In May 2009, I joined several active Twitter users at The New York Times in giving a series of presentations to the newsroom on how to use the microblogging service for journalism. This post is a basic collection of links gathered for the talk, with beginners in mind. (The gist of the rest of the presentation is here).

[Note: As of 2012, some of these links are no longer active, but I am preserving this post as a record of what was available. Feel free to add your own in the comments.]

A Few Interesting Twitter Tools

There are hundreds of Twitter tools and sites out there, and perhaps as many blogs that will list them for you. But you really only need a few, and even some of these are just curiosities.

For searches, Twitter Search, Tweetgrid, Twitscoop, and Twitterfall are useful for finding trending topics:

You can chart trends against each other (examples): http//

URL-shortening: Twitter and third-party applications will usually do this for you, but I recommend in particular because it allows you to see how many people clicked on the link (just add a + after the shortened URL in your browser address bar). You can tweet from the browser page if you set up an account. Another nice thing about is the short URLs it produces. If you keep your tweets under 120 characters, it is easier for others to retweet you.

Here's a list of Twitter account rankings and stats; you can also search by location:

This tool tells you who you are following who isn't following you, who is following you that you are not following, and mutual follows. Unlike some tools, you don't have to give your Twitter password.

Once you have been on Twitter a while, give MrTweet a whirl & it will suggest people to follow in your network who have similar interests (follow and tweet a while before you try it):

See the history of how your following is growing, or the growth of others:

Look at a graph of how often you Twitter and when you tweet the most:

This will tell you your "Twinfluence" -- theoretical reach of your Twitter followers' followers:

This offers more statistics analyzing a user's Twitter style:

And here's another of the same flavor, the Twitalyzer:

Who is getting retweeted?

Track and see the links that are being twittered (also track by user):

Follow @Twitter_tips on Twitter for daily links to posts about how to use Twitter and other news:

For search purposes, Twitter does not save updates going back much longer than a month. If you want to save yours, here's an archiving service (I don't bother)

Confused by the terminology? Here is a Twitter glossary:

David Pogue, the NYT technology writer, swears by this site, Twitoaster, which shows threaded Twitter converations and statistics:

Interesting Accounts to Follow

During the recent newsroom talks, I suggested some accounts that people could follow when they are just starting out. For journalists, Twitter tends to be boring if you're not following people who are linking and thinking -- "mindcasters." Follow about 100 or so to get started. Don't feel obligated to read every tweet. Don't feel bad about unfollowing people if they are boring you or tweeting too much.

Our main feed, the home page headlines and breaking news alerts

The CNN breaking news feed, which was started by a CNN fan (@imajes)

Breaking News online, a news alert service:

Nieman Journalism Lab's curated journalism and new media links

Digg 2000, all articles that get more than 2000 diggs

Long Reads -- links to long form journalism

Matthew Ingram, communities editor of the Toronto Globe and Mail

Colonel Tribune, imaginary figurehead of Chicago Tribune

Twendly, Tweets about trending topics on Twitter

Kevin Sablan, blogger & web team person at Orange County Register

Bill Romanos, lawyer, media fan, prolific linker

Romenesko feed

The very chatty Washington Post

Howard Kurtz, the media critic

Andrew Nystrom, social media editor at the LA Times

LA Times official feed

Foodimentary - daily food facts

Peter Kafka, AllThingsD blogger for The Wall Street Journal

Tim Siedell, aka Badbanana, a master of funny Twitter one-liners

Steve Rubel, PR social media guy, Microtrends blog, linker

Chris Krewson, executive editor online news, Philadelphia Inquirer

Jim MacMillan, pulitzer-winning journalist, professor, consultant, linker

Jay Rosen, NYU journalism professor and "mindcaster" on news

Dave Winer, the father of RSS feeds, blogger and media critic

Kathy Riordan of Florida, one of my favorite news-obsessives on Twitter:

Guy Kawasaki, tweeting/linking machine (with two ghost assistants)

Pete Cashmore/Mashable -- leading social media news blog

John A. Byrne, editor in chief of Business Week

Bill Keller, NYT

Also worth following: My NYT colleagues who joined the newsroom presentations, Jennifer 8. Lee, Jeremy Zilar, Brian Stelter and Jacob Harris, as well as the new social media editor, Jennifer Preston, Sewell Chan, bureau chief of City Room, and Tim O'Brien, editor of Sunday Business. The full list of Times people on Twitter is too long and growing too quickly to put here; please consult Muckrack or the accounts followed by Jennifer or @nytimes on Twitter.

There are many blogs that offer more lists of interesting people to follow. Here's a recent example. Do not feel obligated to follow everyone back, and don't feel bad if they don't follow you back, especially if you are new.

Follower Networks

Muckrack (find more journalists) Mr Tweet (find influential people in your network)

Third-Party Twitter Applications

The Twitter Web site is fine for most people who are starting out. It's simple. But if you want to follow a lot of people, group different accounts, set up a variety of searches or manage multiple accounts (a personal account, a blog, etc.), then you might want to try a third-party application.

For a long time I used Tweetdeck, an Adobe Air app, and many people still swear by it. The NYT news technology department warned against Tweetdeck after it was found to cause performance and memory problems on some older newsroom computers. The software has since been upgraded, which may have fixed the issue.

Two other Air apps seem to work better (but they have different sets of features): Destroy Twitter and Seesmic Desktop.

Lately I have been testing the upgraded Peoplbrowser, an impressive Web browser-based dashboard with many bells and whistles (perhaps too many). Another full-featured browser-based app is Twitterfall, which is also useful for searching trending topics.

On my iPhone I use Twitterfon, but Tweetie is also quite good (and there is a desktop app as well).

Blackberry users might want to check out Twitterberry.

And, of course, Twitter itself has a mobile site for use with a cellphone Web browser.

Last Updated Aug. 30, 2009.

AuthorPatrick LaForge
CategoriesSocial Media