2011 has thus far witnessed a string of dramatic events, including political upheaval in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Oman, Morocco, Algeria, not to mention the Japan Tsunami Earthquake. When events unfold in real time, even a casual twitter user like me needs a way to see the conversations and the meta visualizations. Twitter.com is actually a terrible interface for tracking these events. So here are alternatives, and some tips for the part-time twitter user who wants to follow an event as it happens:
Search.twitter.com – Many people don’t realize you never have to sign up for twitter in order to benefit from its massive archives of recent news and views. The ability to see and search all of twitter is what separates twitter from Facebook. This means you can find out what people think of a movie on opening day, or where to find that link to a website streaming a football game just before it starts. Google is always a day behind the world, twitter only 5 minutes.
I’ve included a sample search of all my education related tweets.
Look for a map that summarizes the event. Here’s a good google map of all the media related to 2011 political change in North Africa and the Middle East:
You can tell that a map based on social media looks much more complete than the comparable one from BBC:
I found this chart of how popular all words associated with your keyword of interest to be easy to understand:
Sometimes you want to see the big picture. Cloud.li generates a tag cloud of all the words from all tweets that contain (or exclude) a phrase.
I just used Cloud.li to identify the best tags for this post about using twitter for non-users. However, this SEO Keyword Search Mapping tool worked better for helping people find my blog post:
Over half of all my tweets originate from a FireFox plugin called TwitterBar. It adds a little icon into the address bar of your browser, allowing you to create a twitter message from any open window. As a bonus, you can automatically include a link to the page you are browsing (which was it’s original purpose). I find it far more convenient to use my browser address bar to tweet than to have another window open with twitter.com, hootestuite, tweetie, tweetdeck, etc. Of course, you need to use one of these other tools to check for feedback on your tweets. Kindle also has a similar tool I use for archiving ideas – you can highlight and tweet any passage in a book.
Most avid twitter users take advantage of a third-party manager like tweetdeck or hootstuite. I use hootstuite to create a stream that follows keywords on twitter and kill off that stream a few days later when I tire of it. For example: superbowl and libya are two “temporary” streams I’ve used, whereas “nanowrimo” and africa science are long-term interested. I need the africa science stream in particular because the conversation is so sparse. Only about a half-dozen people talk about science and innovation in Africa each week, and I follow those with anything interesting to say.
http://www.monitter.com/ lets you see a live, flowing, real-time feed of any keyword – and makes it much easier to follow an idea than hootsuite or tweetdeck does. Similarly, http://tweetmeme.com allows you to follow the most popular tweets in any category.
And lastly, here are 27 more tips for getting more from twitter while using it less. These tips focus on “managing twitter followers,” whereas I’m most interested in visualizing news as it happens. On that last point, you definitely need to look at WeFeelFine – an artist’s real-time masterpiece showing the emotional fabric of the twittersphere.
Looking at both Aljazeera News against the emotional summary of the twittersphere from Libya makes both a quite different experience – but the synthesis of these two types of information will not fully merge for a few more years.
Tell me how you use twitter (without using twitter.com) below: