Simply put, there is way too much information on Twitter — lately, it defies navigation. In January, there were 2.4 million tweets a day, according to Alessio Signorini, a researcher at the University of Iowa. By October, he reports, there were 26 million tweets a day.
Why should we care about information overload at Twitter? Isn’t Twitter about the individual experiences — a Tweeter and her followers — not the totality of millions of Tweeters around the world?
Perhaps this is true for most users. But the promise of Twitter — the reason Google andMicrosoft have paid to be able to search millions of Tweets — is that it gives the best approximation of the pulse of the world: How popular is the new iPhone? Did Kanye Westmake a spectacle of himself at an awards show? Or, more ominously, what is it like when there is a shooter loose on an Army post?
Until lately, the main way to make sense of an urgent outpouring of tweets on a particular subject was to use text searches: look for the phrase “Fort Hood,” for example, or maybe an agreed-upon label, “#fthood,” within tweets. Yet during events like the shootings on Thursday at Fort Hood that left 13 people dead, this method is useless. Hundreds of “relevant” tweets pop up every minute, most repeating the same news reports over and over again or expressing concern from far away.
Which is why a new feature that Twitter says it could unveil in the next few weeks — “geolocation” — holds such potential to make the Twitter rapids navigable.
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