Overoptimistic about Twitter search

There was an interesting article last month about twitter search, which raises questions for any prospective webmaster – given that search engine optimisation is, rightly, a major concern in the design and upkeep of a site.

The article, published in twitip.com, will have pleased twitter executives as it – with more than a little hyperbole – trumpeted that twitter search is destined to replace google. 

It was intersting, not because of the over-inflated claims, but because it gives a useful introduction to the strengths of twitter as a network: brevity (which encourages people to engage – it doesn’t take you ages to write a tweet), depth, and the ability to specialise. You can cultivate your own network, over time, which may contain the best and brightest minds in a specific area – allowing you to participate and feed into discussions. All to the good, and well worth reading if you’re new to twitter.

It’s a rosy picture though – unsurprisingly, given the site’s raison d’etre is giving info on twitter – which ignores various factors competing when someone is searching for information.

First off, there’s the presumption that your request for information from twitter will be answered immediately. If you post a question on your twitter profile, it will be seen by your ‘followers’ – but you’re dependent upon them having a) the knowledge you’re looking for, and b)the inclination and time to reply. 

Next there’s the stage of refining your search query. Many times when you search with a search engine, you’ll find that your initial request was too-vague, or imprecise. The first round of results then helps you to zone in on what you’re really looking for in clearer terms. Twitter may be better placed in this process, presuming human intuition is always better than a machines – but you’re still going to be dependent upon someone else responding to you. With a search engine your results are next to instantaneous.

The real failure of the article though is to realise that people now, and will continue to in the future, use a variety of integrated systems to find information – they may use google, facebook, twitter, the company canteen, forums, the telephone etc.

Twitter, in my opinion, is far stronger in terms of providing recommendations and value based judgements  to vague-and-impossible-to-answer-by-formula questions- what book should I read next? Is the new album by x any good? Should I go to Rimini for my holidays? etc

And that’s as good a reason as any as to why you should be on this free network.

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