A Couple of Twitter Search Tricks…

Just a quickie post, this one, to describe a couple of Twitter search tricks’n’tips (which is to say, this is an infoskills post, right?;-)

You can find the Twitter search tool at http://search.twitter.com. I actually call it in my browser using the keyword “tw” associated with a Firefox Keyword Search.

Link search: if you’re in the habit of searching social bookmarking sites such as delicious for useful links, whether by pivoting around particular tags or tag combinations, or by using the delicious search box, you might also be interested in searching for tweeted links. Here are a couple of ways of doing it…

The “official way”, using a Twitter advanced search form – just select the “contains Links” option.

This invokes a special search limit, filter:links, which you can also enter directly into the Twitter search box:

If for any reason that search limit isn’t working, here’s a workaround that makes use of Twitter search’s partial string matching capability:

Fan out: see which of your tweets have been retweeted by others (maybe;-)
This trick relies on a convention that has emerged in which Twitterers use the pattern along the lines ofRT @username “the original tweet”.

(See also the ReTweetist service, which will plot which of your messages have been retweeted, as well as the most popular current retweets.)

Also remember that you can subscribe to an RSS feeds of saved searches based on these query types:

Locale Based Searches
Want to know who’s recently been twittering (possibly) from nearby a particular location? Set the location options in the advanced search form, and run an otherwise empty query (i.e. no search terms in the search box).

So for example:

Now it used to be that you could search people’s biography or location strapline in Twitter, and find people to follow that way (that’s how I found several fellow Isle of Wight twitterers) , but that doesn’t seem possible using the “Find People” service at the moment? (And I can’t check to make sure, because the “Find People” service is temporarily stressed (i.e. down) again…).

So here’s a Google hack way round finding Twitterers from a particular location – construct a query of the form:


This works as follows – look for the search term, on twitter.com (site:twitter.com), but try not to return results from tweets (-inurl:status) or where part of the location appears in the user’s Twitter ID (-intitle:wight). If an individual’s page is indexed when there’s a tweet showing that contains the search term, then you may get the page returned as a result. But more likely you’ll only get results from pages where the search term is always present, such as when it’s part of a person’s bio… In a sense, this is a bit like indexing a fixed set of web search engine indexable, on-page, bio/location meta-data.

[UPDATE: looking at the results preview, if we search for “Location Isle of Wight” we can probably filter the results even further:
“location isle of wight” site:twitter.com -inurl:status -intitle:wight

And as @daveyp suggests, we can also search for institutional allegiance within a profile, eg site:twitter.com -inurl:status -intitle:huddersfield location huddersfield university]

(You can do something similar to stalk people on MySpace.)

For more Twitter search tricks , check out the Twitter advanced search form, or have a creative play in Google;-)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

9 thoughts on “A Couple of Twitter Search Tricks…”

  1. Tony, thanks for this it is helpful – I tend to approach twitter so conversationally that I forget it’s become its own environment for sharing and research, and so haven’t cultivated many of these techniques as well as I should have.

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