Tuesday, June 30, 2009

3 Things I Hate About Twitter

I make no bones about the fact that I'm obsessed with social media. However, it doesn't mean I love EVERYTHING about social media; actually, there are plenty of things I don't like about it. For example, I don't love Flickr because I'm not an images kind of gal; I can easily take a pass on FriendFeed; and I am skeptical about the usefulness of Lifestreaming.

One tool I generally do love, though, is Twitter. It's quick and connects me to almost everything I need to know: news, great blog posts, friends, colleagues...as pathetic as it sounds, Twitter has become a lifeline for me. I was shocked how much I missed last week when I unplugged from it for a few days: the DC metro train crash, Farrah Fawcett's death, Michael Jackson's death--it was a very bad week.

However, there are three things about Twitter that don't just bother me a little; they bother me a LOT:

1) Search--I find it incredible that there is no search archive for Twitter. I do social media for an association and publicized a hashtag for a month-long issue-awareness campaign we had in May. I was amazed and psyched to see literally hundreds of people tweeting about the campaign throughout the month, and couldn't wait to tally up the final number of tweets. Well, guess what? I was never able to do it because apparently Twitter search only goes back about three weeks. By the end of the month, half the tweets were already gone, and now, two months later, all the search results are gone. So much for using it to dazzle management about how useful Twitter is at helping us spread the word about stuff.

I keep hoping I'm wrong and that I'm just doing the search wrong--if anyone reading this knows of a way to retrieve my several month-old search I will be ecstatic. But I've tried everything I can think of--every Twitter search app I could find, and still nothing. I keep thinking I must be missing something--after all, I read about how Twitter is this great search engine, or how Twitter was the linchpin of the Iranian protests--even how researchers are using it to find a cure for autism. Twitter is great in real time, but when someone goes to analyze the Iran tweets a few months from now they may have a nasty surprise to contend with: they'll all be gone

2) Hashtags Hashtags, to me, are a horrible idea. Think about it--you already are limited to 140 characters; now how about take a bunch of those up with a tag that a) won't make sense to 99% of people reading your tweets and b) can't be altered if you misspell or just plain use the wrong one. What if you had to fill up your blog posts with tags? Or had to select the tags before you posted and not be able to change them or add to them after the fact?

Fortunately, there is a solution, although it doesn't seem to be that widely used yet: What the Hashtag?! The only downfall is that it is dependent on Twitter's search engine, so you still will eventually lose all the tweets with a certain hashtag unless Twitter beefs up their search archives. Not that many people seem to be aware of it yet--hopefully it or some similar tool will catch on so that you'll be able to click on a hashtag and quickly figure out what it means.

3) Chat--While I love the idea of Twitter chats, logistically I hate them. While in theory they're no more prone to people talking over each other and being hard to follow than regular web chats, you have the extra mess described in #2 above to contend with--seeing that crazy "#whateverthechatis" on every single message. And that's assuming you're taking part in the chat; it's doubly annoying to have to be an innocent bystander to people you follow taking part in various hour-long chats. While it's sometimes useful to know what chat they're taking part of, it is very rarely useful to have to follow one disjointed thread of a chat you're not interested in.

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