Some examples of realtime search

By March 6, 2009 6 Comments

Marksonland has post up entitled Twitter Ain’t Search.  For the record I think that he misunderstands the purpose of Twitter search.  As Mark says if Twitter search was just a way to consume Tweets it would be pretty pointless – but as a way to find out what the world is thinking by mining the river of Tweets I think it has a lot of value.

This is a point is made by Skolor in the comments: isn’t used to find tweets/twitterers. Its to find information. You don’t (often) use Google to find a specific page. Its general use is to find information. The same with Twitter Search. Its used to find information, and the people who are tweeting don’t matter after that is found.

My point in writing this post is to reproduce some examples of realtime Twiter search that were left in the comments to Mark’s post.

Firstly, also from Skolor:

Earlier today my GMail contacts bar was messed up. It was showing “whatever” instead of having people there. So, since I wanted to find out first if this was a service outage or if it was just a rendering problem. So I loaded up search.twitter, typed in Gmail. Nothing about it came up, so I knew it wasn’t a service outage.

and secondly from Giles Bowkett:

Twitter search example: there were helicopters circling above my house. I searched Twitter for “helicopter” and “Silverlake” (my neighborhood) and found out why instantly. Another example: I heard there had been a quake in Southern California, but I live in SoCal and hadn’t experienced any such thing. I searched Twitter for “quake” and found out, instantly, that it had been a 2.2 or so in Orange County. Google can’t do that. Twitter gets a built-in timeliness search constraint that Google just doesn’t have.

UPDATE: This excerpt from Techcrunch throws some light on the other side of the equation – how and why the valuable data that can be mined gets into Twitter in the first place:

Twitter also gathers other information, like people’s experiences with products and services as they interact with them. A couple of months ago, for example, I was stuck in the airport and received extremely poor service from Lufthansa. I twittered my displeasure, which made me feel better – at least I was doing something besides wait in an endless line. I’ve also Twittered complaints about the W Hotel (no Internet, cold room) and Comcast (the usual Internet gripes).

UPDATE 2:  Twitter has begun rolling out search and trends on user profiles

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