Twitterfall – an essential tool for aid workers and humanitarian bloggers

by Jon Thompson on January 25, 2009

Two 19-year olds at York University in the UK have just created what is perhaps the most powerful Twitter tool I have seen so far.  Twitterfall is an ideal tool for tracking news via Twitter. It is a Twitter aggregator that not only tracks popular trends but which also allows you to create custom trends.  Folks in the home office can now track news in real time for countries, outbreaks, natural disasters, etc.  I’ve created a sample set of trends that you can see here:

And here is what I came up with:

While not necessarily headline news there is some interesting stuff that shows up.  With a little tweaking and editing I am sure you can quickly come up with a list of key Twitterers and interesting stories to follow.  What amazes me is that two teenagers built an app that could significantly contribute to the health and well being of others and they did it while sitting in their dorm rooms at school.  No big salaries, no big ideas and no big promises – just a simple app that does one thing and does it well.  Sure there is a lot of chaff and you still have to suffer through the bad with the good but just imagine how useful this tool would have been during the China earthquake, Gaza, etc.  And, if others are using WordTwit, or similar, to push blog posts to Twitter then we have a powerful tool indeed.

Now, if they would just build in a location identifier that would pull location names and post them, along with the Tweet, on a map so that we could see clusters…

{ 7 trackbacks }

Links:10th February « BBC World Service Trust blog
February 11, 2009 at 2:12 am
Twitterfall - a perfect Twitter interface for journalists? | Online Journalism Blog
February 24, 2009 at 2:05 pm
Twitterfall is A New Twitter Tool for Journalists | Tweet Eden
March 2, 2009 at 6:16 pm
Heads up on a new Twitter tool « The Coalitionist
April 24, 2009 at 7:29 am
Twitterfall Launches Twitter Reply Search Engine -
August 26, 2009 at 12:03 am
Twitterfall Launches Twitter Reply Search Engine | Guilda Blog
August 27, 2009 at 2:11 am
Glenn Beck Info | BLB
September 20, 2010 at 3:56 pm

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

x5315 January 25, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Hey, thanks for the coverage. We’re constantly striving to add new features including location-based search, replying within the site and making a light-weight version. I hope these new features will help you in the future.

Nirmal Patel January 25, 2009 at 7:49 pm

I find to be more useful. Especially when multiple keywords are being used for the same event.

Jon Thompson January 25, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Thanks for the heads-up! Tweetgrid looks like a very useful tool.

jke January 25, 2009 at 8:28 pm


Chris Blow January 25, 2009 at 11:12 pm

Totally agree that this is a great tool for humanitarian work! x5315 I encourage you to open source it!

Thanks for the pointers today on this blog, great site I had not seen before.

(via dev chat)

Chris Blow January 25, 2009 at 11:18 pm

I have a screenshots the Adobe AIR app Tweetdeck in use as a “crisis dashboard,” as well as a similar one using netvibes. Also here’s one of Tweetgrid as a crisis dashboard, which looks awesome!

Patrick Meier January 26, 2009 at 7:14 am

Thanks for sharing, Jon. Great to see my alma mater in action.

Frank January 29, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Thanks for this Jon. I stumbled across your blog while looking around at what different blogs related to humanitarian/development work are doing.

Next week I pick up a role as TEAR Fund’s new Education and Advocacy Manager here in New Zealand. I am specifically interested in looking at how I can use social media tools like Twitter to connect TEAR Fund to its advocates, supporters and partners around the world a whole lot more and increase awareness of the issues TF connects to (

I wasn’t aware of Twitterfall but can see a real strength in it in regards to connecting TEAR Fund to different issues and discussions around the world and in turn connecting others to those.

Thanks for posting this, it could turn out to be a huge help in my new job.

x5315 February 5, 2009 at 5:24 pm

We’ve recently done a huge amount of updates to It may be worth you having another look.

Tony Trainor March 31, 2009 at 4:43 am

What an amazing application, if rather dazzling. Even as I write, somebody is probably doing exactly what you suggest, developing a cluster applicatio. This if done well would surely be fascinating — even hypmotic — rather like watching fireworks explode all over the world! How I wish I could code at times like this!

Tony Trainor March 31, 2009 at 4:46 am

Might I suggest that you add a “subscribe to” facility to this comments string? That is unless commenters are already informed by e-mails of replies to their observations. This is a great way of encouraging return visits to your site while enhancing the SEO power of all contributers.

Jon Thompson March 31, 2009 at 8:01 am

Thanks for the feedback. I’ve installed the ‘subscribe to this post’ plug-in so you should now be able to follow comments for all posts.

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