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Monday, June 23, 2014

Things You Discover by Cyber Stalking Scott Manley

One of my favorite YouTube broadcasters is Scott Manley. If you don't follow his channel, you really do need to subscribe. He is not only informative, but he is also funny - and I don't mean just funny sounding, though there may be that too. :P Sorry Scott, I just had to go there. Your brogue is, shall we say, distinct. Don't let our West Coast lack of accent ever change it! Anyway, back to topic. So one of the things I think we all do is find out "a bit more" about those we like to follow.  At least I hope we all do, or I'm a bit like a stalker. :/ And I certainly was curious, because on his YouTube banner Scott lists himself as, "Astronomer! Scottsman! Hacker! Gamer! DJ!" It was the hacker bit that got me curious. I've known a few astronomers in my day, but not one of them have ever labeled themself a hacker. So I clicked a few links on his channel header to find out where Scott does astronomy.

That led me to discovering that Scott doesn't actually work in Astronomy nor live in Scotland these days. He lives in Oakland and works for Topsy Labs, Inc. Sorry if that weirds you out man. I'm not going to, like, show up on your doorstep or anything. I love the hell out of your videos and all, but I'm no creeper or some such. Really... moving past the awkward now.

I'd never heard of Topsy. Things I don't know anything about always piqué my curiosity, so I looked the company up. It turns out T0psy is one of those really cool companies you've never heard about (at least I hadn't.) According to Wikipedia (yeah, yeah, I know,)

"Topsy (aka Topsy Labs, Inc.) is a social search and analytics company based in San Francisco, California. The company is a certified Twitter partner and maintains a comprehensive index of tweets, numbering in hundreds of billions, dating back to Twitter's inception in 2006. Topsy makes products to search, analyze and draw insights from conversations and trends on the public social websites including Twitter and Google+."

Long story short, that Wikipedia page led me to That site is a public, "real-time search engine for social posts and socially shared content, primarily on Twitter and GooglePlus." That's awesome! I always wondered who helped come up with those "trending" links you see in social media. Now I know. But what is really awesome about is it fills in a gap I have related to some information gathering posts I've done in the past. For example this post titled A New Tool for Tracking Online Popularity, etc. That post from last year was on Google Trends, a Google service that can show you how keywords are trending in the world of search.

But this only works for searches. It does not work for things like retweets on Twitter or other real-time systems. It's good to know what people are interested in, but search results only show part of that interest. Perhaps a better way to show interest is to see a real-time result from conversations people are having in nearly real-time. That is, after all, what Twitter is best at. If you want to know what's happening in the world today, Twitter is one of the go-to places to find out. I am stoked to add this new tool to my research arsenal. It's never bad to have too much data (though it can be confusing. ;-) )

So, how does fit in with the Google Trend method? Well, let's do a test. Scott and I are both interested in a few future space-based games. They are EVE Valkyrie, Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen. Let's do a Google Trend and a Topsy search on those three games and see what they say about each.

[caption id="attachment_3038" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Google Trend of 3 future Space Games Google Trend of 3 future Space Games[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_3037" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Topsy Search of 3 future Space Games Topsy Search of 3 future Space Games[/caption]

The first thing I noticed from these two graphs is that they are in agreement. Of the three games listed, Star Citizen by far receives the most interest. Not only does it get more interest in real-time, but it has always received more interest and for much longer than the other two games according to Google Trends. It's one thing to think a certain future game get's more interest than another, and quite a different thing to see it in easily understood graphical format. Second in interest is Elite Dangerous and a long way back in third is EVE Valkyrie. I wonder what that bodes for EVE Valkyrie, if anything?

As for Star Citizen, the question this raises in my mind is whether this interest sustains the Star Citizen funding drive or does the funding drive cause the interest? At this point I'm willing to embrace the concept of 'and' and allow they are mutually feeding, but how did it all get rolling. Was it the hype that got it all started? If so, that's a hell of an accomplishment in this day and age. It deserves some study I think. With every company out there clamoring for attention and investment in their 'great idea,'  it's a credit to Chris Roberts that he's been able to generate and sustain this level of interest. I suppose that's why he's got over $45 million in the bank.

There is one more thing these graphs can show. Google Analytics attempts to identify the one major event responsible for high points in search results. Those are the points marked with letters on the trend line. This does not always work so well. For example, the 'E' on the Google Trends' Star Citizen line is to an article published by This is not useful to me. I am certain there were other articles in languages I do speak concerning this console question, but they are lost among all the searches done at that time.

Topsy covers a smaller time span, and it has an absolute mechanic for determining what is responsible for the spike. Take the June 3rd spike in the graph above. Hovering over that point gives this result:

[caption id="attachment_3036" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Topsy Search of 3 future Space Games top Tweet Topsy Search of 3 future Space Games top Tweet[/caption]

We can easily see the top tweet on that day for Star Citizen. It was sent out by @pcgamer, links included. A quick copy and paste allows anyone to see what generated the 1739 tweets and retweets. Here's how the counting works according to Topsy support:

"On every search result page Topsy provides you with the count on the left which is the number of search results for that period. It is a count of tweets, uniqued by links or retweets: i.e. multiple retweets are only counted once; multiple tweets for a single url are only counted once.
As twitter is growing, and our counts are cumulative, the number of tweets for a topic can to be higher if you check it on any given day compared to the previous day, especially if you’re looking at the number over the past month."

And yes, that June 3rd tweet count keeps climbing. It's gone up almost 100 since I took that screen capture. That's way cool! That's why I find Topsy is both informative and addictive, and I happily add it to my list of tools to find out what's hot (and what's not) in the world of gaming. Using it is almost as fun as playing the games themselves. And what's more, you can search on anything. It doesn't even have to be games. :o So give it a spin and see if you can determine what's going to be the next great thing. Cheers!


  1. Cliff Stoll was the original astronaut-hacker. He became kind of a tool in later years -- he famously remarked that on-line shopping was just a fad. But undeniably a brilliant, funny guy.

  2. Oh, and I should mention he was the inspiration for Brent Spiner's character in Independence Day. Look him up.

  3. Brent Spiner's character, really? That's sorta creepy. Now I have to look him up. Thanks!

  4. The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage! I remember that book! I had no idea who wrote it. Thanks again!


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