Creating a Voices For The Library newspaper with paper.li

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Along with a couple of other people in the Voices For The Library team I tweet from the official account, as well as my own personal Twitter account. As well as highlighting what we are doing in the campaign, we also use the account to highlight links to our followers. These tend to be positive library stories and links to articles about cuts and campaigns. These tweets are spread-out throughout the day and as not everyone sits on Twitter all day, so we can’t guarantee that everyone will see a @ukpling tweet they are interested in. I thought it would be useful to bring all these links together, along with other relevant links from other Twitter users.

There are a number of applications that use Twitter to pull together links you are interested in and present the links in a more readable way, than just performing a standard Twitter search and going through all the shortened links one by one.

I chose to use paper.li, because it allows you to create a daily newspaper page that can be published/tweeted at a preset time. It displays the title and snippet of the item you are linking to, which is better than looking at a shortened url and not knowing whether the link is useful or not. It also displays any photos or videos that have been tweeted.

It’s easy to set up. To get links into your newspaper you can pull them out from Twitter using one of the following methods:

  • Choose a Twitter account (this picks up links from that account and also Twitter users that account is following)
  • Set up a hashtag search
  • Choose a Twitter list
  • Set up a complex search

 You can give your newspaper a name and this will appear at the top of the page. Below this are a number of horizontal tabs, indicating ‘Headlines’, specific subjects extracted from the tweet (eg Education) and any hashtag mentioned in the tweets that contained the links. The paper is also archived, so you can revisit any saved links from the time you set up the newspaper.

 (c) Nationaalarchief/Flickr

I spent some time tinkering with the search methods to get the most appropriate links into the newspaper. By using complexes search containing ‘@ukpling’, people we follow on Twitter, or followers of a list, or even various hashtags, it didn’t work as I wanted it to. These methods pulled in links that weren’t relevant, because other people we follow aren’t solely focussed on library campaigning (even from my own personal account I don’t just tweet about libraries). Hashtags are also used inconsistently, so wouldn’t pick up everything we were after. In the end I set up the simplest search ever. It just contains the word ‘ukpling’. This allowed links to be picked up that were either sent out from our account, or someone sent to us, or mentioned ‘ukpling’ in any way. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best!

It’s set up to publish (tweet) at the same time every day – lunchtime. I just figured people may be more likely to be looking at Twitter at this time and can see all the consolidated links we’ve tweeted over the past day. Our followers can then also retweet our consolidated links to their followers.

You can also embed paper.li into a web page too as a widget.

As I say, there are other applications like paper.li and I played with a few of them, but I just found this to be straightforward and more or less achieves what I want it to.

My only quibbles are that:

  • I’m sure there are other relevant results hiding on Twitter, but at the moment the Twitter search API doesn’t allow you to get at them easily without pulling out irrelevant links too.
  • Sometimes duplicate links appear in paper.li – because more than one person has tweeted them.
  • It would be good to be able to set up your own layout for the newspaper you create.

These are minor things and I’m happy to live with them. Just the fact that we’ve now got something set up to bring these links together in a readable form is very useful in itself.

You can read the daily ‘Voices For The Library Links’ here.

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