I’ve never been fond of the search engine on Twitter, not the one on search.twitter.com anyway. I have found the ones build on it’s API much friendlier and more intuitive, such as Twitterfall and the integration in Tweetdeck. But none of them work for finding old tweets. Google is not much help either, unless you know how to create your own search engine.
Friendfeed aggregates and stores all the activity that is fed into the system. Most FF users bring in their Twitter feed, in effect storing all their tweets. It works a little bit like Google Reader, once it’s there, it will always be there, even if the original is deleted.
The advanced search features of Friendfeed makes it a pretty good twitter search alternative. It even supports real-time, so you can make your own twitter news monitors.
Searching old tweets
Twitter only keeps tweets in it’s search database for a few weeks, after that they disappear. They’re still available on the web, just not searchable from Twitter (or any thrid party app). That’s great if you just want the real-time view, but not practical when looking for an exact tweet a few weeks old.
I needed to find this tweet from Paul Bradshaw for a presentation, but it was long gone from the internal database. I knew that Paul is using Friendfeed, not actively but he’s sharing his tweets there, so I did this search (Bingo, no. 2 from the top). Here’s the equivalent twitter search which is no help.
From any Friendfeed page, you simple select advanced search at the top, fill in the blanks and you got it. Here’s how mine was filled in.
Real-time “noise” filtering
Some hashtags can get ugly, real quick. There’s no way to filter out the high quality tweets either. People can favorite tweets, but you can’t search them, so no way to filter. When news breaks, there will be a few quality tweets in the beginning, people will retweet the most important. But people quickly starts talking about the event which brings no real value to the table, other than twitter-chatter. Eyewitness accounts and other useful information is lost in the stream because people have no way of marking important tweets for later retrieval (search).
On Friendfeed, people have the option of liking entries, and the advanced search let’s you filter items based on likes or comments. You can now rely on the FF community to mark the important stuff and cut through all (some of) the noise.
Here’s an example of a search that filters all tweets with the #iranelection hashtag, and shows only tweets that has 3 or more likes.
There are many other ways to search Friendfeed and you can filter for all services like facebook, blogs etc. You can save searches and use them as filters. I have several live searches saved in Friendfeed. Here’s an example of a search that gives me all twitter entries from my friends with one or more comments.
Friendfeed suffers from the fact that it’s userbase is not as big as Twitter’s, but the ‘real’ real-time search more than makes up for that in my opinion. What I mean by real, is that items are published automatically from all services. If you bring in your Flickr, comments and blog activity to Friendfeed, they will publish automatically. Twitter doesn’t do that, you have to actively share the link after you have uploaded to Flickr, made a comment somewhere or updated your blog.