Sunday, January 17, 2010

Why is it News That Twitter Search Sucks?

A few days ago I saw several social media "influencers" tweeting links to this post about how Twitter doesn't archive tweets. Is this news to anyone? I know I've blogged about it before.

I've said it before and I'll no doubt say it again--I don't understand how a platform that is so unreliable and has such limited archival capabilities is worth a purported billion dollars.

Why does nobody seem all that bothered by Twitter's horribly limited search capability? With more and more companies deciding that social media is something they're willing to spend money on, as evidenced by more of them hiring staff to handle it or contracting various activities out, they are going to be looking for that all-important ROI--a calculation for which Twitter's archives being searchable is critically important.

Take the tragedy in Haiti. Mainstream media is featuring Twitter as an integral part of the Red Cross's efforts to raise an amazing amount of money in record time and through previously untapped channels. So what happens a month or six months from now when a reporter is tasked with researching the total number of tweets containing the words "Haiti" or "Red Cross" in the weeks after the earthquake? I'll tell you what will happen: nothing, as in "no results," because those search results will be long gone. Ruh roh. Ditto for the agency that runs a campaign for a company, one of the components of which is a specific hashtag on Twitter. After a month when they sit down to prepare the analysis of the campaign and go to count how many people used the hashtag they're going to be in for a rude awakening. Trust me, I've been there, done that many times over and it's frustrating as hell.

What if Google only archived search results for a week or two? Guess we wouldn't have been able to get rid of encyclopedias. Somehow they've managed to figure out a way to capture an infinite amount of information without having their search index run out of room. I can't imagine this isn't a problem that can't be fixed by throwing some money at it--so Twitter, PLEASE throw some of those millions at this search index deficit and fix it.

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