“Twitter track on steroids” announced by TweetMeme founder

If you follow Steve Gillmor you know he loved a feature that used to be in Twitter, that he called Track. It let you ask Twitter to shove you real-time info. It was turned off as Twitter tried to deal with its scale problem.

But now Twitter is bringing back real-time streams. I’m using a pre-release version of TweetDeck that shows tweets coming into its columns in real time. It moves fast.

And that’s the problem. We all want to follow more and more people but that means we are less and less likely to keep up with the people and information we really want to keep up with.

So, how do we keep up?

Well, Nick Halstead has an answer he calls DataSift. He called it “track on steroids” when he first told me about it. I immediately got excited and turned on my camera.

It is in final stages of development, he told me, and will be available to developers in the next month. Nick says that Twitter worked with him on its development and it sounds exciting, there’s more on the Datasift blog. Listen to the video, but here’s how Nick pitched it to me in Skype before I turned on the camera:

datasift – takes the twitter firehose – and gives you twitter lists for content
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its twitter track on steriods
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so alerts/analytics/and API access to take real-time streams of the curated content.
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built around a whole new programming language to tell it what content you want to extract
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so for example,  – twitter.user.follow_count > 5000
would give you a stream of all the updates from twitter users with more than 5000 followers
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– twitter.geo GEO_RADIUS “51.500789,-0.142264:10.0” AND twitter.text CONTAINS “coffee”  AND twitter.sentiment > 75 looks for people in a 10km range of SF – that mention cofee – and are being very positive about it
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looks for people in a 10km range of SF – that mention cofee – and are being very positive about it any data that is contained in a tweet (of which there are like 30 different fields) can be filtered against
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any data that is contained in a tweet (of which there are like 30 different fields) can be filtered against, including annotations

UPDATE: Nick has more on his personal blog about the new Twitter button feature, and yet more, along with a video, on the DataSift blog.

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Tour of SimpleGeo reveals why location services can’t get along

Last week I finally got to visit one of the companies that’s getting a lot of attention inside the location-based service world. No, it’s not Foursquare or Gowalla. It’s SimpleGeo, headquartered in Boulder, CO.

But one thing I’m interested in is why all these services don’t share data (I wrote about that in Techcrunch recently). You know, TripIt doesn’t talk with Google Maps which doesn’t talk with Foursquare which doesn’t talk with Gowalla which doesn’t talk with Bing Maps which doesn’t talk with Trapster which doesn’t talk with my running and cycling apps which don’t talk with Waze which doesn’t talk with Glympse and on and on and on.

In the interview and tour with SimpleGeo’s CEO (SimpleGeo plays intermediary for companies trying to build location-based services) he gives a good explanation of why these companies haven’t gotten along:

1. Their databases describe locations differently, so matching databases is hard.
2. The companies they are building on top of, like Navtek, have contracts that forbid a lot of databases being built on top of them.
3. The really useful data, like real-time views into what restaurants your friends are eating at, is very valuable so companies tend to want to keep that to themselves.

These are tough problems and is why the location-based industry feels a lot like online services felt in the late 1980s: lots of data silos, but no way yet to build common interfaces that join these together. We all know that the web came along in 1994 and fixed that. When will the same thing happen to the industry that Foursquare and Gowalla are leading now? I have a feeling SimpleGeo will play a big role in that and that we’ll be seeing a lot more of its CEO, Matt Galligan.

As to the tour of the office, neat to see how they are joining offices together with videoconferencing systems. If you are starting a startup or are trying to work with a remote team, you might get some ideas by what SimpleGeo is doing in its offices.

SimpleGeo's founder Matt Galligan

This startup wants you to play with its balls

Last week in Boulder, Colorado, we saw a ton of cool startups but many of them didn’t make products consumers can go into a store and buy. GearBox, though, is selling robotic balls that will cost about $50.

Now, what’s cool about a robotic ball beyond their opening pitch of “play with our balls?”

Well, you use a smart phone to tell the ball where to roll, watch the video I shot to see how the ball works. That alone is fun, but is sheer delight for cats or babies.

But they went further than just the obvious use cases. The robot inside the ball is actually a pretty open platform that you can use to build other kinds of devices. You can also program it to do different things with a couple of lines of code thanks to its API. They’ve already held hack days to see what developers might want to do with their balls.

Anyway, the video is fun to watch as they demo it to a bunch of venture capitalists (Jason Calacanis is seen in the background checking out this startup’s balls). They were all in town to see demos from Techstars companies. More on Techstars later this week as I get more of the cool startup videos I shot in Boulder.

I’m buying one. I think they’ll be the hot Christmas toy for geeks this Christmas.

GearBox's robotic camera