How does Twitter, in this day and age, change the way a person is able to get up to speed on a topic they don’t understand or yearn to learn more about? What tools are available out there for people who want to gain knowledge on a current controversy, like the Planned Parenthood and Susan G. Komen kerfuffle that broke out a couple weeks ago and exploded all over social media? I’m going to take some time here to answer those very questions, giving links to sites that will help others streamline their information quests on Twitter.
The first and most obvious tool is the basic Twitter Search, where you can type in a keyword, say “Planned Parenthood”, and the engine will pull up all posts that use that keyword. This is kind of scattershot, because so many people have weighed in on the controversy, and most don’t have any new or unique information to add. If you want to know how Keith Olbermann or Joe Scarborough feel about the entirety of the situation, this is a good tool. If you want to track the progress of the controversy, from start to finish, you might find yourself wasting a lot of time sifting through opinions by people you never heard of. Plus, all the matches on my search seemed to be of celebrities and news media personalities. Apparently, Twitter values there tweets more than yours or mine.
Tweetscan is a simple, easy to use tool that gives us a word cloud, which is beneficial if what you’re researching is a current, hot topic. Even though the news cycle has cooled off on the controversy, “Planned Parenthood” is still relatively large in the cloud, being beat out by only “skiing” and “Topeka”, which I find a bit odd for trending topics. Nevertheless, Tweetscan seems to have the opposite problem of Twitter Search in that it doesn’t discriminate, and thus you are reading tweets from folks all over the globe projecting their opinion, sometimes educated and most times very emotional. Again, there is no real way to track the controversy, from start to finish.
Then there is Twendz, where a person can watch the enormity of a controversy play out in real time, as posts matching a topic of your choosing pop up, one by one, as they are being tweeted. While I’m not sure if there is a filtering device, the tweets I saw pop up when I entered “Planned Parenthood” seemed to be more substantive than those on Tweetscan, even though they were also from regular folks. What’s more, the hashtags that popped up, like #defundPPNNE, #Komen or #PP, where ultimately the best way to track a story from its inception. By clicking on them, I was presented with a wealth of information that I could follow back to nearly a month ago, when the whole thing began.
In the end, it comes down to the hashtag. All of these sites can be very useful in finding the tags most relevant to the topic you are seeking out, but it is important to research more than one tag, because many are used by folks who share an ideology, meaning the whole story is not presented and opinions are often misconstrued as facts.