File Under: Social, Web Apps

ThinkUp Adds Color, Depth to Your Social Network Stats

If you’ve ever wanted to archive your social network activity, store in your own database and pull all sorts of interesting visualizations out of it, then the new ThinkUp app is what you’ve been waiting for.

ThinkUp is one part metrics app — tracking which of your posts are most popular, for example — and one part cross-network aggregator. It offers features you won’t find on Twitter or Facebook, like a detailed “conversation view” of exchanges with other users. ThinkUp also acts as a backup for your social network data, pulling it into your own database. It even offers CSV files for creating your own spreadsheets.

Since it archives all of your activity, ThinkUp is an especially useful tool for those of us who like to maintain control over our own data. It takes stuff that would otherwise only live in the various networks’ silos and copies it to a database where we’re the administrator. So if we want to ditch Twitter or Facebook in some distant future where those companies start acting against our best interests, we don’t lose the massive stores of updates, links, photos and, most importantly, friend relationships we’ve already set up. And in the meantime, it lets us have fun with all the data it’s archiving.

Although ThinkUp is still a beta release, we took the code for a spin and found it to be stable enough to be useful. At the moment, it only supports Twitter and Facebook data, but ThinkUp plans to add additional social networks in the future, including LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube and Google Buzz. If you’d like to try out the limited beta, head over to Github and grab the code. You may notice it’s a project published by Gina Trapani, the former Lifehacker editor who is now an independent author, blogger and programmer.

Installing ThinkUp is a bit like installing WordPress on your own server — you’ll need a MySQL database, PHP 5 and a public URL (at least to start, Twitter’s new OAuth system requires a public callback). A full list of system requirements can be found on GitHub.

Once you’ve unzipped and uploaded the code, just visit the URL where you plan to use ThinkUp and an automated install script will walk you through the installation process, just like WordPress. The only snag we hit was that our server didn’t support PHP’s mail() function, so we never got a confirmation e-mail. The solution is pretty simple: just head into MySQL and mark your user as confirmed.

Once you’re up and running, ThinkUp is pretty simple to use. It wraps your myriad of data in a nice-looking interface. Some of the information ThinkUp gives you for Twitter is available in the new Twitter interface, but there’s plenty of extra stuff that make ThinkUp worth having.

ThinkUp's conversation view

The big feature here is that ThinkUp tracks all of your Twitter interactions, showing your most replied-to posts, your most re-tweeted posts and, my personal favorite, threaded conversations with other Twitter users. But it also tracks everything your followers do as well. For example, ThinkUp catalogs all the links and images your followers have posted, displaying them all in one place.

See all your follower's posted images in a single view

There are dozens of features, like charts and graphs showing post counts, follower counts and @replies over time. You can also view all of your followers or friends on a Google Map.

While ThinkUp puts a tremendous amount of data at your fingertips, it manages to keep the interface simple enough that it’s never overwhelming. In fact, it can offer some insight into both how you use Twitter and how you might get more out of it.

If you’ve ever wondered why some of you posts are more popular than others, ThinkUp offers a window on what your followers like, how they respond to your posts, and how quickly they respond. ThinkUp is especially useful if you often post questions of your followers. Because responses tend to trickle in over time, finding them all can be difficult given the speed of Twitter. Thanks to the conversation view, ThinkUp makes it easy to see your question and everyone’s response in a single view.

As should be apparent when you set it up, ThinkUp is an entirely modular app — everything is a plugin. That means anyone can write plugins and expand the functionality of ThinkUp. At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be repository of outside plugins. But should the app take off, we expect something of the sort will be available.

ThinkUp is still clearly a beta release and a little rough around the edges. Its biggest downfall is a lack of user documentation. There is however, great documentation for developers looking to extend the app. But even at this early stage, ThinkUp is well on its way to becoming a must-have tool for social media addicts — albeit ones with access to a personal web server and the smarts to use it.

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