The Sunlight Foundation’s Capitol Tweets

Previously, I provided a practical way for retailers to use Twitter as a means to broadcast a text-message to customers. Another thing you can do with Twitter is tracking messages posted on the service by a specific group of people or on a specific topic.

To track people, you simply set up an account and “follow” the specific people’s Twitter accounts.

To follow a topic, you go to Twitter’s Search page and do a keyword search. After you land on the results page, you will have the URL to a page that will provide continuous updates to any message posted on that topic. But what if you want to track several terms, or want to narrow your search? Twitter Search allows you to use what are called “search operators” to accomplish that. Here is a page that explains how to use search operators like the one I used to set up a Twitter search with several terms about the Tennessee Titans that looked like this: titans OR “tennessee titans” OR “jeff fisher” OR “vince young” OR “LP Field” OR #titans.

You can make links to those two pages — the one where you are following a certain group of people and the one with results to the keywords search and be done with it.

Or, with a little bit of simple, simple work that any semi-geek (I can do it, so there) can accomplish, you can take the content from those two pages and display it on your own website or blog. (As these posts are intended to be “simple things,” I suggest you may want to enlist the help of someone who is familiar with how to use RSS feeds or the “API” of Twitter. You, personally, don’t need to know anything other than how to ask the question, “Can you help me hack the Twitter API to display something on my blog?” In this case, “hack” is something good.)

Here’s a great example of what I mean:

The group Sunlight Foundation has used the Twitter API to create a service called “Capitol Tweets” that collects and displays every new Twitter message shared by any member of Congress who uses Twitter.

So here’s an idea for you: Do you follow a specific group of lawmakers or public officials — say ones from a specific state or region? You can easily develop a version of what the Starlight Foundation is doing.

You can even develop a widget that allows other people to display what you’re doing on their sites — like the one above that is shared by the Sunlight Foundation, but that’s another post for another day.

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[via: Read Write Web]