Posted April 26, 2013 5:13 pm by with 1 comment

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Dallas, Texas, the way we looked at it in 1949When there’s a helicopter circling my home or I think I felt an earthquake, the first place I go to find out what’s up is Twitter. But here’s the thing – I swear I used to be able to click a button to search only Tweets from people within my local area. That button is now gone. . . or did I imagine it. . .

I can type in my city and the event, but that’s not how people write on Twitter. They don’t write, OMG there’s a police helicopter circling Smallville. They say, OMG there’s a police helicopter circling my house! Without a “local” button, I can’t tell if they’re in Smallville or Spain. (Though I suppose, if they were in Spain, they’d be writing in Spanish.)

But according to AllThings, I might soon have a solution to this problem. They say that Twitter is, as we speak, testing a local discovery engine that will keep me informed about what’s happening in my town. . . and you in yours.

The type of tweets you’d see, ideally, are the most relevant ones nearby, especially when they follow a trend or a flurry of closely connected activity. So a football game or a concert, for instance, may be a great use case here.

Or perhaps even more importantly, it could be used in completely unplanned, spontaneous instances.

Spontaneous instances such as police helicopters and earthquakes. Perfect.

The question is, how will Twitter display these Tweets? At the very least, they could give me back my local search option (which I still swear was real). They could add a separate “local” tab to their interface but that feels bulky. They could insert local Tweets into your Twitter stream, but that feels invasive. It’s also the best solution. It’s like those news alerts that show up at the bottom of the screen when you’re watching TV. There’s a vicious storm on the way, take cover! I wouldn’t have thought to search for a storm I didn’t know was coming, but I’m glad my local TV station decided to interrupt my show to let me know.

Same goes for Twitter. If everyone within 2 miles of my house is Tweeting about a big fire, I’m okay with Twitter inserting one or two of those Tweets in my feed — even at the top of my feed – so I get the message. It’s like a variation on a sponsored Tweet. As long as it doesn’t take over my stream, I’m good.

I can’t imagine what it’s going to take to sort and feed all of this data to the right people but I’m confident that Twitter’s people can get it done. And I hope they do it soon because I hear fire engines coming toward my house and I really want to know what’s going on.

  • Adding location as a factor for the kind of tweets that will surface on your stream can help with disaster-related tweets. It can also be great for those who want to use Twitter as tool for offline socializing because it shows users which account owners are within the area.