Thinkup: A web app to help analyse your social network

ThinkUp, a free software project founded by Gina Trapani of Lifehacker fame, helps you harvest insights from the conversations you have on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. One of ThinkUp’s most compelling features is its ability to collect and organise replies to the questions you pose to your friends and followers on your social networks.

The free, installable web-application is still in beta testing but has received a lot of positive acclaim already.

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With ThinkUp, you are able to store your social data such as posts, replies, retweets, friends, followers, and links from Twitter and Facebook in your own local database. This gives you control, and makes your social data available to search, sort, filter, export, and visualise in useful ways.

Some of the interesting ways that ThinkUp visualises your social data is by presenting replies across Twitter and Facebook on a map if the messages contain geographical information, while your follower count over time is presented as a chart, and it also displays a stream of in-line photos and expanded links that your friends may have posted.

ThinkUp can be an extremely useful tool for researchers or power users with large numbers of followers. When you pose a question to your friends or followers on Twitter or Facebook, ThinkUp organises replies to your tweets or Facebook status updates by the location of your friends who respond, and provides insights on which questions received the most responses.

When users respond, ThinkUp provides insights about your followers and friends, like who’s most popular or who updates least often. You can also export your list of replies to blogging tools like WordPress. The software also provides statistics about your activity, such as your average replies per day, or how often you update. As ThinkUp is an extendable open source application, new functionality can easily be added in the form of plugins.

Some tinkering is required to set it up, as ThinkUp is not a hosted service. ThinkUp requires a local or hosted web server running PHP 5.2 and MySQL 5. The set-up process should be relatively painless to anyone who has done a WordPress or similar install before, but it’s clearly aimed at the more tech-savvy crowd. Take note that as ThinkUp connects to Twitter periodically, bandwidth costs incurred will be carried by the owner of the web server. If you are running an instance of ThinkUp, you can allow your friends to create accounts too, thereby negating the need for them to do their own setups.

At first glance ThinkUp seems like a very useful tool for researchers or power users with a large enough following to harvest insights from. Even in its beta stage, ThinkUp is a very well put together application that organises replies and provide insight very elegantly. Casual users with smaller followings however, might not find the tool as useful, and with its involved setup, it might not appeal to everyone just quite yet.

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