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BW Businessworld

De-Noising Twitter

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Updates from Twitter can be so chaotic that newcomers often get intimidated and abandon their accounts. But for the past two years, users have been developing hundreds of applications and clients to make this information glut more digestible.
Although most people still use the Web directly to access Twitter, third party clients are becoming steadily more popular. There’s Tweetie, Twitterific Echofon, Twitterberry, Hootsuite and many others. I recommend that users, specially those who are Twitter-shy, give these a whirl to make instant sense of the noise. It isn’t necessary or even much fun to stick with just one. I use a whole collection of them, depending on what kind of sense I want to make.
A satisfyingly neat way to put all your tweets into columns, the Adobe Air-based Tweetdeck is a very commonly used client. You can use many Twitter accounts and add your Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace accounts into the mix.
There’s a Web-based version as well and I like it a whole lot because of the space age tweet noise it makes when a new update comes in. Well, I also like it because it lets me manage my lists, search, translate and sort information in one console. I also really like its Twitter directory of people you could choose to follow depending on shared interests.
Tweetdeck is probably the client that most newcomers will find easiest to deal with. Which doesn’t at all mean that it’s skimpy on features.
Seesmic Web is a widely used Twitter client with both a browser and a desktop version. In this one, you can read your tweets line by line, quicker scanning for lots of tweets — like a list. You can also use multiple columns, though eventually users demanded the option of being able to see just one column. Inline photos and videos come up in very neat windows.
The app that I’ve been loving playing around with, however, is Seesmic Look. For serious Twitter users it’s more attractive than it is useful, but who says you have to stick with it for everything.
I use Seesmic Look when I want to Twitter surf. This desktop client is housed on the Adobe Air platform and tends to be a bit slow and clunky at times. But once it’s got going, it’s great fun and the nicest way to explore trends and special interests. I never use it for regular Twitter updates and conversations, but to look at what’s been trending — with brief explanations — and for clicking around on various interest areas from recommended sources. Tweets and timelines based on these show up in huge text in a newbie friendly window and you can just click to follow a link or add a person to your follow list.
Seesmic Look is actually positioned for the extremely Twitter shy and is probably ideal for those who want to browse around without actually using their own accounts very much. I recommended this to a few people who were rather paranoid about being followed anywhere, Twitter or otherwise.
Brizzly is a social media reader that lets you browse and update to Facebook and Twitter. I like it because it’s neat looking and simple. 
My favourite feature on this Web-based application is that you can mute people for as long as you want to without necessarily unfollowing them. So, no ruffled feathers and I can get back to them when I’m ready. This is great for switching people off when they’re doing something I’m not very interested in, like say, watching the Indian Premier League (IPL) and posting developments. When IPL is done with, I’ll be happy to read their updates and opinions, and share whatever links they want others to see once again.
Brizzly also expands links in a little box so that you can be a little more sure of what you’re clicking on. Pictures and videos too can be seen inline without going to another page. 
My current favourite for making sense of Twitter is the relatively new Journotwit. The guys at Journotwit won’t tell me why this client is targeted at ‘journalists, bloggers and media professionals’, but let’s assume they have good marketing advice. Journotwit is essentially web-based but has come out with a desktop client for those who prefer it.  
What Journotwit does is give the user a whole lot of filtering and organising options. From changing the colour of the interface to adding and deleting columns on the fly, you have a host of features to play with. 
What I like a lot about it is its ‘feed cloud’, which is a set of keywords generated by the updates and topics in your timeline. Clicking on any of those words will spring 
open a column dedicated to that word, topic or person. So, if you see a ‘Google’, you can click and read all the tweets that talk about Google. When you’re done, you just get rid of the column with a single click. Or you mark it read so that it closes then but comes back later when new tweets come in.
The other feature I like is the ease with which you can add multiple Twitter accounts and switch between them with a single click. This is one of the features that can be nice for a publication, though I don’t see why it would be any less useful for anyone else. Each of your Twitter accounts can sport a different colour so that you don’t forget which one you happen to be using. This has prompted me to set up three, each focusing on different interests and users. 
The other powerful feature is that you can set filters for columns — and ignore the ones you don’t want to bother with. For example, you can set aside the ‘chatter’ to ignore all conversations that just don’t include or concern you. You can choose to look at only Re-tweets, in case you just want to look at the useful links people have tweeted. You can also create columns based on people, interests, keywords, audiovisual content, etc. You can even blacklist topics. Like Tweetdeck, you can also translate tweet then and there.
All you need to do to get into Journotwit is just create a quick account with your Twitter id and password. I can see this one being nice for anyone who wants to separate and track different areas of interest.
The author is editorial director at Mindworks Global Media Services. [email protected], @malabhargava on Twitter
(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 29-03-2010)