Twitterfall – the coolest thing since sliced bread

Twitter is the place to go for idle Internet chatter — for example, what could be more fun than following a Congressional representative who twitters about President Obama’s speech in real time?

However, the native Twitter Web interface is a model of bare functionality. If you want more features — and many people do — then you need a Twitter client. The best I’ve found to date is Twitterfall.

What is it? Twitterfall is a Web-based client for Twitter that adds all the search and trend-tracking bells and whistles that a news addict could ever want.

Because it’s a purely Web-based service, unlike the Adobe AIR-based Twhirl or the Mac/iPhone’s Twitterrific, you can run it on any PC or device that can run a full-powered Web browser.

What does it do? When you first bring up Twitterfall, you immediately see where the name comes from — the center display quickly fills with a waterfall of Twitter notes. You can adjust the speed of this message stream with the basic setup tools, which are located on the right-hand column.

Why is it the coolest thing since sliced bread? Unless you really like just watching random messages go by, the first thing you’ll want to do is to start using Twitterfall to track tweets about subjects you care about.

You do this by clicking off the general feed and tracking the most popular message trends on Twitter (which are displayed on the left sidebar).

Or – and this is where Twitterfall gets interesting – by setting up your own search criteria. Want to know what people are saying about the new Mac Mini? Pop “Mac Mini” in the custom search field, and you’re on your way.

Or say you want to hear what people have to say about the last snowstorm – but you really don’t care about the snowfall in Anchorage, you only want to know what people have to say in your town.

You can set up a search for “snow,” and use the geolocation search box to keep you up to date on how your neighbors within 10 miles of you are handling the latest snow day.

Easy to read, easy to search, easy to customize, Twitterfall is the interface for Twitter.

You can also log in to Twitter from Twitterfall and use it as your regular Twitter client. Mouse over a tweet, and you get access to a series of icons that let you reply to the message, retweet it, follow the tweeter, etc.

Mouse over the tweeter’s name, and you get info on their location and followers. You can track your Twitter friends by clicking on the Timeline option, which is just below the log-in.

Last, but by no means least, Twitterfall gives you an abundance of presentation options. Want to change the font size? The font colors?

No problem. Want to watch Twitter comments at a speed-reading 10 tweets per second? You can do that too. (Twitterfall, while free, won’t give you any aspirin for headaches that might result from reading tweets at that pace.)

What needs to be fixed? It’s enormously addictive. You see, not only does it make Twitter a joy to follow, it also makes it so easy to actually track useful and entertaining information that it’s hard to pull yourself away from it.

Final verdict: Excuse me, I can’t talk now — I need to check my Twitterfall page to see what people are saying about the new Watchmen movie.

We continue our Tweet ramblings with these insights about the business implications of Twitter.

Twitter is about action. It poses the question “What are you doing?” and you get 140 characters to answer.  

People write about what they’re working on, usually with genuine enthusiasm and little bull. This is a key part of Twitter’s attraction for me: It has, for the most part, a positive energy, even when people are being critical.

Some people make observations on things that others are doing, or current events. They share interesting news, articles and blog posts. They ask and answer questions, both practical (what’s your favorite Twitter client?) and reflective (what are you grateful for today?).

It’s not all geeks. I’ve encountered and begun following a photojournalist who tweets while on assignment (I felt like I was with him on his last trip to Africa); an author who writes about Buddhism and has appeared on Oprah (she tweeted from the green room) and even some CIOs.

If Twitter were just a pastime, I’d have abandoned it by now. Did I mention I really don’t need any more distractions in my multi-tasking multimedia life? But I’ve met some incredibly smart and interesting people I would not have encountered any other way, and I’ve learned a lot.

From the beginning, I’ve been pondering the business implications of Twitter. Recently I tossed out the following:

abbielundberg soliciting tweets on the business value of twitter which I will aggregate for a blog post on CIO.com.
Here’s what I got back (with minimal editing). Many thanks to everyone who contributed!

jstorerj twitter/microblogging could fundamentally change corp comm, both within/outside the org. 09:27 AM March 29, 2008 from web

astrout all the A-list bloggers & many Web 2.0 CEOs are on – great way to watch trends 04:02 PM March 28, 2008 from web

rhappe CIOs should check out Twitter because it, very quickly, gives people their social networking ‘aha’ moment…critical IMO 02:42 PM March 28, 2008 from web 

yourdon See “The Awesomeness of Twitter” at http://tinyurl.com/yum8ga 03:13 PM March 28, 2008 from twhirl

mikaeliand check out CIO JP Rangaswami’s blog, “Confused of Calcutta” re Twitter

http://confusedofcalcutta.com/category/twitter/ 02:58 PM March 28, 2008 from twhirl

DougH CIOs/Twitter? 1- simple tech way to increase network and receive quick outside FB on ideas. 01:35 PM March 28, 2008 from twhirl

DougH Also, b/c people use it for biz ideas & not just idle chat (at best) awareness is needed. Also, are there IT security issues? 01:37 PM March 28, 2008 from twhirl

mikaeliand CIOs should check out Twitter because more and more of their organization’s new employees will be expecting (demanding?) it 01:34 PM March 28, 2008 from twhirl

missusP [who runs a PR company] W/ Twitter, we quickly see thought leader opportunities for clients & keep a pulse on the industry w/ reporters, bloggers, even competitors. 8 minutes ago reply

Pistachio why CIOs should grok Twitter? i think it “secretly” has the potential to transform the enterprise. I see it as pervasive as email in <4 yrs. maybe not Twitter per se, but something like. 12:27 AM March 29, 2008 reply

dchurbuck I use Twitter pretty extensively to make adhoc personal requests “Can you talk on phone?” “Can you send file?” or broadcast ?s. Twitter is different but similar to IM and beats aggregated IM by a mile about 2 hours ago reply 

monkchips the power and pungency of twitter connnections for research and development is growing by the day. ambient intimacy for ambient serendipity about 3 hours ago from web

If you’re into fully articulated thoughts, Twitter may not be for you. But if you’re a CIO or any other busy professional, having a tool that quickly and simply aggregates immediate information is a wonderful thing. The somewhat random collection of thoughts above was easy for me to gather and easy for the contributors to give. And it’s pretty complete.

If you haven’t played with Twitter or any of the other social networking tools yet, rhappe’s comment may be the most compelling reason to do so: If you give it an honest shot, you’ll get back an “aha” moment that could change your thinking about a lot of things.

As to the risks of being enthralled, I’m finding that’s just one of the many new challenges I have to learn to manage.
Oh yeah, you’ll find me tweeting as abbielundberg — come by and check it out.

Sources: Computerworld.com and CIO.com

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