using twitter as a human filtered content feed

Much has been made of twitter as a tool for finding eyewitness accounts and tracking discussion of breaking news and yesterday's airplane crash in the Hudson River was just one of a growing number of instances – along with earthquakes, terrorist attacks, celebrity deaths, mass redundencies and Steve Jobs stepping down -  where many people heard about it first on Twitter.

I've been thinking a lot recently about how twitter has changed not just the way I hear about breaking news, but also how it's completely changed my entire internet content consumption pattern.

Six months ago, I started my day online with a visit to my RSS reader, during which I usually saved a few bookmarks on delicious. I'd then check facebook and twitter for messages from friends, colleagues and contacts.

Now that's all changed. I realised yesterday that I haven't looked at my RSS reader since Christmas or earlier, and that my number of delicious links has gone from maybe 10 a day to just a trickle. That's because I'm using twitter as a sort of human filtered RSS reader: most of the people I used to subscribe to I now follow and the people I follow tend to tweet about the best things they post or read. This means that, through twitter, I've probably increased the amount of discovery I do online – that is, stumbling across new sources of content rather than simply reading the same people saying the same things all the time. And instead of bookmarking to delicious, I've noticed that I'm now favouriting 5 – 10 tweets each day so that I can return to them later.

I found myself wondering if others are finding that they use twitter in the same way. The replies were split, with people following massive numbers on twitter (eg. 300+) tending to say yes, twitter is becoming just as important as RSS and delicious, or even supplanting them. But others disagree, generally saying that they do find good content via twitter, but this remains their secondary method of doing so. Here's the responses:

AnneBB @Cybersoc @playnice_nz @AnneBB still attached to my delicious may be couse new to twitter ;0)
Shelley Gibb
mollybob @Cybersoc it's made my and aggregator use stronger because it's given me more resources. certainly no drifting here.
AnneBB @Cybersoc nope! I'm using Delicious as much as ever and totally dependent upon RSS to pull & push – particularly with grps/CoPs
christoph @Cybersoc hell no, still using netnewswire diigo, delicious
Craig McGinty
craigmcginty @Cybersoc I feed own Twitter RSS feed, and keyword searches in Twitter, into GReader and then search this as a Tweet database
Jon Bounds
bounder @Cybersoc
not one little bit. Don't find twitter useful for storing at all. In
fact I'm more likely to direct twitter bits to rss to save.
Gisele Honscha
giseleh @Cybersoc not me. But I don't blog as much as I used to because of Twitter. It's faster and easier. And I feel guilty about it!
Lesley Smith
LesleySmith @Cybersoc Very much so, Twitter is much more simple to use!
Robert Brook
Glyn Mottershead
egrommet @Cybersoc I use the favourites but then never end up looking at them. Tend to use Mento more than anything
Mark Griffin
westpier @Cybersoc
Twitter favourites first, RSS feeds in NetNewsWire second and then all
bunged into Things for Mac and iPod touch. Info overload!
Mr Anderson
kevglobal @Cybersoc yes, Twitter does fill in for some social bookmarking, but I still use Delicious. Twitter is a good filter esp with Tweetdeck
Stefan Kolgen
skolgen @Cybersoc I still have a strong feeling to trust a broad range of sources more than rely upon a small network of chosen ones

How do you use twitter? Is it as important as your RSS reader? Do you favourite tweets like you used to save bookmarks? Does following more people make you more likely to use twitter as a main source of links to new content? What's your view?

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  1. I use Twitter extensively through the course of the day as a source for gathering and following breaking news. As my role is somewhat of an evangelist to print media journalists to show them how to utilise the web to their advantage, Twitter has given me an edge that I have found RSS can’t compete on. I still go to my RSS to check first thing in the morning, but certainly as the day goes on and the US wakes up, my Twitter feed is faster than my RSS feed. I don’t ever favourite Tweets, but I generally have a very fully tabbed out browser to queue my reading. Twitter is working well to show (in a sometimes dramatic fashion) the power of web 2.0, and the difference it can make to their speed of reporting.

  2. I didn’t see your tweet to this effect, but I’ll add my £.02 here – I think I use delicious more if anything. Since Christmas I’ve got more choosy about who I’ll follow and started using TweetDeck at home, and they have both made Twitter even more valuable to me. I still use RSS when I’m in the mood for reading articles rather than browsing lots of info. I guess it has affected what I subscribe to on RSS. I guess you’re right – Twitter has had a big effect on how I use the Internet, but they are different effects to the ones you’ve noticed.

  3. Do you use Twitter on mobile or web, or a mix of the two?
    I’m speaking as a curious ‘twitter dabbler’ who’s yet to be convinced of the benefits that regular twitter use will bring to my daily life.

  4. I’m pretty concerned to add value to my network of followers as much as I am to draw value from my network of followees. So I do check my rss feeds for new information and my delicious bookmarks reflect all the things I may want to retrieve easily later so if anything it’s gone up.
    If it interests anyone, I currently I use the following combination of tools:
    Google Reader with PostRank, and Snackr for RSS.
    Twitterfox, TweetDeck and for Twitter. and Shareaholic for unified updates and sharing.
    Foxmarks and delicious for bookmarking.
    Wordpress and Tumblr for blogging.
    Still evaluating freindfeed, profilactic, socialthing and others for lifestreaming.
    It would be interesting to know how much information I process each day – does anyone know of an analytics package that covers it?

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