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Journalists and the Social Web 1


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First of three presentations on journalists and the Social Web. Presented at seminar on this topic in Oslo in October 2008. Journalists and the semantic web. This is part one of my keynote presentation to the 'Journalists and Social Web' seminar held in Oslo on Oct 25th, 2008. This seminar was organised by, and Norwegian journalist Kristine Low.

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Journalists and the Social Web 1

  1. 1. Web2.0 and 3.0, Social networks and Journalists Mining information from social networking sites Journalists are increasingly turning to social networks to look for case studies, contacts and expert opinion. But searching social networks can be frustrating and time consuming.
  2. 2. Used carefully, google can be far more effective <ul><li>use google’s advanced operators to source only from social network profiles and pages using specific search terms </li></ul>This technique can also allow you to pin-point specific information in profiles.
  3. 3. Google’s advanced operators Google allows various ‘advanced’ operators. These are typed directly into the Google Search field. Used correctly and with care, they can be far more effective than using the ‘advanced’ search page.
  4. 4. A crash course in advanced operators: That search will look for pages that include the terms ‘patient’, ‘help’ and MRSA - but only in the UK’s Health Protection Agency
  5. 5. The operator ends with a colon, and then no space. These are the most important operators for what we are discussing today. site: www.hpa - restricts the search only to HPA pages inurl: privacy - restricts the search only to pages that have the word ‘privacy’ in the url intitle: semantic - restricts the search only to pages with ‘semantic’ in the title of the page
  6. 6. link: www.hpa - restricts the search only to pages that link to the HPA filetype: pdf - restricts the search only to pdf documents allintitle :privacy research - will return pages that have both ‘privacy’ and ‘research’ in the title. info: www.hpa accesses Google information about that site such as similar sites and site that link to it Advanced operators are extremely powerful and can be used to access information on website servers for example.
  7. 7. The technique varies depending on the social network We’ll start by looking at Bebo profiles usually have a url that looks like this: The url normally contains the terms: ‘profile’ and ‘memberid’ Using google’s advanced operators we can include these terms in our search strings to search only within bebo profiles.
  8. 8. This search string: inurl:memberid inurl:bebo Returned around 34 million hits in October 2008
  9. 9. Imagine you are looking for people who work for Pfizer in Search the site and you’ll get around 85 hits
  10. 10. But Search in google using this string: inurl:memberid inurl:bebo pfizer And you get 1940 hits.
  11. 11. And many of those include open profiles from people who work for Pfizer
  12. 12. Search for the term “ tomb-stoning” in bebo and you get 3 people.
  13. 13. But use this string in google: And you get 98 profiles of people who claim to ‘tomb stone’ inurl:memberid inurl:bebo “ tomb-stoning”
  14. 14. requires a login to search profiles and within the Friendster pages But you can get around this barrier using search engine operators combined with other search terms....
  15. 15. Returns nearly 7 million hits. For example, this search: inurl:profiles inurl:friendster
  16. 16. Searching within those results for ‘Oslo’ Initially, google only returns 2 results. When google hides many ‘similar pages’ you need to ‘repeat the search with omitted results included’
  17. 17. When we do that, google returns 2,260 profiles from people in Oslo or who mention Oslo
  18. 18. Livejournal You can search LiveJournal communities and members via the ‘explore’ page. For example, imagine you are writing a story about the hospital acquired infection - MRSA. You can search for ‘mrsa’ in the liverjournal search field.
  19. 19. And we get 3 matches for communities interested in MRSA. And 18 matches for users.
  20. 20. LiveJournal ‘community’ pages normally have URLs structured like this: And LiveJournal ‘user’ pages normally have URLs structured like this: Using the same tactics as before, we can use Google’s advanced operators to search livejournal’s pages more effectively.
  21. 21. In October, this search: inurl:livejournal returned more than 55 million hits. And this search: inurl:livejournal mrsa returned more than 2,480 hits.
  22. 22. You can go on refining your results using similar tactics. For example, this search: inurl:livejournal mrsa inurl:community returns 373 results for ‘community’ pages only.
  23. 23. Including the UKs ‘Cynical Nurse’ community: Where there is a thread on MRSA
  24. 24. Myspace Myspace profiles usually have a url that looks like this: The url normally contains the terms: ‘fuseaction’ and ‘viewprofile’ Using these terms to explore Myspace content using Google: inurl:fuseaction Returns million 17 million hits in October 2008.
  25. 25. Use Google as an extra tool to search Myspace. For example, if you search for ‘MRSA’ under ‘people’ in Myspace, you get 49 profiles. But this search in Google: inurl:viewprofile MRSA returns 2890 results.
  26. 26. Linkedin Linkedin is generally seen as the professional social network for business people. But it is very difficult to search or view any profiles unless you are a member
  27. 27. As a member, if I search for ‘Pfizer’ under ‘people’ I get only 20 hits
  28. 28. But here are some of the 290,000 hits I obtained using: pfizer in Google And many of those are Pfizer employees...
  29. 29. Here is the ‘public profile’ Pfizer’s Associate Director of Global Regulatory Affairs. This gives her current position, previous experience, education. Other profiles give interests. This ‘public’ listing can be found in Google when you enter specific names. But this technique allows you to search using company names or job titles etc.
  30. 30. <ul><li>Imagine you are doing a story on the highly controversial ‘pro-anorexia’ sites and ‘pro-ana’ trend. Often linked to ‘thinspo’ sites. </li></ul><ul><li>Search for those terms in bebo and you get roughly 55 references in “people” - many of those are closed profiles. </li></ul>
  31. 31. <ul><li>Use this search term in google: </li></ul><ul><li> inurl:memberid inurl:bebo pro-ana OR pro-anorexia </li></ul><ul><li>and you get more than 600 hits </li></ul>
  32. 32. With links to pro-ana websites, Potential case studies and anecdotes And other leads and links
  33. 33. Using: inurl:livejournal site:livejournal inurl:community pro-ana We can explore Livejournal’s community sites that are pro-ana or campaigning against pro-ana. Adding in other terms to narrow focus
  34. 34. We get 115 hits in Livejournal Community pages that mention London . Some of those are potential leads. By adding ‘London’ to the search string
  35. 35. Be flexible with these tactics Try different strategies with different social networks Hone your results by adding additional search terms Use Google’s ‘search within results’ option to drill down further
  36. 36. Using these tactics In May this year I set myself the target of: finding personal information related to somene under 16 years of age, someone’s precise location; and, personal information related to someone’s work. In 10 minutes I was able to find:
  37. 37. - the mobile number of a 15-year-old girl in South London; - the address of where a 17-year-old waitress works in Kent; and, - the e-mail address and salary of an Accenture employee. These kind of privacy blunders litter sites such as, and Facebook and the debate about how best to protect people from identity theft has intensified as social networking has exploded in popularity.
  38. 38. Related tactics prove so successful at reaching sensitive, personal information that wrote to the Press Complaints Commission. We are likely to do so again. See demonstration.