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Local Trends Is Only Slightly Less Useless To Me Than Global Trends. Why Can’t I Search Just My Network?

Yesterday, Twitter rolled out its Local Trends feature to everybody on the network.

When you login to Twitter.com, you’ll be given the opportunity to set the trending topics to your choice of 22 different locations.

Local Trends Is Only Slightly Less Useless To Me Than Global Trends, Twitter. Why Can't I Search Just My Network?

Immediately, of course, you see the problem here – while Twitter has stated that they’re working on adding new locations, chances are that most people who use the service will find that Local Trends is anything but for them at this moment in time.

Indeed, the nearest ‘local’ to me would be London. And, being absolutely frank, being able to quickly see what’s trending on Twitter within London isn’t of much more benefit to me than being able to quickly see what’s trending on Twitter everywhere.

Moreover, the differences between what is trending around the world, in the United Kingdom and within London aren’t as staggeringly different (or interesting) as you might expect.

Local Trends Is Only Slightly Less Useless To Me Than Global Trends, Twitter. Why Can't I Search Just My Network?

As you can see, the UK are clearly more interested in the tennis at the Australian Open than the rest of the world, and you would expect a UK-specific event such as Holocaust Memorial Day to only be trending within these shores.

And it amuses me that Londoners seem to favour the iPad as the name of choice for Apple’s soon-to-be-announced touchpad device, while everybody else is all about the (God-awful) iSlate.

Otherwise, it’s all about the glory of #nowthatsghetto.

Here’s the thing: being able to see trending topics in any given location is always going to be less useful to me than the facility to be able to set whatever filters and parameters I like from scratch.

For example, the option to simply search within the tweets of those people in my immediate network on Twitter would be something of significantly higher value. Using this method one could quickly and easily poll trends and opinion from those whose judgement we already trust. (And if not, why exactly are you following them?)

And being able to remove trending topics that are of no interest with the touch of a button would also improve the output dramatically. I accept that hashtag memes are popular with many, but they’re of absolutely no interest to me whatsoever. I’d rather not see them, to be honest, if only because they’re taking up space that might be better used for something that’s actually of value.

As it is – and I dare say this would be the case if Twitter ever gets round to providing local trends for my home town – aside from the novelty value, seeing what is trending in any one location is never going to be of much benefit. If something big happens in London and is only trending in London, that’s really only of use to Londoners. And even that’s a stretch, as if it’s big enough to be trending, it’s likely already in the greater consciousness, as that’s why it’s trending.

(Although how or why Danny Dyer’s television show about UFOs has generated such a level of interest is anybody’s guess.)

And that’s the rub in a nutshell: the problem with trending topics is that they are too general. This is why they’re trending, of course, because lots of people are talking about them, but while you can occasionally get surprised by something on a trending topic, when it’s still trending a week later it’s little more than an irritant. Especially when the reason why it’s trending is wrong.

If we could shape this output the value would increase exponentially. And it would be nice to see outside just the top ten, too – after all, chances are that there are many worthy things of interest in the long tail between numbers eleven and infinity, but the bulk of these never get a look in simply because once a trending topic is inside the top ten it automatically gets a lot more attention. In this way, it works a bit like a music, movie or book chart. The real quality is often just outside the very top, going unnoticed by the general populace.

It’s good to see Twitter rolling out all these new features of late but I do wish they’d adopt a sense of priority. We still have major problems with Twitter search, a block function that doesn’t work, a very ropey direct message system and never-ending problems with spammers and bots.

Perhaps if and when these things begin trending we might start to see some solutions. Of course, if you’ve set your Local Trends to the wrong location, chances are you won’t even notice.

I Like You, And That’s Why I Follow You. So, Why Can’t I Search Just Your Tweets?

The advanced part of Twitter search contains a lot of cool functionality, but it’s missing one critical checkbox.

I want to be able to search the tweets of my network. And just my network.

I’m following these folks for a reason. It would be nice to be able to tap into specifically what they think about my question or problem. Being able to see what Twitter’s 15-20 million users think about x is fantastic, but it’s not always what I need or want.

One checkbox. You can leave everything else the same. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Are You Missing From Twitter Search?

UPDATE (July 15, 2010): Twitter now has some official advice on this which you can read at this page.

Of particular relevance:

1. Your tweets aren’t recent: We only index tweets for about 6 days. If your most recent tweet is older than that, please tweet again and check.

2. Your account is private: Private or “protected” accounts do not appear in search. Learn more about protected accounts here.

3. Your account is new, or you recently changed your username: It can take a few days for new and updated accounts to be indexed by search.

4. Your email is bouncing: If you log in and see a big red warning when you’re at twitter.com that says your email address is having delivery issues, please take the steps to fix it! We want to show you in search, but we need you to fix your email first.

5. You are being filtered out of search due to a quality issue: In order to provide the best search experience for users, Twitter automatically filters search results for quality. This Search Quality help page has information why accounts are filtered from search

6. You are missing because of current resource constraints: Right now, some users may not be seeing their Tweets because of resource constraints. This is more likely affecting you if you’re a new user (with an account less than a couple of weeks old). Our search engineers are working on this known issue, and your Tweets should start showing up in search soon!

If none of this seems very helpful then you’ll need to file a support ticket at this page: http://bit.ly/twicket.

I’ve left my original article intact as below. Please note that it was written in June 2009.

###

For five days now, Twitter’s search has been broken. In fact, it’s actually been acting strangely for a lot longer than this – several weeks  - but one particular aspect is relatively new. The problem is, this part has not been broken for everybody, so it hasn’t received as much attention as it probably should.

But it is broken for me. How? The ‘from:’ query in Twitter’s search feature, which lets you see all the posts from a given user, is showing that I last tweeted five days ago.

From:Sheamus

Now, we know that’s not true, as since that time I’ve submitted about twelve gazillion new tweets.

You can check this for yourself here. See what I mean? I laugh in the face of ‘realtime’.

This Is Just The Beginning

If it was just me being affected by this, I’d think myself either mad, or in the midst of some hideous conspiracy. But I’ve heard it from other people too, including my friend Zagrrl, who also, according to Twitter, hasn’t submitted anything in five days. This is also not true, as you can quickly gauge by looking at her timeline. It gets worse – some of my other contacts haven’t tweeted at all – actually, they have.

The reason why this matters is that many external clients depend on the from: search function to deliver replies to followers. As you may know, I use Seesmic Desktop, and within it I run a search for mentions of my username alongside my standard replies pane. Each time @Zagrrl has replied to me of late, it has not showed up in search. This is the case also for others in my network who have been impacted by this defect.

The catch, as I said above, is from my studies I see that few of the big names on Twitter have been impacted by this issue, or at least are unaware that they have, and this is why I think it is going largely unreported. The thing is, we all have, to a greater or lesser extent – from: seems to be completely ignoring my tweets for the past few days, but it’s ignoring ALL tweets from a week or more ago for everybody on the network. Even Oprah, who according to Twitter has tweeted only once.

It’s not just from:, either – a lot of Twitter’s search functionality is down. In fact, right now, you cannot search back further than 7-10 days (depending on the user) for anything on Twitter. As more than one wag has pointed out, it’s a good thing Twitter is pushing its ‘real-time search’, as right now that’s your only option.

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Twitter Needs To Be Careful – It's Far Too Soon To Be 'Doing A Facebook'

A few times on this blog (and elsewhere) I’ve made the observation how just because Twitter is – or perhaps more accurately, has been – riding a wave of success and positive PR, it doesn’t mean it will always be that way. Things can change. Fast.

This year, we’ve already had a very unfavourable reaction to Twitter’s decision to remove the facility for users to see all replies; their response to this was equally absurd, to a point where I started to wonder if they have been just winging it all along.

At the moment, the network is struggling with several small bugs, each of which is relatively minor but collectively they’re representative of something more significant.

1. Everybody Is Posting ‘Via Web’

I use Seesmic Desktop. Lots of other folks use TweetDeck, Tweetie, Dabr, Twitroid and all manner of external clients to access the network, but not no more, at least, if Twitter is to be believed, as everybody is currently posting via the web.

@Sheamus, via web, allegedly

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Two Quick & Easy Ways To Find That Missing Tweet

Every once in a while I lose one of my tweets.

And every so often, somebody will ask me about a tweet I published a while ago; typically it will be something I submitted earlier that day, but it might be a week ago, or even longer. That’s a lot of tweets.

Tweet, Where Art Thou?

This was the tweet we were looking for. I knew I wrote it, they knew I wrote it, and I desperately wanted to be able to find it and re-share that great content. If you tweet as much as I do, it can take hours to go back through your timeline to try and find a single submission. Forgot the haystack; this is like a needle in a stack full of needles.

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Twitter Moves From Replies To Mentions

Pretty big news from Twitter.com broke yesterday – the interface on the Twitter.com home page has been tweaked, and you no longer have an @replies feed. Instead, it’s been replaced with mentions, which are accessed via clicking on @yourusername in the sidebar (i.e., @sheamus).

From Replies to Mentions on Twitter.com

(click to enlarge)

This is a great step forward for Twitter. Previously the @replies inbox only listed tweets that began with an @ message to your username; now, any mention of your username (@sheamus, say) in a tweet will appear in this feed, irrespective of where it appears in the message. This includes re-tweets, #followfriday recommendations and so on.

I like this a lot because many people miss non-direct replies and this can only make the stream more engaging, certainly if you predominately use the Twitter.com home page as your main point of access.

However, it’s still not, in my opinion, as good as what can be done using a search pane on TweetDeck, and I’ll be doing (my very first) video tutorial about optimising TweetDeck in this way later this week, which will include tips on minimising that precious API drain. :)

One Million Followers On Twitter? Big Deal. (Perhaps A Very Big Deal Indeed.)

Since I last wrote about the Twitter top 100 users (by popularity) there have been a few changes in the top ten.

Stephen Fry, who was looking a possible favourite for the overall number one spot just a month ago, has slipped from third to ninth. I’m not sure if there’s been any genuine backlash or whether other more world-famous celebrities have been more readily-followed by newcomers to the network, but he’s definitely lost momentum.

The Twitter top 100 (March 14, 2009)

Barack Obama held the number one position quite comfortably this time last month but he’s now been overtaken by the CNN breaking news account (@cnnbrk), although I wouldn’t expect this to continue indefinitely for a couple of reasons. One, that @cnnbrk isn’t actually that good at breaking news, and two, it doesn’t have the global appeal and eagerness to follow you back that Obama’s team does (Mr President doesn’t actually tweet himself). At the time of writing @cnnbrk is following just one other user, some guy called James Cox. Why is this so? (I’ve asked Mr Cox, but have yet to receive a reply.)

A few other celebrities have moved up the leaderboard in the last fortnight, notably @aplusk and @jimmyfallon, and the @twitter account has, possibly rightly-so, entered the top three, but what I want to focus on within this article is the great leaps most of the main Twitter users have seen in their total follow counts.

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Use Twitter Search To Boost Your Follower Count, Meet New People And Improve Your Socialisation

One of the most powerful tools on Twitter is the search feature. This function allows you to search the entire Twittersphere for anything you like. Better, the Twitter search runs in real time, meaning that if you leave the search window open it will continue to update throughout the day.

This feature is also built into TweetDeck. Previously I have written about how I had a five-column set-up within TweetDeck. This weekend, however, I reduced this to four, removing the ‘replies’ and ‘direct messages’ panes, and adding a new search column.

My Tweetdeck

Why? Efficiency, first and foremost. One of TweetDeck’s best features is that it notifies you when you get an update. However, if you use groups or a search within TweetDeck there’s a good chance that often two or more panes will be updated with the same Tweet, meaning you get duplicating notifications. That’s not the end of the world but it can be a bit irritating. Furthermore, TweetDeck is already a pretty big drain on your computer’s resources, and less in this case very much equates to more.

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