Update – as of today, 29MAY08 Twitter Track is disabled. I will update this post when it is turned back on.
Twitter has been described as a “micro-blogging tool”. And it is that. It is also a chat client.
And it is an extremely useful research tool. By tracking specific keywords (your company name for example) you can obtain a near-real-time feed anytime anyone on Twitter mentions your company.
First, the “Track” command. According to the Twitter FAQ:
What is tracking?
Tracking is an SMS or IM only feature that allows you to receive all twitters that match a word you’re tracking. For example, if you send track Obama, you will receive all updates that match “Obama.” All updates sent from tracking will begin with parenthesis. You can easily stop getting these messages by sending untrack Obama.
So using track is quite simple. From your cell phone your could use a Twitter Mobile Client and send Twitter a message like “track Microsoft” and you would receive a message every time Microsoft is mentioned. Of course, receiving an update every time someone mentions Microsoft is probably not what you want to do on your cell phone.
And that is where GTalk comes in. GTalk is a Google Chat Client. And it works wonderfully with the Twitter Track function.
And if you have a GMail account (get one here for free) GTalk can also automatically archive all of your “Tweets and Tracks” into your GMail account.
After downloading and installing GTalk (and creating an account) you can now add Twitter to GTalk You do this on Twitter.com by going to the Settings page and clicking on the “Devices” tab.
Enter your GMail address and select GTalk from the drop-down menu.
You will be prompted to send a unique code back to Twitter from within GTalk
Just type in the code in the GTalk Chat window (after selecting email@example.com from the user list) and press enter.
Nearly instantly (assuming GTalk/Twitter are both functioning) you will receive a response from Twitter.
Now you are set.
To track something (Microsoft for example), just type “track microsoft” into the chat window. Twitter replies letting you know it heard your request. And as you can see, it took only seconds to get a result.
To stop tracking type “untrack microsoft”.
You can also correspond with all of your Twitter friends with GTalk. Let me know you got this working by sending “@kr8tr – Tracking is set up” or something similar to me!
Of course, for normal Twitter use, I recommend Twhirl – and Adobe AIR-based application that has a lot more bells and whistles for Twitter.
And soon you’ll be able to use Track in Twhirl as well.
Final notes on Track – it does NOT pay attention to punctuation, so Tracking “@kr8tr” is the same as Tracking “kr8tr”. Track also ignores CASE.
And as of now, there is no filtering in Track – so you will get every instance of the word you track, even if it includes words you would rather not see. I expect this to be addressed (at least at the Twitter client level) very soon. In fact, the CEO of Seesmic was interviewed on The Gillmor Gang and committed to adding these features to Twhirl very soon.