If the Internet is a bunch of tubes, then those tubes are filled with streams of people's conversations. The real Internet isn't a bunch of networked documents, but people who are connected by relationships. Tracking and measuring those conversations is something marketing and PR people do regularly, but it is a challenge. The problem is that I'm not searching for specific information, I'm looking for the connections between people. The strength of the relationship between two people can be measured in the frequency and quality of their conversations. Unfortunately, traditional information search tools want to show you the documents people created not the trust that exists between those posting the information and those reading it.
Topsy released their solution to this marketing and PR problem this week. Although I'm sure they aren't just trying to solve the problems of PR people, I'm seeing that this tool quickly uncovers the social conversation and connections between influencers that I work to find each day.
Topsy listens to the conversations on the social web - the reviews, rants, raves, links and tweets. They compile that information and then present it in a way that makes it easy to see who is saying it and also who else is listening. When I recently tweeted something, I could see through Topsy everyone that had retweeted it and others who were linking to the same topic.
Topsy's first index is of Twitter, but I suspect this powerful tool will begin to index other social media sites where real people are connecting. If you are interested, you can see what Topsy is tracking on me and who else is commenting on those same topics.
The real juice to squeeze out of those Internet tubes is the social conversation and relationships between people on the social web.