18 September 2009

Module 2 - Topic 2


Twitter can offer a wealth of information if you know how to look for it. But before we look at the various Twitter search engines let's have a look at the kind of information you could expect to find on Twitter.

What kind of information will you find on Twitter?

Don't expect to find the results that you would find with a Google search because it works in a social networking environment. Points to remember:

  • Posts (or tweets) are restricted to 140 characters. You will find minimal information unless there is a link to longer documents.
  • You will usually see snippets of conversation so it lacks context.
  • Results are in "real time" - from the last few minutes, hours, maybe a few days.

Always evaluate the information you find and the source of the information.

Twitter search engines

There are many search engines for searching Twitter. Twitter itself has a few search options. Third party Twitter search engines are developed all the time. Some have been established for a few years, others come and go. We are only going to look at a few search engines and other Twitter applications which use Twitter to find/get information.

Twitter's search options:
The video Twitter search in plain English gives a good basic introduction.

On the homepage: Search for words, people, places and hash tags. The Boolean operator AND is assumed between search terms. You can use OR , and minus sign for the NOT Boolean operator. Phrase searches and other search operators help refine your results.

Twitter's search engine: There are two options - basic and advanced.
- Basic search option: In the basic option you could use all the twitter search operators.
- Advanced search option: This option presents a form to make it easier to select your search specifications. The same search operators that can be used in basic search are presented in the form.

3rd Party Twitter search engines:
Unfortunately Twitter's search engine only searches the tweets and not the bio section of the Twitter profile but the search engines listed below do:

TweepSearch searches the name, screen name, bio and location fields of Twitter profiles. This makes it possible to find people with common interests based on keywords in their bio section. See the TweepSearch help page for more information.

Twazzup - Note: This will not work in Internet Explorer 6. On the results page you get related words and hashtags at the top. If you mouseover an avatar, a bubble pops up with another look at the avatar, a “follow” link to their homepage, and other information from their Twitter.com settings. Useful information displayed on the right is the most popular tweets, top trendsetters, related photos and most popular links.

ChirpCity - enter the city name in the search box. Results are displayed in two columns - on the left are the latest tweets sent from your specified city and on the right are tweets containing the city name in the tweets.

Tweetgrid - lets you do up to nine searches simultaneously and display results in a grid - each search result in its own block. The Howto page has videos to explain how Tweedgrid works.

The #hashtag site search only hash tags, which means you have to know which hash tag to use in your search. You could search tags (or keyword) hashtags and people hashtags. There is a directory under the tags- and people sections which you can browse.

Others: Twoogle and Twiogle searches Twitter and Google simultaneously. BingTweets combine Twitter and Bing searches.

Keeping track of tweets and trends

TweetMeme tracks and displays the most popular links on twitter. The links are also categorised in broad topics as shown on their All the top TweetMeme page. The Search guidelines page has more information on how to use TweetMeme.

Monitter: In their own words: "It's a twitter monitor, it lets you "monitter" the twitter world for a set of keywords and watch what people are saying". Tweets can be filtered by location.

Twitter directories

(What is the difference between search engines and directories? YahooKids gives a simple explanation.) Most of these directories can be searched.

  • Wefollow: People add themselves to the directory using tags (keywords) and ranking is according to the number of followers.
  • Twello - describes itself as the yellow pages of Twitter. Twitter users are placed in categories based on keywords in their bio field.
  • Just tweet it: another directory where Twitter users can add themselves. It also has a Twitter tools directory.
  • Tweetfind: Twitter users can add themselves. Clean interface and interesting sections to check out.
Question and answer services via Twitter

There are many places on the web where people can ask questions and anyone can answer them. Similar services are offered for Twitter users.

Twitter Answers - By following the Q&A twitter account you can send your question to them using the direct message. Your questions are then posted as a tweet on their account with a link to their website where you could see the answers posted (or post answers to questions you see on the account).

Lazytweet - Use Twitter to ask a question, just add "lazytweet" to a post/tweet with no need to signing up and linking Lazytweet's Twitter account. The Lazytweet About page has more information on how it works.

Similar question/answer twitter services: twitQA; twAnswers.net; AskOnTwitter; ToAnswer and Twitter Pigeon.

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