Monday, May 25, 2009

Twitterfall - letting the web work for you

Why reinvent the wheel? If you need to use the Internet to do research on a particular topic, you can leverage other people’s research efforts using social media tools (i.e. the stuff of Web 2.0). There are several social media tools that can help you. One example is Twitterfall. It’s a free web service that taps into the proverbial ’river of data’ generated by the Twitter data stream and fishes out for you messages that fit a custom search that you create. Ok, so before you jump up and down and say to me that you are anti-Twitter, that you don’t have a Twitter account and that you don’t want anymore so-called ‘tools’ that consume more hours of your day to manage, etc, I would ask you to just continue reading this posting (*grin*). Twitterfall allows you to tap into the Twitter data stream without having a Twitter account. Yup. No Twitter account is needed. So if you are anti-Twitter then you can still use Twitterfall without any problem. So here’s what it does.
Twitterfall displays the latest 'tweets', or message postings, from the millions of Twitter users. So if you are researching the subject of education for example, and you want to see what people are saying right now about it, then you can go to Twitterfall and setup a custom search for the word ‘education’ and watch the results unfold before your eyes.

Try it. Here’s a couple of tips. When you first visit Twitterfall, it will default to displaying recent tweets on the Top 10 recent topic trends on Twitter. So immediately a stream of messages will come down on your screen. If you are not interested in these Top 10 trends, then you can easily configure Twitterfall to stop displaying these tweets by mousing over the ‘All Terms’ phrase at the top if the ‘Trends’ box and un-checking the box beside ‘All Terms’. That will end the flow of messages on the screen. Next configure Twitterfall to display tweets on the subjects that you are researching. On the left hand side of the page, find the ‘Custom’ box. At the bottom of the ‘Custom’ box is a search field with an Add button. Type keywords into the search box that you want to monitor such as ‘education’, ‘edtech’, or ‘technology’ and click the checkboxes beside each. Now ‘tweets’ will be displayed on the screen that follows your custom search. By watching the Twitterfall stream for a few minutes you will undoubtedly find some interesting links, resources and opinions on the subjects you are interested in.

On the Twitterfall website they have a link to a short 4 minute tutorial showing some additional Twitterfall features.

Let us know your impression of Twitterfall by leaving a comment below.

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