The power of Twitter for educators has been well illustrated by others in previous posts on this blog. For most of us, when we first set up our Twitter account, we tend to use the Twitter website as the place we go to read and post tweets. This is how I started also; however as I began to realise the increasing usefulness of Twitter, I also felt the need for greater functionality in how I used the service.
Enter Tweetdeck, a free application that can be downloaded at http://www.tweetdeck.com and is available for PC, Mac and Linux (it requires Adobe Air to run on PC but this is also a free download and will automatically be included in the setup process if you do not have it installed). Tweetdeck offers a number of advantages over the native Twitter web interface which I really like. Firstly, you can set up multiple columns across the screen with each column serving a different purpose, such as displaying your standard Twitter timeline, tweets which specifically mention you, as well as columns to display your favourites, your direct messages (received and sent), your new followers, trending topics, any list you are following or any search you have set up. You can easily move these columns around to suit your needs, remove them entirely and re-add them at a later date, or apply filters to them. Tweetdeck will also allow you to use multiple Twitter accounts, useful if you’re using one for personal use and a different one for work use, or just have different accounts for some other reason. Tweetdeck includes automatic URL shortening so if you type or paste in a web address it will quickly be reduced in size for you, and likewise the ability to include images is also automatically built in (you can choose from a number of services for these purposes if you have a preference, such as Bit.ly and Tinyurl for url shortening, and Yfrog and Twitpic for image hosting). You can also send longer messages than the standard 140 character tweets using Tweetdeck (via its deck.ly service). If a tweet in your timeline includes a link to an image or video clip, clicking on the link will open the file directly within the Tweetdeck application. Tweetdeck will also allow you to add multiple Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Google Buzz and FourSquare accounts as well, meaning you can use it as a central hub for a number of other social networking services too.
If you use the Chrome web browser you can install a Tweetdeck app from the Chrome web store (worth a look if you’re a fan of Chrome or just don’t want to install additional software on your computer). There are also iPhone and Android apps available, with a new iPad one due soon. All of these Tweetdeck apps handle a little differently to the desktop version of the software.
In short, Tweetdeck really allows for enhancement of the Twitter experience in a way not currently possible through the standard web interface, and is recommended for investigation if you’re a Twitter user. Incidentally, Tweetdeck was recently purchased by Twitter and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the functionality of Tweetdeck becoming more integrated into the standard Twitter interface in the not-too-distant future