Once of the biggest challenges I have when it comes to Twitter is following what is being said. With nearly 700 people who I follow, it's easy to have hundreds of Tweets fly by in a matter of minutes. During the day I have to shut down Twitter when I need to focus on getting things done.
I have come up with a couple of options that allow me to keep tabs of what people are saying and staying engaged when I cannot be actively watching and listening.
Subscribe via RSS
This is my favorite at the moment. At the bottom of each user's page on Twitter have a small box that looks like this . That link is an RSS feed of the last things that person has said. I added it to my Google Reader in a category called Twitter Faves and it allows me to read them at any time. Using RSS in Google Reader also lets me search through them over time.
Use an application
Personally I use twhirl as my application of choice. I keep it open during the day and turn off the new Tweet notifications. When I have time I scroll through it and catch up. Twhirl also lets you do some cool filtering. You can filter by keyword or user as well as view Tweets by replies, direct messages, friends and followers. It also lets you search through the messages as needed. At the bottom of the window it shows if you have any replies or direct messages in the queue.
Use a web service
There are a host of new services such as Quotably that will allow you to track conversations by user and show you how they evolve over time. Keep in mind this is limited by the way that Twitter is set up (no threading, no groups, etc.) so it is of marginal value. You can also use a service like FriendFeed to keep track of what your friends are doing. Twitter is just one subset of information that FriendFeed tracks.
Services that consolidate and add value have a bright future in the conversation economy. There is a lot of opportunity out there to listen to, track the trajectory of and help people engage in conversations.
How do you listen? Do you accept the fact that people are talking and you can't listen? Do you use something that is not on this list?