Over the last year or so, there's been a lot of talk about how Twitter killed its RSS feeds. What Twitter killed, in actuality, was the button that made subscribing to Twitter feeds (from users or search terms) simple.
As Dave Winer notes: "If you have a Twitter account you have a feed." Where people sometimes run into problems is simply finding those feeds—in particular, it can be difficult to find a user's ID number.
Luckily, Matt Matteson built a handy little tool that queries the Twitter API for the ID of any public user: idfromuser.com. Once you have the ID number for the feed you'd like, simply plug the ID into this URL:
Then, just grab the URL and drop it in Reader (or your preferred RSS reader). That's it.
Update: well, since I started writing this post a couple days ago, I noticed a problem with the "idfromuser" site—it doesn't seem to be returning IDs for some reason. So, I made a quick screencast showing a workaround in case the "idfromuser" site isn't working for you:
Update #2: Tommy, a former colleague at the Center for Media Design here at Ball State, created an elegant little bookmarklet that does all of the above in a fraction of the time! It quickly retrieves the user ID for any individual Twitter user, then returns the RSS feed for that user. Grab the bookmarklet here! Below is a quick screencast of the bookmarklet in action:
Follow Tommy on Twitter. He's awesome!
Now, If you'd like the feed for a specific hashtag, simply use the following URL:
http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=%23[hashtag (without pound sign)]
Take the new URL and drop into Reader. Piece o' cake.
How is any of this useful?
Well, since I'm a qualitative researcher who studies writing, I often try to document—as much as possible—the places where my research participants write. That sometimes means tracking their tweets.
In previous and current studies, a particular hashtag has been important for exploring collective writing work. Since I'm not dealing with huge numbers of tweets—I'll typically collect anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand for a given study—RSS makes sense for a few different reasons...
First, I drop feeds into my database application, DEVONthink, for archiving. I then mirror those same feeds in Reader as a backup. If I happen to have a list of start codes or a pretty well-defined coding schema, I can use the tagging feature in either DEVONthink or Reader to code data as it comes in. This is tremendously useful during data analysis, but it also allows me to detect trends as I conduct a study, giving me opportunities to shape interview questions or fieldwork while it's happening.