What's next for twXplorer? Help us decide.

twXplorer screenshot

Just over two weeks ago we launched twXplorer, a tool to help people make sense of searches and find interesting conversations on Twitter.

When we launched the tool we didn’t know how it would be received or what use people would find for it. So far, we've been pretty happy to have more than 13,000 people use twXplorer and to get a few kind words from The Atlantic (“control your own little battalion of news-finding bots”), The Buttry Diary ("Twitter search just got waaaay better"), All Twitter, and Spain’s RedAssociales.

Kind words are great, of course, but nothing beats honest feedback. If you've used the tool and have some ideas or special use cases that twXplorer might address, we'd love to hear from you. We're likely to make a few tweaks to twXplorer and your feedback will help us determine which direction to take. Drop us a line at KnightLab@northwestern.edu.

In the meantime, a few of the features requested so far:

  • Search date or time range. This is a common request, but unfortunately it's not something we can implement for the simple reason that Twitter's API doesn't support it. A common related question had to do with the number of tweets examined. For now twXplorer looks the most recent 500 tweets that contain the term you searched for.
  • Search by location. Currently twXplorer collects tweets that contain the term you searched for without regard for location. We’ve learned from other projects — specifically NeighborhoodBuzz — that relatively few people geotag tweets, which makes a meaningful analysis difficult. On top of that the search API only supports search by a radius around a point, which is not how most people think about doing searches.
  • An API. There’s some interest in an API. No word on what aspect of twXplorer is most intriguing, but we’re reaching out to folks who use the tool and will learn more as we do.
  • Integration with Storify. Some people want to Storify tweets directly from twXplorer.
  • Sentiment analysis.

  • A better block list — the omission list of most frequent terms – for twXplorer?

  • A better block list. Paul Watson at Storyful looked at the results of a Twitter list analysis and noted that the list of most frequent terms was pretty weak, including words like “says” “get” “new” and “want” among the top five.
  • Analysis over time. In a slight twist from the first bullet in this list, one user wanted to capture the most common hashtags used by her twitter lists over the course of a week. Using the twXplorer as it’s currently configured she could achieve the same result by taking a snapshot a few times each day, but that’s an awful lot of work. Maybe scheduling searches is useful?
  • Download search results/analysis as JSON.
  • Visualizations across snapshots and permalinks to snapshots.
  • Better handling of trigrams. Those of us who are new to computational linguistics are getting a light vocabulary lesson. We’ve got unigrams (single words), bigrams (two-word phrases) and trigrams (three-word phrase). Some folks want us to do a better job with these longer phrases.
  • Facebook equivalent?


Again, that's a pretty long list and we'll be digging deeper over the next few weeks to learn more about how people actually use the tool.

Remember, if you're a twXplorer user, you can help shape its future. What would make the tool really useful for you? What part of Twitter search is the most painful to deal with, either on Twitter itself or on twXplorer? What do you consistently find yourself wanting when you search?

Have an answer? Drop us a line at knightlab@northwestern.edu.

About the author

Ryan Graff

Communications and Outreach Manager, 2011-2016

Journalism, revenue, whitewater, former carny. Recently loving some quality time @KelloggSchool.

Latest Posts

  • Introducing StorylineJS

    Today we're excited to release a new tool for storytellers.

    StorylineJS makes it easy to tell the story behind a dataset, without the need for programming or data visualization expertise. Just upload your data to Google Sheets, add two columns, and fill in the story on the rows you want to highlight. Set a few configuration options and you have an annotated chart, ready to embed on your website. (And did we mention, it looks great on phones?) As with all of our tools, simplicity...

    Continue Reading

  • Join us in October: NU hosts the Computation + Journalism 2017 symposium

    An exciting lineup of researchers, technologists and journalists will convene in October for Computation + Journalism Symposium 2017 at Northwestern University. Register now and book your hotel rooms for the event, which will take place on Friday, Oct. 13, and Saturday, Oct. 14 in Evanston, IL. Hotel room blocks near campus are filling up fast! Speakers will include: Ashwin Ram, who heads research and development for Amazon’s Alexa artificial intelligence (AI) agent, which powers the...

    Continue Reading

  • Bringing Historical Data to Census Reporter

    A Visualization and Research Review

    An Introduction Since Census Reporter’s launch in 2014, one of our most requested features has been the option to see historic census data. Journalists of all backgrounds have asked for a simplified way to get the long-term values they need from Census Reporter, whether it’s through our data section or directly from individual profile pages. Over the past few months I’ve been working to make that a reality. With invaluable feedback from many of you,......

    Continue Reading

  • How We Brought A Chatbot To Life

    Best Practice Guide

    A chatbot creates a unique user experience with many benefits. It gives the audience an opportunity to ask questions and get to know more about your organization. It allows you to collect valuable information from the audience. It can increase interaction time on your site. Bot prototype In the spring of 2017, our Knight Lab team examined the conversational user interface of Public Good Software’s chatbot, which is a chat-widget embedded within media partner sites.......

    Continue Reading

  • Stitching 360° Video

    For the time-being, footage filmed on most 360° cameras cannot be directly edited and uploaded for viewing immediately after capture. Different cameras have different methods of outputting footage, but usually each camera lens corresponds to a separate video file. These video files must be combined using “video stitching” software on a computer or phone before the video becomes one connected, viewable video. Garmin and other companies have recently demonstrated interest in creating cameras that stitch......

    Continue Reading

  • Publishing your 360° content

    Publishing can be confusing for aspiring 360° video storytellers. The lack of public information on platform viewership makes it nearly impossible to know where you can best reach your intended viewers, or even how much time and effort to devote to the creation of VR content. Numbers are hard to come by, but were more available in the beginning of 2016. At the time, most viewers encountered 360° video on Facebook. In February 2016, Facebook......

    Continue Reading

Storytelling Tools

We build easy-to-use tools that can help you tell better stories.

View More