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May 14, 2009 8:24 AM   Subscribe

NPR Backstory is an automated Twitter feed providing helpful links to news items from the past 14 years that might be relevant to current events. For example, when masses of people started googling medical information after a news item about 200,000 patients' medical histories being accidentally exposed, NPRbackstory linked to an April 2008 analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of storing patient records online.

" The results, Keith will be the first to tell you, aren’t perfect. He estimated... that about 50 percent of the links aren’t really to archival stories.... Another 15 percent of the results are complete misses. Those are usually caused by search terms that have multiple meanings. And once in a while there’s something way out of left field, like this attempt to tie "plankton" to a memoir by the advice columnist Ask Amy. But the rest of the time, it works really well — plucking a gem from the NPR archives that adds context and depth to some subject in the news. Keith compared it to the way that Fresh Air’s three-decade archive allows it to air something old but newly timely whenever a past interview subject is in the news again."

It's a personal project of Keith Hopper, using NPR's news API, Google's Hot Trends list of currently-popular search terms, and a variety of other tools; Hopper's page provides more technical info. [via]
posted by ardgedee (7 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
among my favorite twitter pages ever in part because as joshua benton puts it, "NPRbackstory gives me a few links a day to interesting stuff I wouldn’t otherwise find — embedded among the tweets from all my friends and others I follow. It’s almost exactly the right amount of material.", and also because i am partial to the source which it comes from. i do not mind the clunky nature of the experiment because the idea is solid and one that i hope catches on.
posted by the aloha at 8:31 AM on May 14, 2009


I kinda like this idea, but I can't really figure out why it's a Twitter feed.
posted by ErWenn at 8:39 AM on May 14, 2009


I'm not sure why anything is a Twitter feed.
posted by regicide is good for you at 9:28 AM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Twitter is popular so using it as a data delivery mechanism for people's follow streams is commonsensical.

If you'd rather get it in an RSS feed or by visiting a web page, Twitter provides those. The developer could easily have set this up on a standalone web page, but then nobody would be able to follow through Twitter or the various pre-built Twitter pipes (such as into Facebook) without extra effort.
posted by ardgedee at 9:45 AM on May 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have nothing to add beyond 1) bravo to NPR for getting involved with twitter in an intelligent, non-intrusive way, and 2) commonsensical is my favorite word for the day, even though I feel it's not a real word.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:58 AM on May 14, 2009


Yes, but isn't this really about a uniform feed of information. It's about posing a query and getting a (relatively) personalized response (unless I've misunderstood things). Twitter just seems...awkward for this kind of service.

I'm not siding with regicide here, claiming that Twitter is completely useless. I'm just confused by this particular use of it.
posted by ErWenn at 7:46 PM on May 15, 2009


ErWenn: Yes, but isn't this really about a uniform feed of information. It's about posing a query and getting a (relatively) personalized response (unless I've misunderstood things). Twitter just seems...awkward for this kind of service.

I'm not siding with regicide here, claiming that Twitter is completely useless. I'm just confused by this particular use of it.


Dude, people are using Twitter for goddamn novels. This is a reasonable use of Twitter.

(also, on reread: yes, you do have it wrong. it's a bot that checks trending google queries and posts the query and a link to a partNPR article that might shed some light on it.)
posted by flatluigi at 4:46 PM on May 16, 2009


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