented, one that would combine live programming (of the kind practiced, say, by NPR) with direct engagement of the millions of people "who used to be called the audience."

Here are the links to various live web sites and tools used during the video:

Electric Sheep screen saver

The social media explosion

Technorati's blogs on politics

Blog mentions of Presidential candidates

Facebook friends of Presidential candidates

Open Congress

Does Google make us dumber?

Or Google Trends makes us smarter

Google Flu Trends

Google Flu Trends track vs CDC data (video)

Live web tracking tools:


Trendistic on Obama (switch to 90 day view)


Example: the Trafigura story.

The Internet as toxic avenger and the ungagging of the Guardian

Watching Twitscoop as Trafigura scandal breaks

Twitter Vote Report visualization by Dave Troy