Do we need another tool that helps us monitoring what's happening inside Twitter? What the heck, why not. It's about time Microsoft got into the market.
Keeping a Lense(s) on Twitter
Project Emporia, currently in Alpha Preview, is a new project from Microsoft FUSE Labs. It is another way to see what is being said inside the walls of Twitter. If you don't have time to stroll through the tweets of the numerous twitterers you follow, this might be a good tool for you.
But here's the thing. Project Emporia doesn't just let you keep track of people you follow, it also lets you see tweets from everyone on Twitter. And you don't even have to have a Twitter account if you don't want one.
Project Emporia uses the public API feed from Twitter and breaks the topics down into 5 lenses (technology, entertainment, sports, news, business). There will be more lenses added in the future.
Once you select a lens, you can use the Relevance feature to narrow down (more stars), or widen (less stars), the relevancy of the tweets displayed. There's also a search option that can help narrow down the tweets and related web links even further.
You don't have to log in to browse through the topics or perform searches. But if you want the ability to vote on the information displayed or customize an existing topic lens, then you will need to log in (using your Live ID). Unfortunately this capability is currently limited to FUSE Lab employees, so you can't test it out.
According to the FAQs on the Emporia Project site, there is a recommender system that uses the like/dislike feedback (the voting you can't do yet), to tune the results in a particular topic lens. In addition, tweets which point to a webpage are aggregated.
Advancing Social Computing Opportunities
Project Emporia is a collaboration between FUSE Labs and Microsoft Research (Microsoft Research provided the Matchbox recommendation system used by Project Emporia). eWeek reported that Microsoft Chief Software Architect, Ray Ozzie FUSE Labs suggested in an internal memo (in Oct 2009) that the Lab would help Microsoft capitalize on the social computing opportunities developed by other divisions, including Microsoft Research:
The lab will prioritize efforts where its capabilities can be applied to areas where the company’s extant missions, structures, tempo or risk might otherwise cause us to miss a material threat or opportunity.”
Project Emporia is only one example of this happening. Others include the recently announced Docs for Facebook, which allows Facebook users to create and share Microsoft Office documents with their friends, and Spindex, a social aggregator tool that aggregates Facebook, Twitter, and RSS data from your friends.