BEST OF THE WEB: How to create the world’s most newsworthy tweet

Businesses and individuals alike fret over what to say on Twitter, whether it’s too offensive, or too much like a marketing pitch. But according to a new algorithm, there’s actually a way to figure out the “perfect tweet”.

And according to a new piece of research, this may well be it:

At least, according to one new paper from UCLA and HP Labs. The two have developed an algorithm to find what makes up the perfect tweet – and they’ve actually managed to score a very high accuracy mark of 84%.

To develop the algorithm, researchers created a hypothesis that four factors would determine the success of a tweet, including the news source of the tweet, the category of news, whether the language was emotional or objective, and whether celebrities or famous brands were mentioned.

They then looked at 40,000 news article tweets, and then assigned a category to each article. Then they tried to recognise names in the tweets, and then scored each individual message.

The researchers found their hypothesis was correct, so a tweet about someone famous will mean something more coming from a reputable source than an individual. That much is obvious, but putting all four factors of the hypothesis together comes up with an algorithm for success.

As The Atlantic points out, behaviour around brands works the same on Twitter as it always has.

“What’s remarkable about the HP paper and its algorithm is how back-to-the-future their results actually are.”

“Online, the researchers are saying, the power of the brand is exactly what it has been since brands first emerged in the Middle Ages: It’s a vector of trust. And it’s a direct proxy for the ongoing transactional realities of the in-person human relationship. “

If you’re interested in how and what works in the Twitter universe, then this is well worth a read.

Harvard’s attempt to create the world’s largest digital library

Google has caused a lot of controversy over its move to scan every book ever published to create a type of digital library. Authors have cried out against the campaign, demanding their royalties be protected, and a huge court case has even been fought.

The project started in 2002, and was originally titled Google Book Search. But the ongoing lawsuits have made everything far too difficult, and right now the company is awaiting more trials to begin in the American summer.

So Harvard is picking up where Google left off.

Robert Darnton, historian and author, is moving forward on Google’s vision. In an article on Technology Review, he says he wants to “make all knowledge available to all citizens”, and is now working with Harvard to create the university’s own digital library.

He’s also a harsh critic of Google’s own attempt, saying Google Book Search was “a commercial speculation”, that would become “a monopoly of a new kind, not of railroads or steel, but of access to information”.

So Darnton is now working with the Harvard Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, on a project funded by the Alfred P Sloan Foundation. It wants to have the library operating at least in some form by April 2013, and over the past 18 months has been promoting the project, and even recruiting volunteers.

The timing has never been better. With Google now stalled by lawsuits, Harvard has the opportunity to be seen as the world’s next chance at a digital library.

Of course, there are still projects. “The legal problems are staggering,” Darnton says, and that’s not even counting the squabbling among the project’s leaders.

Copyright is a huge issue, as existing laws don’t necessarily gel with the futuristic vision of the project.

“Moreover, the removal of the registration requirement means that millions of so-called orphan books—ones whose copyright holders either are unknown or can’t be found—now lie beyond the reach of online libraries,” the piece points out.

With Google now stopped in its tracks, the education market has taken up the gauntlet. But as this piece describes, there’s less than a year to go before the Digital Public Library of America wants to be usable – and whether it will even be operable remains unknown.

The hacking attacks exposing low-quality security

Last week, LinkedIn users were met with the worst type of warning you can get from an internet company – a prompt to change their passwords.

The company had been hacked, which seems to be all the more common among internet companies. Any business with a server holding customer details seems to have been impacted in the past few years, and the bigger the company, the more likely the target.

Over at the New York Times, it points out LinkedIn wasn’t the only company targeted recently, with Lastfm.com and eHarmony saying last week they had been hit.

But some experts have already started the attack.

“If they had consulted with anyone that knows anything about password security, this would not have happened,” Paul Kocher, president of Cryptography Research, told the publication.

As the piece points out, there aren’t any legal penalties for losing data, and customers can’t leave, because these sites are so big they don’t have any competitors.

And Kocher points out a sobering statistic. The number of plane crashes has plummeted to a fraction of what it was since the aviation industry brought in stricter regulations in 1958. But security threats continue to grow, and there has been a 10,000-fold increase since 2002.

“People don’t vote with their feet,” he points out, with regard to social networks. Maybe they should.

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