This article was published on January 28, 2011

How to use Facebook status updates to track news in Egypt.

How to use Facebook status updates to track news in Egypt.

When news breaks Twitter is often the first place people turn to. Watching the #Egypt hashtag today could bring even the most hard-hearted to despair. But given the global attention of today’s situation in Egypt, the news has penetrated my Facebook newsfeed and there was a great number of status updates regarding the violent protests taking place in Cairo.

Openbook, a website  founded by Peter Burns and Will Moffat is Twitter search, but for Facebook . Burns and Moffat setup Openbook to highlight the flaws of Facebook’s privacy policy, however I have been using it as my de facto tool for searching Facebook status updates for breaking news.

Comparing my Twitter Search feeds and Openbook  Feeds I find that, Facebook status updates regarding Egypt tend to:

  • Use more words
  • Are more detailed
  • Be easier to understand
  • Can select by gender
  • Less real time
  • Less updates
  • Have no auto-refresh
  • Have no unifying term like Twitter’s hashtag
  • Feels more formal/academic

There needs to be a search engine built for the purpose of following status updates on Facebook. In the meantime Openbook is good at focusing our attention to the potential of the feature. Openbook also shows us that filters such as gender can be applied to real-time news. Facebook has loads more information on its users than Twitter. Which means at the press of one button we will be able to view all updates coming out of Egypt.

There are rumors floating around that Facebook plans to launch its own Search function. If Openbook/Facebook is to become an alternative to realtime tweets Facebook will have to become more open, something its users will not like. If you are new to a breaking story I would recommend doing a search on Openbook due to it’s slower, but more in-depth updates. Then, when you want to intensify the heat jump onto Twitter search.