Twitter is a great source of news and breaking stories, but the gems can get lost among the dross. You can always dip into the Twitter stream and find things of interest, but unless you spend all day reading thousands of tweets, you'll miss a lot of important stories. Nuzzel, a new web-based service, solves that problem with almost no effort. And it's free.
One of Twitter's main business uses is for tracking events in specific fields. That soon became hard work, but Twitter introduced a helpful solution: lists. Instead of following hundreds or thousands of people, you could create lists of people to track without having to follow them. People duly created thousands of lists, and if you liked someone else's public list, you could follow it too.
For example, I created a list of 309 people who work for, report on, or are otherwise involved with Microsoft, and 68 people currently subscribe to it. I also have lists of security and anti-virus people, technology analysts, and one I call "Technology Elite", which includes various tech-company founders.
The problem is that most people who work for or write about any particular topic don't tweet about it all the time. My Microsoft list, for example, also includes a smattering of all the other things people tweet about, including the inevitable pictures of food and pets.
This is where Nuzzel comes in. When it was launched last year, Nuzzel scanned your personal tweet-stream and picked out the most popular stories - the ones your friends tweeted most.
Nuzzel's new beta service does the same thing, but for Twitter lists.
Now, instead of scanning my Microsoft list for the key stories, I can just look at Nuzzel's News From "Microsoft" (Beta). Last night, the big story was "Windows 10 developer tooling preview now available to Windows Insiders" - tweeted by 12 accounts including Microsoft News, Windows Phone Dev, Cliff Simpkins (Product Manager for the Windows developer platform), Daniel Rubino (Editor-in-chief of Windows Central), and journalist Paul Thurrott.
The next most tweeted stories were "Microsoft expands partnerships with leading device manufacturers" (11), Partnering with Adobe on new contributions to our web platform - IEBlog (8), and Windows 10 Technical Preview tools (7). Nuzzel continued for 70 pages (700 stories), though the numbers had dropped to only three tweets per story by page 3.
Nuzzel includes links to all the different stories, Twitter accounts and individual tweets, which makes it easy to follow things up.
Work required? None. Obviously, you have to link Nuzzel to your Twitter account, but you don't have to tell it which lists to follow. Nuzzel tracks all your lists automatically, though it does take about 24 hours to collect enough tweets to be worthwhile. Once it's running, you can pick from a drop-down menu whether you want to change the default 24-hour view to see the top stories from the past one or two hours or whatever, or even from an earlier date.
If you don't have your own Twitter lists, you can use someone else's. Nuzzel suggests Marc Andreessen's list of tech industry figures, and the top 1000 investors on Jonathan Abrams' AngelList, among others. However, Nuzzel works best with big lists: over 100 people, and preferably over 250.
Jonathan Abrams founded the Friendster social networking site and Nuzzel is his new baby, so naturally he's interested in tracking angel investors. He raised $1.7m in new funding last summer, when Nuzzel was launched as an iOS app. The company started with a $1.7 million seed round in 2012.
Last week, the Nuzzel app was top of James Kendrick's ZDNet list of 10 iPad apps you should be using. He said: "Nuzzel is Twitter done right, and quickly becomes a favorite tool once you start using it."
I haven't used the app, I've been using the web site. And it hasn't stopped me from using Twitter. However, I do think that Nuzzel is Twitter lists done right. Given two or three good lists, Nuzzel will find you the top stories on Twitter without wasting your time.