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Transitioning from Bread to Bitly

Congratulations to Bread for their recent acquisition by Yahoo. If you’re a Bread user looking into saving your links with Bitly, we’re here to help.

If you haven’t already, you can sign up right now for a Bitly account.

Have a custom short domain? You can get it set up with Bitly by following these instructions.  

You can track click stats for any link you save with Bitly. Learn more about the stats that we share here.

Unfortunately, the links that you previously created will no longer work, but you can save any long URL again as a new Bitly link.

If you have any questions or ideas please email us at support[at]bitly.com.

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Social Engagement: How Content Spreads, panel at Social Data Week. 

A few weeks ago our CEO Mark Josephson spoke on a Social Data Week panel with Eric Harris, EVP of Business Operations at BuzzFeed, where they chatted about social engagement and how content spreads online. The panel was moderated by author and speaker, Mark Jeffries.

In the half hour they discussed a variety of topics including what defines engagement, the possibility of using data to help content go viral, and whether it’s possible to predict what content will go viral next.

Mark discussed the typical patterns we see unfold with popular content shared on Bitly. “We’re amassing a tremendous amount of data and getting an incredible amount of proprietary insight into how people use the web and what they love and what they engage with,” he said.

They also spoke a bit about what great content is, and whether the transparency of social media has forced brands and governments to become more honest. “Social media has democratized the voices of the individual…I’m really interested in learning more in my new time in social and data platforms, to see how the platforms are being put in place for governments, brands and businesses to harness those voices because they’re exploding,” Mark said.

You can watch the entire panel above.

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Introducing Bitly for feelings!

For the past month we’ve been working on Bitly for feelings, our new bookmarklet tool in beta that allows you to express how you feel about the content you share, using bitly links. Instead of receiving a normal shortlink with ‘bit.ly’ as the domain, we’ve created 11 custom domains to help you convey the many different emotions you can have towards online content.

bitly for feelings

Just watched a hilarious video? Why not share it with your friends using a ‘lolthis.me’ custom link? Want to share an in-depth article about the economy on Twitter? This might be a good time to use the ‘scaryto.me’ domain. Subtly hint at at items you’d love to have using ‘iwanth.is’.

custom shortlink

If you have already been using Bitly for feelings, you may have noticed some recent changes. We’ve heard a lot of great feedback from the community about what they’d like to see, and thanks to their insight we’re adding the ability to share your custom feeling shortlinks directly to Facebook and Twitter. We’re also adding two additional feelings: Sad (sadto.me), which is pretty self explanatory, and NSFW (notsfw.me), for things that are more appropriate to view when you’re not in a professional environment.

chaunceys

You can install the bookmarklet by visiting bit.ly/feelings where you will find simple installation instructions. Bitly for feelings is still in beta, so keep sharing your questions and ideas with us at support[at]bitly.com. We want to hear what you think!

And if you’re interested in learning more about the feelings people share, we are excited to announce that the data created by Bitly for feelings is freely available for anyone to use. New data is added every time someone clicks on a “feelings” link. As usage of Bitly for feelings grows, bitly will have one of the best data sets for online sentiment on the internet.  We want as many people as possible to benefit from the insights we get from this new offering.  Instructions on how to access the Bitly for feelings data are available on our public data page on our developer site. If you have any questions or comments about accessing this data stream please send them to api[at]bitly.com.

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Lunch and Learn: why we do it and why you should too

Once a week, we gather together company-wide for Lunch and Learn. Every Wednesday, all of us (regardless of team, meetings or schedule that day) will sit together over lunch to learn about - anything! One person presents about a subject they’re interested in, a cause they care about or a side project they’re working on while the rest of us listen and learn over catered lunch from a nearby restaurant.

mark josephson, lunch and learn

It’s more than a weekly perk for us to look forward to, it’s an important statement about the values we share as a company and the environment we try to cultivate at our office. At Bitly, our Lunch and Learns focus on one of the most important aspects of our company: the people.

“Lunch and Learn doesn’t have to be a lesson. What’s different about ours is that it’s unique to the person,” said Katie Curri, Bitly’s office manager.

Katie is the one-woman show behind our weekly Lunch and Learns. She orders the food, schedules the presenters and rallies us all back every Wednesday to unwind and learn together.

Why have a Lunch and Learn?

Lunch and Learn has grown from a weekly perk into a weekly tradition. We’ve incorporated it into our routine because:

  • It helps with transparency and understanding: “Even though we all work together, we’re on different teams and we might not know what everyone is working on all the time,” Katie said. This happens frequently at companies of all different sizes; you might understand what projects your team is working on, but not know the team across the office. Lunch and Learns can serve as a platform for teams to explain their responsibilities. When you understand what everyone does on a day-to-day basis, you have a new appreciation for each employee at your company and understand where they fit.

  • It builds community: “How much time do you spend at your job? For many of us, it’s a big chunk of our lives. We might as well make it a fun place that is supportive and where you know people care about you,” Katie said. “When you know who people are outside of work, it makes who they are at work so much richer.” At Bitly, our Lunch and Learns aren’t about work - they’re about people. They give everyone a chance to showcase their outside projects, interests and who they are as a person.

  • It fosters learning and growth: “It’s good to have an environment that people can build off of - Bitly started out as a side project and it became a company. You never know what can happen when you start bouncing ideas with people you don’t normally work with,” Katie said. An environment where people are encouraged to learn also encourages them to grow their technical skills or their personal ones. “A lot of people here will have the opportunity in the future to speak about what they know at conferences or events,” Katie added. “Lunch and Learn can give those who aren’t as comfortable speaking in front of people a chance to do that.”

Lunch and Learns of the Past

We’ve covered a bunch of topics since starting Lunch and Learn at the beginning of the year. Some of our most memorable lunches featured guest speakers, game tournaments and interesting side projects. Past Lunch and Learns included:

  • How to Build an App with our iOS developer, Nate Kirby

  • What Makes Puns Funny with front-end engineer, Jenna Zeigen

  • Coding 101 with data scientist, Alfred Lee

  • The Internet of Things with our platform product manager, Andrew Pinzler

  • Dots Tournament

  • Columbia Journalism School + Bitly with Sree Sreenivasan and the J-School professors

  • The Importance of International Collaboration with astronaut Ron Garan

  • Gifhorse and Giphy with our lead front-end developer Jeff Tierney and Giphy founder Jace Cooke

  • Pictionary Showdown

  • Customer Communication with business development, Nico Snyder

  • Soul Pancake with Katie Curri

  • RAGBRAI with Betaworks head of corporate development, Sam Mandel

  • Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament

  • Intern Show-and-Tell with our summer interns

How to start your own Lunch and Learn

Interested in bringing Lunch and Learn into your office? Organization is key to starting any company-wide initiative, Katie said. Here are some of her tips to make yours a success:

  • Plan for the same date and time each week: “A big reason why we started Lunch and Learn was because I wanted to make sure there was consistency and structure. If you build structure to people’s routine, it helps them do their best work. It’s a comfort thing - you’ll always come to work on Wednesday and you can always expect lunch and to learn about something new,” Katie said.

  • Plan lunches and presentations in advance: Katie usually plans who will be teaching at Lunch and Learn and from where lunch will be catered about a month in advance. Local restaurants are great options to order from, or personalize your Lunch and Learn even more by asking for employees favorite restaurants. Katie organizes our favorite restaurants into a Bitly bundle to order from again. Too busy to research a lunch spot? Don’t worry - startups like Cater2Me and ZeroCater have services to help you out.

  • Be persistent: Most people will need regular encouragement to participate in a weekly Lunch and Learn (we still need Katie to remind us it’s time to take a break and head back for lunch) but with persistence, it can grow into an event that everyone looks forward to. Now, we regularly approach Katie and volunteer to lead Lunch and Learn or to suggest a spot to order from. “When you start something, the goal is that you don’t have to actively continue it,” Katie said. “The goal is for it to become something on its own. It takes awhile, but it’s happening.”

Interested in joining us for a Lunch and Learn? Good news - the pufferfish is expanding! We’re looking for people of all different backgrounds, from salespeople to scientists, developers to product managers. Take a look at our current openings here.

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Introducing the Bitly Media Map!

Last March, Bitly teamed up with Forbes to produce a data visualization which looks at how 15 media properties are being disproportionately consumed online on a state-by-state basis over the month of April.  We had various preconceived notions of which state’s residents are more likely to consume news sites from certain newspapers, televised news, news magazines and online-only news properties.

For example, we believed that Fox News had a stranglehold on the south of the U.S., though maybe CNN might be able to take Georgia with their hometown advantage. We also thought that online-only sites, such as the Huffington Post, would not have the geographical bias of consumption in the same way that regional papers such as the Chicago Tribune or the Los Angeles Times would.

While the visualization and analysis over a month’s worth of data answered many of our questions, it inspired us to ask more questions that could not be determined with such a static/bulk data approach. The static visualization did not allow us the ability to determine if publishers own certain states in perpetuity or if loyalty switches based on certain stories getting traction.

The previous visualization was based on one large, finite dataset.  We recently built a new version of this Media Map and this visualization is based on the Bitly stream.  Visualizing an unending stream of data presented us with a variety of challenges, of which we will explain and also dive into how we overcame them.

map

Disproportionality versus Raw Counts

The reason that we chose to visualize disproportionate traffic rather than raw traffic count is that it makes for a more interesting analysis to highlight which properties were doing unexpectedly well in certain geographic regions relative to the nation as a whole.  If raw clicks were used to rank states, the national map would be more likely to be dominated by the largest media properties from each media category, and the regional affinity towards certain properties, whether based on geographical proximity, or the content itself would be lost.

The Forget Table

The backend for the visualization is built on top of Forget Table (http://word.bitly.com/post/41284219720/forget-table). A click on a link only registers for ten minutes, after which it is forgotten. This allows us to only consider recent traffic when assigning state winners and top articles.

Building the Interactive Map

map

We heavily used d3.js, an extremely popular javascript library that enables the rapid development of beautifully rich, data-driven visualizations.  A gallery of examples of the types of things that can be built with using d3 can be found here: https://github.com/mbostock/d3/wiki/Gallery.

In order to reduce the overall size of the files loaded to render the map, we took advantage of the TopoJSON extension of GeoJSON which uses a technique that eliminates the redefinition of shared line segments representing  geographical borders, ultimately reducing the amount of data needed to generate a complete map.

Finally, in overlaying the location of the real-time click data, we again used one of the capabilities built into d3, which converts latitude and longitude coordinates (which we have stored for all clicks that pass through the Bitlyverse) to points on a rendered map.  This is done using the Albers USA Projection functionality (which is explained in greater detail here).

Selecting the Media Properties

We selected the 40 media properties included on the map first and foremost because they were heavily featured in our existing data set.  We then narrowed the list down based on their footprint in the United States: high circulation newspapers, major TV news brands, etc.  A media property was placed in a certain media category grouping (TV/Radio, Newspapers, News Magazines and Online Only) based on the primary distribution outlet for that news brand.  For example, CNN is primarily a cable news channel, despite having a popular news website, so we placed CNN in the TV/Radio category.  We wanted to include more media properties but the map started to get too difficult to read in a useful way, so we had to limit each category to 10 media properties.  

And that is how the Bitly Media Map came together.  If you have half as much fun viewing the map as we had building it, well, then, we had twice as much fun building the map as you had viewing it!  (Sorry, data science joke.)  Be on the lookout for new and exciting projects from Bitly Labs!

Check out the new Bitly Media Map

Interested in what Bitly can do with your link click data?  Please reach out to us at community@bitly.com  

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What does it mean to be a celebrity on the internet?

It’s easy to claim that celebrities are a little different than the rest of us - including how they are covered on the internet.

In the past, we’ve measured the way bitly links perform over time and discovered that the majority of bitly links follow a pattern. In this pattern, the number of clicks on a bitly link quickly increases until it reaches its peak and then that number drops exponentially over a certain time frame. While analyzing our Story API, our science intern Tobias noticed something different - although we expected them to behave in the same way, there were certain ‘stories’ that followed their own pattern and continuously attracted attention.

These are stories revolving around a celebrity.

bitly celebrities, taylor swift, obama, ronaldo

What is a story?

We cluster popular content (based on keywords pulled from the content) to create what we call ‘stories.’ Stories are generated by commonalities - in this case, we categorized stories by links that share the same keyword.

We recorded the top 500 stories from January 2013-July 2013 that consistently generated more attention than the average story. The majority of the list included stories around commonly used words; stories about ‘women,’ ‘New York City’ and ‘Instagram’ all attracted a high level of attention.

We noticed this list also included a handful of public figures. These celebrities are the most talked about people on Bitly from January-July of this year.

What does it take to be a celebrity?

The top stories list is constantly changing. This list could change drastically by season (baseball players are talked about more in September than February), by recent or upcoming events (Hollywood actors might make the list around award season or the release of a new movie), or by day, based on breaking news.

Factors like location and language can also affect a person’s chances of making it into the most popular 500 stories at any given time. Political figures well-known in their own country might not have the staying power outside of it, while certain pop stars might transcend location or language barriers.

Taking this into account, being in the top 500 clicked stories on Bitly at all - despite location, language or season - would be an achievement. This small group of people managed to achieve more than that; they consistently attracted more attention than the average story on bitly not just for a day or two, but for nearly six months.

What gives the members of this list staying power? It’s those with the greatest media presence - they’re frequently recognized and talked about, whether it is for their talent, their title, their infamy, or a mixture of the three.

Who is a celebrity?

We found President Obama is the most talked about person in the Bitlyverse. This means that out of the top 500 stories from January-June 2013, a story about ‘Obama’ attracts more attention on Bitly than any other public figure.  

What are some other stories that attracted more attention than average? Stories about ‘Twitter,’ ‘Manchester United’ and ‘Google’ also performed higher than average every day throughout the time period.

Here are some more of the top figures who maintain a constant news presence - they are the most talked about people on Bitly for 2013 so far.

#1. Obama

#2. Justin Bieber

#3. Rihanna

#4. Mourinho

#5. One Direction

#6. Kardashian

#7. Beyonce

#8. Taylor Swift

#9. Ronaldo

#10. Neymar

#11. Selena Gomez

#12. Chris Brown

#13. Miley Cyrus

#14. Harry Styles

#15. Jay-Z

There are some interesting initial observations we noticed after briefly looking at this list. The overwhelming majority of the list are young, American pop stars. These people attract a considerable amount of attention because they live their lives in the public eye - including information about their relationships. Many of these people have publicly revealed they have been or are in relationships - Jay-Z and Beyonce, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, etc. These relationships could amplify the media presence of the celebrities on this list, who already attract a considerable amount of attention on their own.

Although the majority of the people on the list are American, a few big names in soccer popped up; current Chelsea manager José Mourinho, Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and FC Barcelona forward Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior. With soccer being the most popular international sport, this was a nice representation of our international community and a reminder that Bitly is heavily used outside of the United States. 

This post brought to you by the bitly science team! Questions or comments? Email us.

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A week in review with Realtime

About a year ago we first launched our Bitly labs project, Realtime. This attention ranking engine offers the power to navigate through the stories that the world is paying attention to at any given moment.  

Realtime works by fetching the content of every link saved or shared through bitly. It analyzes that content, then builds models of human attention by analyzing the click distributions to the stories it sees (at the phrase, URL, and story levels). The Realtime interface provides the tools for you to navigate the stream of attention to these stories, and calculates the ranking at the moment that you make a request, so you’re always seeing the freshest content. It is also the foundation for our new real-time audience insights capabilities we made available to our enterprise clients. (Learn more here!)

One idea to keep in mind with Realtime is the idea of “bursting” stories. We’ve discovered that some content on the internet is always popular. For example, every day there are a dozen articles written about President Obama. But if Realtime was only a stream of Obama articles that wouldn’t be very interesting.

To make sure that different and interesting content is always displayed in Realtime we worked to find “bursting” content, or content topics that are getting considerably more attention than they normally do.

We thought it would be fun to take a look at Realtime over the past week, and share some of the big stories that were grabbing the attention of people across the internet. You can do this yourself at any time by visiting rt.ly.

Tuesday:

 tuesday

To start off the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend the Xbox One was making headlines earlier this week for new apps that are being designed for the console launch in November. The VMA’s continued to make news days after the event  with gossip about Taylor Swift.

tuestues

Tuesday afternoon brought news of the ending of the hit HBO show True Blood, more Xbox One details, news that Jon Bon Jovi’s son is college football material and finally, some foreign policy news regarding John Kerry’s actions about Syria.

Wednesday: WedWed
 Wed

On Wednesday we learned that British Airways dealt with a customer support nightmare, Jay-Z sold his Nets ownership, Samsung Galaxy designed a smart watch, and James Cameron sang praises for the new blockbuster ‘Gravity.’

Thursday:

Thurs

Thurs

To fill our celebrity news for Thursday we saw Perez Hilton’s view of Angelina Jolie as a mom, read an Onion article celebrating the 50th anniversary of the lava map, and learned about an artist who created 30 different posters representing a different Star Trek episode. America’s actions toward Syria were also still in the news on Thursday afternoon.

Friday: FriFri


On Friday morning there was buzz over the divorce details of Shellie and George Zimmerman, criticism of the new Princess Diana film starring Naomi Watts and news on how the US stock market was faring as the week comes to a close.

Realtime shares what content the internet is currently consuming at any time, which can be useful whether you’re keeping up with news, or trying to discover popular trends across the web. So give Realtime a try and let us know what you think. Have any questions? Email support at bitly.com or reach out on Twitter.

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Meet Brian Eoff, our Lead Scientist.

Bitly has a lot of data, and our science team is on the front-lines working to make sense of this information and help answer questions about how we use the social web. This month’s employee profile highlights our Lead Scientist, Brian Eoff.

Brian hails from the south and never pictured himself living in NYC. He’s currently on hiatus from his Ph.D at Texas A&M and came to bitly for what was supposed to be a three month stint back in 2011, but has stayed on the past two years.

Brian Eoff, Lead Scientist at bitly

What are your main responsibilities as the Lead Scientist?

I help determine the research direction of the company, thinking about where our data can lead us, what new technology there is and approaches to presenting data in insightful ways. I give the science team space to explore ideas they find interesting.

What cool things are the Science Team working on?

We are currently working on using bitly for content discovery.

We are also taking some of the static analyses we have previously worked on and looking into making them real-time, which can be difficult. Visualizations work if you are sitting on their page and watching them change, but if you are coming back over the next few days, how can you see what has changed? How do you give historical context to it? If you come to the visualization once, how do you give the viewer the ability to explore more? We are working with the design and UX team to have a handle on that.  

Can you talk a bit about the development of Realtime?

We were very interested in this idea of recency, and asked the question “what unique insight does bitly have?” We knew what people were clicking on at that time.

A lot of work went into this idea of “bursting” [content]. Certain things always pop up, like Obama and Justin Bieber. Everyday there are 30 articles about what Obama did that day. [We had to figure out] how to not always display that content, but [instead show] what is surprisingly getting a lot of attention today.

How did you get started at Bitly?

A little over two years ago I was doing my Ph.D with James Caverlee at Texas A&M. I didn’t want to spend summer in Texas, it’s quite hot, and I had also decided I didn’t necessarily want to go into academics. It was a moment to ask questions about where I wanted to go. I [made a list of] five places I wanted to work and wrote them each a letter, including [current scientist emeritus] Hilary Mason.

I was only supposed to be here 3-4 months, but my project was interesting and I wasn’t done with it. Hilary sat with my advisor and negotiated for my services. I still meet with my advisor every other week. I’ve been very blessed to know amazing people, him and Hilary are incredible and have really helped my career.

What have you learned working here?

A lot. I’ve gotten a lot faster at programming, taking ideas and turning them over. Hilary and [former bitly scientist] Mike Dewar made me better at the science approach. I’m surrounded by infrastructure and dev guys that can do amazing stuff very quickly and they just make you better at what you do. It’s a weird accomplishment when they tell me something i did was good, it’s like “yes!”

I’ve learned how to take something that is heavily mathematical and complicated and know it well enough to explain it to a diverse audience and relate what you do in a simplistic form. Some people worry that when you make something simpler you make it less precise, but I don’t think that. You can be precise but still be understandable.

You often speak at conferences, what have you talked about?

Normally it’s whatever I want. It’s sometimes on “What is data science?” or “What is big data?” Or it’s about what I’m interested in the month or two prior. I once talked about finding your worst enemy online. I never reuse material for talks, I like to make it new each time.

I previously gave talks in academia, but here you are talking to a broader audience, [and you have to think about] how [the talk] is perceived and how that affects the company.

Do you have any projects outside of bitly?

I advise Mahaya, a startup co-founded by Cornell professor Mor Naaman and Tarikh Korula, for a few hours each week. I met Mor when he was doing his Ph.D at Stanford.

I also do jujitsu. I always have to have something physical to do otherwise i get bored. When I came to New York I thought “what’s a sport I’ve always been interested in?” There are tons of amazing schools in Manhattan for jujitsu. Some of the best guys in the world have schools here. I’ve done a few tournaments while here. I try to train after work if I’m not too tired.

You can learn more about all the bitly employees here, and hey- we’re hiring

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Connect bitly to your favorite online tools!

We’re very proud that over the years the Bitly APIs have been used in hundreds of different web applications from Buffer to WordPress.

Connecting your Bitly account to other 3rd party platforms gives you the best of both worlds- you can use your favorite tools while still taking advantage of many great Bitly features.

For example, when you connect Bitly to a share tool like Buffer, the links you share from that platform will automatically save to your bitly account. This means you can track click count stats on these links, have your custom short domain attached, and your links will be stored in your Bitly account to find and share again later.

Interested in getting started? We now we have a list of API integrations along with their instructions to help you integrate Bitly onto your favorite social and analytics platforms.

Don’t see your favorite application? No problem! We are constantly updating and revising this list to incorporate more partners and keep it up to date. Have instructions on how to integrate your favorite application with Bitly? Please email us at support [at] bitly.com, and thanks for the tip!

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Bitly Announces Mark Josephson as CEO

Mark Josephson, Bitly CEO

We are delighted to announce that Mark Josephson will be taking over as Bitly CEO. Mark is a preeminent startup executive with a proven track record of building great teams and great products.  

Mark comes to Bitly from Aol’s Patch, where he ran revenue and marketing. Prior to Patch, Mark was CEO of Outside.in, which was acquired by Aol in 2011. Outside.in was a leading hyperlocal platform that organized the web around neighborhoods for consumers, publishers and advertisers across the country. 

Prior to Outside.in, Mark was President and CMO of Seevast Corp and held various positions at About.com, including General Manager and Executive Vice President of Marketing and Business Development. 

Here is what Mark has to say: “The team at Bitly is world class and I am excited to join them. Bitly has achieved true web scale by providing an essential service that makes the entire internet work better. Bitly’s potential is even bigger though, because it is positioned to add significant value — in the form of intelligence on top of its unique data set — to consumers,marketers and publishers.  I can’t wait to work with the team at Bitly and our investors to make it happen.”