By Ariel Blum
With 140 million users of Twitter posting some 340 million tweets a day, it can be hard -- downright impossible, even -- to decide with whom to connect. How do you cut through the clutter?
Israeli entrepreneur Eytan Avigdor shares your pain. “There are at least 100 Twitter analytic sites. They give you lots of data through complex graphs and numbers,” he says. “But I couldn’t use them; they didn’t solve my problem. I just wanted something simple, where you can understand in a minimum amount of time more about a person you might want to engage with.”
Fortunately for Avigdor (and by extension the rest of us), he was also a crack coder. After six months of hard work, Eytan and his twin brother, Noam -- who both have degrees in computer science from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology -- created a solution.
They dubbed it Twtrland (the first two vowels are missing, mainly due to the scarcity of web addresses these days) and it’s been a social media success story ever since.
Twtrland, which analyzes a tweeter’s activity in plain English with a few nifty charts thrown in, is deceptively simple. Type in the @user text that indicates a Tweeter’s “handle” and, in a few seconds, Twtrland displays such data points as how often per day the user tweets, re-tweets and has his or her own tweets re-tweeted.
Every summary page includes a simple pie chart that displays much of the same information visually. Avigdor says he likes to follow people who “just write tweets about themselves; their thoughts about their lives. I don’t follow people who put up a lot of links or pictures.” The pie chart provides that breakdown at a glance. If you like what you see, it’s just a single click to start following that Twitter user.
That’s still pretty techy, so Twtrland also shows what it calls “Famous Words” – those are quotations that Twtrland’s natural language-processing algorithm deems significant for each user. For Lady Gaga, it seems to have something to do with “little monsters.” For Ashton Kutcher, it’s about promoting peace.
Worrying about privacy? Then you probably shouldn’t be on Twitter in the first place. Twtrland only uses publicly available data, but in Twitter’s case, that’s pretty much all of it.
Eytan and Noam Avigdor in New York
Twtrland raised a small angel round and the twin brothers settled down and hoped for the best. That came in spades when an influential Israeli blogger tweeted a short blurb about the company. Within hours, Twtrland was fielding phone calls from dozens of reporters. The site was featured on some of the biggest tech magazines, from Mashable and The Next Web to the Israeli business publication The Marker, among many others.
More importantly, visitors to the Twtrland website increased exponentially, from 1,000 when it launched to 300,000 unique visitors a month today. “And it all started with a single tweet,” CEO Eytan Avigdor explains, still somewhat amazed at his company’s unexpected trajectory.
The rapid rise to Twitter stardom also led to the company’s first unplanned milestone, explains Avigdor somewhat sheepishly. “Our servers crashed.” (They’ve since been repaired.)
Twtrland is currently free – and will probably stay that way. While the site is valuable on its own, Avigdor views it more as a business card to get in the door of other small firms, to help them “grow through the marketing power of Twitter by analyzing data and making connections to opinion leaders in different types of categories.”
For Twtrland users, though, that means updates will be slow in coming. But the site works well and provides a valuable service, even if it’s stuck in a state of social suspended animation.