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Earlier today I wanted to locate a tweet from 13 October 2010. I happened to know the date, but not the precise Twitter URL of the tweet in question. It turns out that it is pretty much impossible to search for date-specific tweets on Twitter itself.
So I asked the question on Twitter and once again the glorious hive came to the rescue. All manner of wonderful workarounds and suggestions were fired back at me. Some worked, others didn’t, but within 10 minutes I’d found the random tweet I was looking for (despite throwing a few curveballs along the way).
Many of us are now fairly advanced Twitter users with our own personalised Tweetdeck or Hootsuite set ups, and our Twitpic and Yfrog accounts, but there are lots of other tools out there that can help us to enhance and optimise our Twitter experience. I thought I’d share a few of them with you...
Google Real Time Search
The big problem with Twitter’s own search engine, apart from the amount of times it falls over, is that it is limited to the last few weeks. So while you can use the ‘since’ and ‘until’ parameters in Twitter Advanced Search, you can only look back so far. Try a search for ‘Britney’ in the first few days of February 2010 and you’ll see the following: “No results”. You can bet your life there were thousands of results.
Furthermore, you can’t hack into the URL to keep scrolling back through time. I tried to jump to ‘page 20’ in the results of a search but Twitter returns a ‘page parameter out of range’ message (you can go back as far as 15 pages, but no more).
The solution to this, pointed out by @Rishil, is to use Google Real Time Search, which archives - and allows you to search for - old tweets.
By using the ‘Timeline’ feature on the top right of the sidebar you can drill down into a specific period of time, before undertaking a search query. This is how I ultimately found what I was looking for. There's more detail on how to interrogate Google Real Time Search results via Rishi's blog.
Google and Microsoft both pay Twitter an eight-figure annual fee for access to the firehose, and they’re doing a much better job of than Twitter when it comes to the archiving and retrieval of older tweets.
This is a great tool that automatically indexes the links you share on Twitter.
It does two key things: firstly, it strips out all of the chatter, the conversational tweets, and the half-drunk outbursts that I’m guilty of on weekends (Twitter should introduce a ‘leisure’ and ‘work’ filter).
Secondly, it places all links found in your tweets in a nice long page and displays media on the page itself (no need to visit YouTube to watch a video, or Yfrog to see that picture).
Perhaps the best thing of all is that it will work its way through your archive to index all of your historical links. It replicates the feel of old Twitter, as far as UE and functionality are concerned, and should come in handy.
Check out my Trunk.ly page to see how it works. Related sidenote: it turns out that about one in eight of my tweets contains a link.
Bit.ly Browser Extensions
You probably already use Bit.ly, in some shape or form. The Bit.ly toolbar extension for Chrome is an excellent add-on, and allows you to quickly and easily share links on Twitter without leaving the page you're on (there’s an extension for Firefox too). It supports multiple Twitter accounts.
However, it does not yet include the ‘custom link’ option (which allows you to customise the naming of the short URL). As such I’m not entirely convinced that it is any better than the Bit.ly bookmarklet that I have installed in my toolbar. Nonetheless, Bit.ly remains an excellent tool for tracking click activity on links.
Packrati.us + Instapaper
Originally a way to automatically turn Twitter links into Delicious bookmarks, Packrati.us now supports Instapaper, a tool that allows you to save web pages to read later (you can do this online, or on the move). These two tools are a perfect fit for one another.
Instapaper has an iPhone app, which makes Packrati.us incredibly useful for those who a) commute and b) use the retweet function as a ‘note to self / read later’ prompt, as I often do (skim reading when you're busy can give you indigestion).
This is an excellent tool for finding people based on the information they’ve added about themselves in their Twitter bios.
For example, if there are 8,500 self-proclaimed ninjas on Twitter, of whom 138 reside in London (you can narrow the results by location). Not everybody needs to find a ninja, but there are 101 other kinds of people (or character traits / interests) to look for. Especially useful if you’re on the lookout for freelancers, e.g. ‘freelance writers in London’.
You can use Formulists to create rules-based Twitter lists that update automatically. I created one the other day based on people who I follow – and occasionally bump into in The Real World - who live in London.
I use About.me to aggregate my web presence into one handy place. You can hook up Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, your blog/s, as well as various other websites (and your email address if you want to). And you can then use your About.me page as your Twitter bio link.
"A search engine, powered by tweets." Obviously useful on all kinds of levels, and it also includes a dedicated image search that extracts all those weird pictures that find their way into your timeline. Lord Manley, I salute you.
[Image by carrotcreative via Flickr, various rights reserved]