I think Twitter is the best way to get real-time crowd sourced news.  Yes, Twitter can be a clusterfuck of useless people spouting useless information…but it doesn’t have to be!

If you’re not interested in publishing to the masses I’d recommend setting your tweets to private and requiring that you approve followers before they can see your tweets (check your account settings).  This combined with only following people you trust to tweet useful information will go a long way towards minimizing any craziness.

Even if you’re not going to tweet at all, following your favorite news sources is a great way to get access to your news in one place.  If you read CNN, ESPN, NY Times and, of course, Tech to Live By everyday then follow those twitter accounts and your feed will be filled with info from sources you already read (for me it’s often easier than RSS feeds).

Now, searching Twitter is the other side of the equation.  There are millions of tweets that you’ll never see (nor have any desire to see) and that’s the way it should be.  On occasion though, you’ll want information on a topic that hasn’t shown up in your feed.  That is when you can fire up the Twitter search engine.  With millions of tweets constantly flowing through the system there is almost always at least a few people tweeting about whatever it is you’re interested in.

My personal favorites are things like:

  • Finding out why I’m stuck in traffic (and yes, it can be faster than waiting for your navigation system POI to update).
  • Finding out why there are 8 cop cars circling my house.
  • Figuring out if that was an earthquake I just felt.
  • How big an area is affected by this power outage?
  • How long the line is for a ride at Disneyland.

The list goes on for a while… It’s really an excellent way to get real time reports of things that wouldn’t normally be covered by a regular news source or just haven’t had time to make it to the larger slower moving news team.

Searching is pretty simple and you can use keywords or #hashtags to investigate a particular topic.  Your searches can be saved as necessary to make running the same search again later easy.

The real power of searching  comes in when you move over to the Advanced Twitter Search page.  Advanced Twitter Search gives you a wide range of ways to search the Twitter stream and brings a lot of new opportunities into the mix.

There are lots of services to help you manage searches, but I like the Twitter’s own version the best.



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Instead of just keywords and hashtags you can search by:

  • Words – Search by word or phrase with various syntax options including hashtags and multi-language support
  • People – Search by username including to, from and referencing that person
  • Places – Search within a radius of a given location. Recognizes different location information (like zip code or ‘NYC’), but the location is limited to what the user sets in in their profile (more on this later).
  • Dates – Search by since / until X date.
  • Attitudes – Search for positive / negative attitude (looks for emoticons) or asking a question.
  • Other – Results include links and/or retweets.

The places search feature being limited to the user’s profile location is not as useful as a real location. Twitter is no doubt working on updating this feature based on their GeoAPI.

Combining all these different search elements you are able to create a search tailored to exactly what you are looking for and really get the most out of the abundance of information that is available through Twitter.

[ NOTE: For nerds and text editor lovers, all these search options are available through basic search using advanced syntax (if you want to use that method then you're smart enough to find the commands online without me giving you a link).]

Hopefully now you can use Twitter to your advantage rather than just being overwhelmed by useless information (or staying off the Twitterscape completely).

Do you have a favorite way to use Twitter?  Let us know in the comments!

http://search.twitter.com/advanced



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