Home > Tech, Twitter > Howto: Live Tweeting TV based on hash tag streams

Howto: Live Tweeting TV based on hash tag streams

Wherein I describe my personal setup for live tweeting, why I prefer it, and some pitfalls of other approaches. Details after the break…

Disclaimer: Since most of my live tweeting is in the really early hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings 0500-0900 local, I do all my live tweeting in bed. This limits the platforms I have available to only one: my iPad. So this discussion is consequently iPad centric. If your setup is different. If you have full web browser access, full computer apps, or an Android tablet, then you have far more choices than I’ve tried, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt – actually MANY grains of salt!

Also, apologies in advance for the poor visual separation of paragraphs – especially within a single bullet or numbered point. THIS paragraph added after I spent too much time in WordPress trying to make it look as I want it to look!

OK. On to the real stuff!

My setup:

I use HootSuite for iPad, paid version. You don’t buy it on iTunes. Download the free version, then sign up for paid subscription on the HootSuite website.It’s a monthly cost ($9.99), but I want to use the scheduled tweet feature often enough that it’s worth it to me. If, as this post progresses, I mention other features only available to paid HootSuite users, I apologize in advance as I’ve never used the free version and don’t know what else is available only on the paid side.

How did I come to HootSuite? It was already my preferred app for Twitter on my desktop when I won my iPad, so it was the first one I tried. And for the most part, I’ve simply stayed with it. I do have other apps (Official Twitter App and TweetCaster) that I use for particular purposes that HootSuite doesn’t do well, but neither of the others fills what, for me, is the essential advantage to HootSuite while Live Tweeting:


While I’m live tweeting, I find it SO useful to have a multi column display. No flipping back and forth between displays. Because I’ve never bothered to learn how to capture iPad screens, the picture I’m about to show is a screen capture from the desktop version of HootSuite which serves quite well as a mockup.

Here’s my base setup:

On the left is the column based on the hash tag search. On the right is my Home feed – which is important because the hast tag based screen often has far too many tweets to keep up in real time, and I follow a number of people who also Live Tweet the same thing, so I want the Home Feed for two reasons:

  1. I don’t want to miss tweets from people I follow who aren’t live tweeting whatever it is I’m live tweeting!
  2. When I fall behind on the live tweet stream, using my Home Feed, I can still keep up with tweets from the people I follow who ARE live tweeting the same stream. And for the hash tags I religiously live tweet (#Uppers and #Nerdland) as well as the tag I occasionally live tween (#Maddow). I’ve made sure I follow enough interesting Tweeps who live tweet those tags.

In between the two is perhaps the most important column: Mentions! As I’ve hinted at in other posts, as well as on my Twitter Landing Page, what I value most about Twitter is Engagement, hence monitoring my Mentions is essential. If I miss a mention, how do I know to engage?

There are a few settings, both of the iPad and of HootSuite that are important:

  • For the iPad, I don’t allow ANY HootSuite notifications. As I sit in bed, if I get a mention or a direct message from someone I follow, my Droid  phone (sitting in it’s cradle doubling as my alarm clock) vibrates – and I can hear the vibration, thus knowing that something has just come in. HootSuite notifications would be duplicative.
  • Also for the iPad, I nail my orientation to Landscape. Landscape allows 3 readable columns in HootSuite. By nailing the orientation, it doesn’t dynamically change to the 2 column Portrait when I readjust my position.
  • For HootSuite, the most important setting is to turn automatic updates OFF. It’s easy enough to update a column (drag it down when at top) as needed, and when things are going fast and furious, I thus CHOOSE when to miss tweets in the interest of getting “back” to real time!

Well, that’s my setup. Now on to some fine points:

  • If you click on the picture above – at least in a desktop browser – you’ll get a larger version. Take a close look at the actual Mentions. What do you see? You see some of the tweets that prompted me to write this blog post! Specifically, complaints of NOT seeing the full hash tag stream in other contexts!It turns out that, with the Twitter iPad App, a number of people have been “following” the hash tag stream by clicking on the hash tag. Problem with this is that, in this context, Twitter attempts to decide WHICH tweets will be most of interest to you. It doesn’t show them all! The specific complaint was that one of my Tweeps was seeing ONLY tweets from people they already follow. And because this person already followed lots of people using the #Uppers hash tag, the ONLY ones Twitter decided were “important” were those of her followers!I double checked this by going into the Twitter iPad app and doing the same. And since I too follow a lot of #Uppers tweeting Tweeps, I too saw only my followers when I clicked on the #Uppers hash tag in the Twitter app!
  • If you start using any true twitter search based display for live streaming a hash tag, you’ll likely discover that people you have blocked still appear! Why? Twitter does NOT check the results of a search against your block list!What to do? There is no good answer in HootSuite – although they have hinted at adding a global filter option – much like TweetDeck’s global filters or TweetCaster’s ZipIt.So why not use one of them? Easy for TweetCaster: It only shows one steam at a time, and while you can see a true search based stream, it takes too long to flip back and forth – resulting in missing even MORE tweets in all your streams when things are hopping.As far as TweetDeck goes, while it is multi-column, I never tried it because I was satisfied with HootSuite. By the time I was more than mildly interested in alternatives, Twitter had purchased TweetDeck and – from multiple reports – has not supported it well. Lately, I’ve seen a few recommendations to NOT take an offered upgrade. Twitter seems far more committed to their Twitter app than to Tweetdeck. And I’m not interested in investing time in something that appears to be a bastard stepchild.
  •  In the interests of full disclosure, HootSuite recently pushed a DISASTROUS upgrade! Worst was that it frequently totally forgot your column setup – forcing you to recreate it from scratch.In (partial) defense of HootSuite: They pushed another update in 2 or 3 days that fixed many of the problems. And the initial upgrade included something I’ve LONG wanted – The ability to choose between old style RTs and Twitter style verbatim retweets on a case by case basis. Previously, there was a setting for which to use, but to change you had to go to settings, change it, do your retweet, then change it back. With the upgrade, they added a third choice to the settings: “Hybrid” – which isn’t really a hybrid, but lets you make the choice with a single screen touch when you start the RT process.The remaining serious flaw in the HootSuite upgrade relates to then “Favorites” column.  As many of you already know, I use “Favorite” mostly as a “Read Later” to flag tweets that, for some reason, I want to follow up on later. Mostly, it’s to take the time to click the contained link, but there are some other reasons. HootSuite handles the “Favoriting” process well: 3 screen touches and it’s done. Later, using the Favorites column to follow up on a tweet it’s still OK. However, the upgrade caused an annoying behaviour to appear: Once you UNfavorite a tweet, it stays in the column – without the star! Refresh the column? It’s still there! This is a change (previously, when you refreshed the column, the UNfavorited tweets disappear) and NOT a welcome one. There appear to be only two ways to cause the correct behaviour: Clear the HootSuite cache of ALL tweets through the settings menu, or power cycling the iPad.This “Favorite” behaviour is a PITA. Lately, I’ve been going over to TweetCaster when I want to follow up on my Favorites. But TweetCaster has it’s own problems as well! Sometimes, it displays a “Favorite” tweet but with the “Favorite” star dimmed. I can still follow up, but when I try to UNfavorite the tweet, I can’t! TweetCaster seems to think I want to Favorite these, and fails with Twitter message that it’s already a Favorite! So it’s off to the Twitter app to Unfavorite tweets like that.

Well, I’ve got things to do and promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep. I know this has been a long, fairly detailed post. And for many it likely raises as many questions as it answers.

I hope it has been of use for it’s target audience: My tweeps who Live Tweet using an iPAd.

As always, your comments are welcome!


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