Daily Archives: November 11th, 2010

Twitter search: City Shitty Bang Bang

Ah, Twitter. The bite-sized internet nectar of the Gods. About one percent useful with the rest being tripe.

Just like the rest of the internet, I guess.

Tom’s Law #192: Any new interesting technology that comes along will be utterly perverted by the basest of human instincts.

Twitter proves the law. Do I love being right or hate being right? I can’t remember which anymore.

So far I personally use Twitter in two ways. The first is interactive in that it is an account I share with friends, follow interesting people and make socially-conscious tweets. It’s also a place to quip and try to amuse each other with our wit. Some of you have interacted with me on my Twitter account.

The other way I use Twitter is non-interactive. To do this, I set up an RSS feed of a Twitter search for a phrase that is interesting to me.

For example, I search Twitter for the name of my home town. I thought this would a fun way to keep up on local events, get breaking news, and hear what’s new with some of the people I know.

I was wrong.

Here’s how I search Twitter.

  1. Visit search.twitter.com.
  2. Enter the name of your city in the search box. If your city, like mine, contains two or more words, be sure to enclose the entire phrase in quotation marks. I’ve learned this helps keep out some of the unrelated crap.
  3. After you have entered your phrase, click the “Search” button.
  4. On the results page, located in the top-right corner, find the RSS icon labeled “Feed for this query.”
  5. Copy that RSS link into your favorite feed reader client. (I use Mozilla Thunderbird.)

Now, every time someone tweets about my city, I get notified automatically via RSS.

If I think about it, based on what comes through, I kinda wish I hadn’t done that.

As shown in the graph above, this is what comes through my feed:

  • Sucks – This variety of tweet insults my city. “Had to spend the night at the Motel 6 in CITY NAME. What a shit hole! Can’t wait to get back on the road!”
  • Milestone – Most likely a mobile tweet from someone driving in the vicinity. “Just passing CITY NAME now. Only 400 more miles to the border and freedom!”
  • Location – The second worst kind of tweet. Some idiot stranger tweeting where they are. “I’m at Stripper Poles R Us in CITY NAME.” Ugh.
  • Advertising – The worst kind of tweet. Commercial tweets. Pitches. Advertising. Whatever. I hate them all. “Learn the benefits of owning real estate in CITY NAME.”
  • Repeats – Turns out I was wrong. This is the worst variety of tweet. It’s one of the above flavors of tweets that gets repeated (retweeted) by tons of followers like lemmings leaping off a cliff and into the sea.
  • Interesting – By far this is the smallest slice of the pie. These are tweets that are actually interesting to me. They might be breaking news, show some sign of actual wit, or be useful in some small way. “Wow. Michael Moore is drinking coffee right now at the Starbucks in CITY NAME.”

Even the “interesting” tweets aren’t immune, though. If some piece of valid, actual news comes through, it will invariably morph into the “repeat” category as 500 other tweeters shrug and say, “I better tweet about this, too.” Argh!

So every morning I have to wade through all the shit in my Twitter feed. It’s just like sorting through spam. Exactly the same. In fact, it has begun to feel a lot like actual work.

And this is technology making my life better?