Twitter Search is great, but you have to be on Twitter’s site or one of the third-party apps to use it. This requires an active approach; you must enter terms and load or reload the results to get what you want. That’s why Twitter’s old “track” feature was so great, it would ping you every time a keyword you were searching for came up. Unfortunately, as growth exploded, Twitter had to axe the feature. But third parties have slowly been bringing it back. And a new one offers a pretty nice way of doing it.
Exclaim Track is a very simple service. It’s Twitter track over IM. Right now, it works with Google Talk (via Jabber), and all you have to do is follow firstname.lastname@example.org. Once that name is on your contact list, simply IM it with “track <keyword>” and it will IM you all Twitter mentions of the term you put in.
But here’s why Exclaim Track is really great: It’s so simple to both track and un-track items. For example, today is the Michigan/Notre Dame football game. I can’t watch it because I’m stuck at the office doing work for TechCrunch50 (hope to see you there Monday and Tuesday). I want to know what people are saying about the game, but don’t want to keep reloading Twitter Search, so instead I set up an Exclaim Track query, and now I’m getting pinged every time something comes up. After the game is over, I won’t care about the search anymore, so I simply type “remove <keyword>” and it’s gone.
You can also easily turn notifications on or off simply by IMing “on” or “off” to the Exlcaim Track IM account. That’s great if you want to mute notifications, but don’t necessarily want to remove a term. Also, you can search multiple terms at the same time, so removing all of them to quite the service might be a pain, without the “off” command.
Exclaim Track is a part of Excla.im, a service which allows you to update your Twitter status via IM. The developer, Harper Reed, set up this new tracking feature using the Pubsubhubbub real-time pinging service and Superfeedr, which does real-time feed parsing. He simply used Google’s App Engine for the messaging and hosting aspects, so the service actually costs him nothing to run.
One small downside to Exclaim Track is that when you first start tracking a keyword, it will find most of the recent mentions of the term that are available in Twitter Search. This means you’ll get a punch of non-real-time information. But once this runs through (usually just seconds or minutes), you’ll start to see new results pop-up in near real time. “Near” is an important thing to note, it’s not quite real time, but it’s usually pretty close, usually under a minute of the mention on Twitter.