Friday, March 20, 2009

Twitter Tools for the Soul

Twitter is a great new networking tool but it can be extremely overwhelming when you first get started. How do you manage all these tweets? How do find people to follow? Who's following you? To help you manage your Twitter experience, here is a list of Twitter tools that I find most useful.

1. Tweet Management

Both Twhirl and TweetDeck have their advantages. I like Twhirl because it lets you monitor multiple twitter accounts at the same time but the interface is not nearly as good as TweetDeck which lets you view tweets, @replies, and direct messages in nice, organized dashboard. Try them for yourself and see what you like best.

The other way that I keep on time of tweets is through my cell phone. Because I'm a diehard PalmOS fan, a dying breed, I use MoTwit. Not nearly as good as good as TwitterBerry for the Blackberry but it's all I've got.

Still, these weren't sufficient for me because I found I was getting stressed about all the tweets I was "missing". I envision a Twitter wristwatch that has a continuous stream of tweets that I can peer down at when I ever I want, but since that doesn't exist, I settled for the next best thing. My big concern was missing tweets with relevant and interesting links so I created an RSS feed of all my Tweets containing URLs using Yahoo Pipes. I've made the code accessible so that anyone can use it. Click on Twitter_URLS, select "Clone" (if you are not already logged in to Yahoo you will be prompted to login) and change the username and password in the code to your own. It's easy. I promise!

2. Who's Following You?

Ah, that's the big question. You are posing all these tweets out to the twitosphere but just who is reading them? And do you want them to? Here are some nifty little tools to keep track of your followers.

Finding out details about who's following you:
If you want to check out the profile of a specific Twitter follower, try SocialWhois. For example, if you enter Robin611 (my Twitter id), you’ll see my self-defined Twitter description, what I’m interested in and where to find me online. SocialWhois is limited by the fact that information either comes from SocialWhois itself, Twitter or FriendFeed.

Another handy Twitter tool is TweetEffect. TweetEffect will let you know why people are choosing to follow you based on your latest tweets.

Finding the ones that you don't want to follow you:
There are many direct marketers and other less-than-savory folks out on twitter. To protect yourself from these unfriendly followers, try using TwerpScan. The caveat is that you need to login to run this. Twerpscan will provide a list of followers they recommend blocking.

My new favorite is TweetSum which gives you a list of people who are following you that you are not yet following (plus the ones you are) and gives you a rating that tells you how annoying they may or may not be. I don't put much faith in the ratings because some of the "more annoying" followers listed on my page actually provide some of the most useful information. However, I like the graphical view of new followers, their latest tweets, their profile info, etc...

Who's stopped following you?
The last one is Qwitter, as the name implies, lets you know when people stop following you and will tell you which was the last post you made that *might* have caused them to remove you from their list. You get email notifications periodically.

2. Who (or what) do you want to follow?

Before Hash tags were "invented", there were several sites that allowed you to search for followers based on common interests and some were better than others. With hash tags, there are even more. Here is a list with some of the ones I've used and comments about each.
  • TwitterRel would send you a list of people twittering about a particular keyword but I never had much success with this tool.
  • CityTweets is kind of fun to find people either twittering from or about your city.
  • JustTweetIt lists categories that other twitters self-proclaim to tweet about, although the categories are somewhat limited.
  • I like Twannabe because it automates the process of looking at who your followed are following.
  • Monitter provides real-time keyword searching for up to 3 at a time and you can associate it with a location.
  • Twitter itself hosts TwitterSearch to find specific topics. It's probably the easiest place to start.
  • One of my favorites is TweetGrid, which lets you enter a hash tag and see real-time tweets using that tag.
  • WeFollow is brand new and lets you browse popular hash tags or search for your own. You can (and should) add your twitter account to the list.
  • The one I've been using for the longest time is TweetScan. What I like about it is that you can add up to 5 search terms and get an email notification on a regular basis with a list of tweets that mention those keywords.
  • Hot off the presses: Get Twitter results in your Google searches. It's a hack that uses the Greasemonkey plugin for Firefox, but it's pretty slick.
Now what?

I think we can all agree that Twittering can help with professional development - it's easy to meet other teachers who are doing interesting things with technology, for example. Just search the keyword "edtech" or start following people that I'm following and you'll have a big network before you know it. But, how can we use Twitter as an educational tool? I can't say it better than this post by Steve Wheeler - Teaching with Twitter. Thanks, Steve!


IdoNotes said...

Thanks for linking to our catalog (EverythingTwitter) in your posting. Nice collection and reasoning behind using each one in your posting.

sloperaly said...

Yes, great resource piece here Robin!