Twitter Gets an Enterprise Search Assist

Is there more to Twitter than meets the eye?

Sure, it’s handy and sometimes fun to post and receive the short “tweets” that have made Twitter so popular. But tweets are short by design, given Twitter’s famous 140-character limit and fleeting as new ones crowd out the old at a rapid pace. The service’s usefulness has been skewered in at least one amusing parody, and this week, research firm Nielsen Online weighed in, dinging Twitter for a poor retention rate. More than 60 percent of Twitter users in a given month don’t return to the site the following month, according to Nielsen’s research.

Enter enterprise search firm Exalead, which sees potential information gold in the Twitterverse.

The company has quietly launched a free, deep search service called Tweepz that helps users mine information and resources in Twitter.

Twitter itself has a modest search function at the bottom of its home page, focused on content in users’ most recent tweets.

On the other hand, Tweepz, developed by Exalead researcher Jochem Prins, lets you search Twitter by geography, biography or name. You can also filter results by criteria like language and key words. In the future, the company says it may also index the recommended site links or URLs that are often included in tweets.

A few sample queries by for terms like “network administrator” yielded a long list of relevant results, which also includes profile information at a glance — posters’ number of followers and updates for each one.

Similarly, a simple keyword like ERP gave a long list of Twitter users that include the term — short for Enterprise Resource Planning — in their profiles. You could also use Tweepz to pursue personal interests, such as entering “Scifi Boston” to find science fiction fans on Twitter who live in the Boston area.

Exalead developed Tweepz in part to showcase work it’s doing in an area IDC calls “search-based applications,” or SBAs. Exaleed’s Prins said these SBAs can work inside the enterprise or on the Web to provide customers and users with relevant and useful real-time information.

“These applications give universal access to information regardless of data type and contextualize data in such a way as to make it more usable,” Prins told in an e-mail. “Much like these SBAs, Tweepz adjusts to real-time information, allows for more specific search (e.g. bio only, or location only, or name only, etc.), and extracts useful metadata that helps people find what they want.”

Prins also indicated Exalead might start using Tweepz to index other public microblogging services and social networks. “The same application can also easily be re-used in an enterprise environment if desired,” he said.

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