Twitter Bug or Mis-design: location applies to all tweets

I had some unexpected travel this week, spending much of Thursday and Friday driving between NYC and DC on I-95. While in DC I was curious to see how Twitter handles changes to the user's location. Your location is echoed back in your Twitter homepage as well as in the various status feeds. Twittervision uses the location field to plot tweets on a Google map.

From what I can tell, Twitter only keeps the current location, and uses that to fill in the <location> field in the various feeds. I think this is a mistake and a design flaw:

  • Tweets are frequently location-specific, location is part of the "content" of the tweet, it helps set the context for the tweet.
  • If you can't depend on the location being "accurate", you can't build a service atop twitter which reliably uses the location to take action. If I only update twitter daily and I'm travelling around a lot, I don't want to get alerts related to a tweet I posted earlier in the week from one location when I'm in a completely different city and the topic/alert would no longer be relevant.

Now, whining aside, I can see why you wouldn't want to build a history of locations since the location is (currently) free-form. You'd probably want to normalize the locations, would you do that across the entire user base or on a user-by-user basis?

What I would do though is store the user's location with each tweet so that locational context is preserved.

Posted in Twitter

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