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October 06, 2011

Tweetering The Intertubes [John E.]

The Wall Street Journal ran a great article this weekend discussing how Twitter has become an important resource for both researchers and scientists. Twitter is now being used to track political campaigns and activity, gauging box-office movie and television buzz, predicting the stock market moves, even monitoring natural disasters.

When Virginia's magnitude 5.8 earthquake hit last August, the first Twitter reports sent from people at the epicenter began almost instantly at 1:51 p.m.—and reached New York about 40 seconds ahead of the quake's first shock waves, according to calculations by the social media company SocialFlow. The flood of messages peaked at 5,500 tweets a second.

Compared with information from cellphone records and social-media sites, Twitter texts are as timely as a pulse beat and, taken together, automatically compile the raw material of social history.

The first terse tweets also outpaced the U.S. Geological Survey's conventional seismometers, which normally can take from two to 20 minutes to generate an alert. The agency is now experimenting with Twitter as a faster and cheaper way to track earthquakes.

Never have scientists had so much readily accessible, real-time data about what people say. Twitter, the service that allows users to send text updates of up to 140 characters out to the public, publishes more than 200 million messages, or tweets, a day. Compared with information from cellphone records and social-media sites, Twitter texts are as timely as a pulse beat and, taken together, automatically compile the raw material of social history.

I know many of you have been reluctant to jump into Twitter, but I highly recommend it. After ridiculing it as useless celebrity nonsense at first, I find myself getting more and more of my news and information from Twitter. It's very easy to tailor your feed to your own specific interests. For example, I follow web designers and developers, Yankees, Giants and PGA beat writers, racist homophobic hatemongers right-wing bloggers, political journalists and news outlets, and tech magazines.

Take a look at this chart showing political activity from the left and right:

Quit lurking, Twitter lurkers and go sign up so you can join in the fun. Do you really want to be the last person to know that Anthony twittered his weiner? Not me; I don't want to live in that world.

For those that want desktop clients instead of the browser interface: Here are the best for Mac, PC and Linux. Don't forget both iPhone and Android have official Twitter apps for when you're on the go. I recommend disabling email notifications.

I've included some must-follows below the fold along with an infographic explaining the basics (sign up for Twitter first, then click the links and hit "follow").

Official AoSHQ:
Ace Blog Feed (conveniently updated 20-30 minutes after a post is published), Ace (personal), DrewMTips, DaveinTexas, Slublog, GabrielMalor, RDBrewer

AoSHQ Guest Bloggers:
@moelane, @bdomenech, @ComradeArthur, @verumserum, @cuffymeh, @JammieWF, @TheH2, @johnekdahl

Funny Right-Wingers:
@jtlol (Jim Treacher), @iowahawkblog, @andylevy, @andrewbreitbart, @jonahnro (Jonah Goldberg)

Columnists and Media:
@ByronYork, @jamestaranto, @jaketapper, @allahpundit, @stephenfhayes

That's a good starter list. Feel free to poke around. Every politician and media operation has a Twitter account now. If you're having trouble finding people to follow, just go to someone you like (Ace has a good list) and click "following". Then scroll through and follow those you want. That's always a good start.

As promised, my quick lesson in how to understand the basics of Twitter:

Understanding Twitter for Morons

It's a partisan war on Twitter. Quit standing on the sidelines, n00bs. I didn't want to bring this up, but Ace is really upset he can't get past 9,000 followers. We've had some deep conversations about it and plenty of good, long cries together (we've both learned a lot about ourselves and each other). I don't want to get too personal, but... anyway, follow Ace on Twitter please.

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posted by Guest Blogger at 09:38 AM

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