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January 25, 2009

"Looking for Twitterers in All the Wrong Places" - One Bad Idea and a Half Dozen Good Ideas

A friend of mine just asked me on Facebook how to find people on Twitter. I flew over via Wall-to-Wall and discovered a thread called "looking for fellow Twitterers (in all the wrong places?)". The first reply said, "What is twittering and are you allowed to do it in public?"

I can't begin to talk about those two questions in the space allocated to either Twitter or Facebook posts, so thought I'd take it outside, over to the blog, and then will bring the blog URL back to the microblogging environments.

Twittering is a kind of chitter-chatter conversation, a bit like a party where it is crowded enough that everyone is involved in a couple overlapping conversations at a time, and you overhear fragments of other conversations around you, sometimes intriguing enough to turn around and start talking to them. I've heard a lot of other descriptions, though, including people who said it is like fishing, like sex, or it is an RSS tool, the social search engine we've all been waiting for, crisis and disaster response technology, and much more. I described some of these in this presentation.

Twitter and Microblogging for Public Health: http://www.slideshare.net/umhealthscienceslibraries/twitter-and-microblogging-for-public-health-presentation

Now, given that one of the questions included the phrase "are you allowed to do it in public?" I better clarify that when folks say that Twitter is like sex they didn't mean like having sex, but more that you can't explain it to someone who isn't doing it. Honest! At least for most folks, anyway. I am sure given how huge Twitter is there is probably someone doing something scandalous with it, I just don't know about it (and please don't tell me).

If you are going Twitter then, well, you do want to do it with folks you like. I could try to beat the analogy to death, saying it is like finding people to date, but frankly I don't think the analogy works there. It would be more like finding people you'd like to be with to study, or go to church, or go for coffee and chat.

Whenever you start a new job or move to a new town there is this time where you haven't met anyone yet or no one asks you to join them for coffee, and you feel really alone. Eventually that goes away, and there are ways to speed that along. Introducing yourself is one way, others include asking people questions, telling folks you like what they're wearing or saying or reading or something like that. A big part of it is listening, and getting the people you meet to introduce you to people they know. Another big part is putting yourself in the same places as people doing the things you like to do -- finding common ground. Here are some tips.

(0)
In Twitter there is a "Find People" button. Unfortunately, it does not go to any kind of useful search feature, but is a search users link, and doesn't allow any granularity and special search features. "Search for a username, first or last name," Twitter says. You used to be able to search by keyword, location or topic if they included the terms in their profile, but you can't even do that anymore. This is listed as Zero on my list because even though it is the first thing you should do, I haven't found it very useful.

(1)
Use Twitter Search (a.k.a. Summize) to find conversations on topics you love.

Twitter Search: http://search.twitter.com/ OR http://summize.com/

Search the words and ideas you love, look for great tweets, click through and read more by the same person. Was the great tweet a fluke, or do they say a lot of great stuff? If the latter, then follow them. Don't follow everybody, just people saying stuff you really enjoy.

(2)
When you find people who are saying a lot of great stuff, look at who they are talking to. In Twitter folks use a convention of the at-sign (@) in front of the account name of the person they are talking to. You can click on that to go to the other persons account, and see if they are saying great stuff also.

(3)
Along the lines of joining a club in a new town to meet people, and searching words and ideas you love, join a Twitter group.

Twitter Groups: http://twittgroups.com/index.php

Once you find a group on a topic you like, join it, and browse the tweets for the people who are members of that group to find like-minded souls.

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No matter what topics you love, also be sure to include some folks who live near you. This is a good practice for a number of reasons. For one, if they are talking about something on sale, there is a good chance you can get to the same store before they run out. Even better, if there is a weather or health crisis, or traffic is backed up, these are the folks who can help you figure out what's going on. Crisis and disaster response is a HUGE application for Twitter, but you don't want to wait until things go bad to make the connections.

TwitterLocal: http://www.twitterlocal.net/

ArborWiki: List of Ann Arbor twitter users: http://arborwiki.org/index.php/List_of_Ann_Arbor_twitter_users

Michigan Twitter Network: http://www.mlive.com/twitter/

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Sometimes you can find Twitter accounts that "collect" people with similar interests. When you find one like that on a topic of interest to you, look at the people who are following it to find people you might want to follow. Here are a couple of examples.

GovTwit (US national, state, and local governments and officials in Twitter): http://twitter.com/GovTwit

MedLibs (Medical Librarians): http://twitter.com/medlibs

BioTecher (biotechnology): http://twitter.com/biotecher

You might find more at Twitter Packs.

TwitterPacks: http://twitterpacks.pbwiki.com/

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Chances are by this point you have probably found as many people as you are willing to follow. Just in case you haven't, there are also actual Twitter directories. You know - like phone directories?

TwitDir (currently on hiatus with the owner at a conference) is kind of like the white pages, and Twellow is (you guessed it!) more like the yellow pages as is JustTweetIt. These allow you to browse by category. At this moment in time, Twellow is the richest, but is dated and not always accurate. JustTweetIt has the advantage and disadvantage of being user built, with folks adding their own name and tagging themselves.

JustTweetIt: http://justtweetit.com

Twellow: http://www.twellow.com/

TwitDir: http://twitdir.com/

Enjoy! There is an enormous number of wonderful people on Twitter (as in the world, really). There is no shortage of amazing people with whom to share a few thoughts now and then.

Posted by pfa at January 25, 2009 10:22 PM

Comments

Great post! I will check out these URLs. One thing I have done to find people on Twitter is to google their name with site:twitter.com after it. For example, to find you, the search string would be "patricia anderson site:twitter.com"
Has worked pretty well.
-Patty

Posted by: pattyb at January 26, 2009 08:20 AM

Thanks for the info.

Posted by: edetroiter@gmail.com at January 28, 2009 03:13 PM

Another site for looking for tweeters: http://twitter.grader.com (Twitter Grader measures the power of a profile).

Posted by: pattyb at February 2, 2009 11:48 AM

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