Twitter’s search is awful. That is, it’s awful when it even works properly. Which isn’t always. Results are frequently not all shown, the search is slow, and the process is just generally unreliable.
I haven’t found a replacement for the archive features of search (though I’m all ears if you’ve got one), but there are a lot of other reasons to use Twitter search – tracking a trend or a person, or finding out what people are talking about. For those purposes, functional real-time search can be a hugely useful tool – when it’s done properly.
Here are three sites that do it well.
Twitscoop lets you either search, pick a trend, or select one of a tag cloud to find a trending and popular topic on Twitter. Then, in real-time, it updates as new people talk about that topic. But not only does the feed you’re looking at change, the tag cloud called "Buzzing Right Now" ebbs and flows to reflect what’s going on around Twitter.
Not only is Twitscoop tracking what you’re looking at at the moment, it’s tracking everything hot on Twitter so you can jump right to it if you need to. You can view Twitpics from the Twitscoop interface, and even send your own tweets (if you sign in to your account, which you don’t have to do otherwise).
Twitterfall is the app, more than any other, that makes Twitter blow my mind. It’s essentially a constantly-updating stream (or waterfall. Get it? Clever, right? No?) of tweets about a particular subject. You pick the trend, the speed (up to ten per second, which is NUTS), the language, and a few other settings, and then watch the stream go.
You can pause the stream if you want to, or log in and reply to any given one. But Twitterfall’s real use, and real fun, is just watching the speed with which trends and ideas get picked up and carried across Twitter. Follow breaking news, fun memes, and popular people – all in real time.
Scoopler’s biggest difference from the other two is how it handles media. The way of finding trends is the same, as is the basic display. What Scoopler does that’s cool, though, is extract all the links that people are sharing related to the topic you’re looking at, and puts them in a sidebar where you can easily see them all. Pictures, videos, links, or whatever else – it all shows up in the sidebar, so you don’t have to go digging for the video everyone’s talking about.
Search for a topic or pick one of the popular ones on Scoopler, and watch the stream. If you’re in a particularly interesting one, you can share a link to the stream over email, Facebook, Digg, and yes – Twitter.
Twitter’s staying power, for its users and for those outside, is how real-time it is. News comes first to Twitter, important people are talking on Twitter, and its "new-ness" is what makes it so special. With any of these three apps, you can track what’s really new (and do it better than Twitter itself).
What’s your favorite way to stay current on Twitter?