Twitter: The Real-Time Answer Engine

by Paul Anthony of Web Distortion – Follow him @webireland

The great thing about Twitter is that it has the potential to solve real time problems extremely quickly. With a host of people available online at a particular moment, you can use it to get help on a multitude of levels.

This real time capability has helped establish Twitter as a ‘help engine’ and the twittersphere is awash with stories of how Twitter has helped its users. Guy Kawasaki has had a laptop cable hand delivered by a fellow Twitter user – Matt Perez has used it to test different versions of a website on various mobile devices. It has even had more humanitarian benefits helping to prevent death threats at a school. It has even proven it’s worth through live tweeting at conferences, when a speaker became ill, and people rushed to help.

Many of us are now turning to Twitter as the first place to get an answer or help on a potential problem, its alot quicker than waiting for a reply on a message board. So, if you decide that the Twittersphere is the place you want to ask questions and get help, what are the services and sites you should be following on Twitter?

Mahalo Answers

Twitter: answers

Jason Calacanis, and the team of Mahalo have jumped in quickly on the real time potential of Twitter and registered the ‘answers’ Twitter account, something you would have expected Yahoo Answers to do. Essentially what they are doing is providing an additional interface to the Mahalo site, via Twitter, then letting you know when someone answers the question. Maybe not just as realtime as some of the other services listed here, but useful nonetheless.


CSS Help

Twitter: thatcssguy

Justin Rockwell has found a niche. He now makes about $350 a week scouring Twitter for people tweeting about their problems building Web pages. Using the Twitter ID ThatCSSGuy , he offers to help solve their problems and asks for a tip in return, building both brand exposure for himself and offering a useful service. Follow him if you are in any way involved with web development, and in need of CSS or HTML answers




Twittez is a very simple web application that crowd sources for you by looking for the text “does anyone know?” within your tweets. In my opinion this is a very clever way to introduce new users to their service, and gain traction by integrating seamlessly with the Twittersphere.



Twitter: twecipe

Twecipe is the Twitter counterpart of . It’s great in that it actually allows Twitter users to tweet at it, and receive recipes back. Genius. If you have a few random bits and pieces around your kitchen and need to cook up a simple recipe, Twecipe is the bot to follow. Well actually, describing Twecipe as a bot is a bit inaccurate. That particular tweet gave me a chuckle a while back.



Twitter: lazytweet

LazyTweet works right from within Twitter. Just #hashtag your question with the term #lazytweet, and it picks up on it, and resyndicates both via its website and via the Twitter account LazyTweet. Followers of LazyTweet can then visit the website, and either offer an answer via Twitter, or via the comment box on their site.



Twitter: twtpoll

Another genius little application that allows users to perform market research – at little or no cost. Major brands like EMI are using it to work out how their marketing spend is working out. Now that’s clever Web2.0 marketing. Create your poll on the site, and post on Twitter for your following to vote on. New polls appear syndicated on the website at – which gives you particular poll question that extra bit of exposure.



Twitter: toask

Twitter: toanswer

Similar to how Mahalo works, toAnswer posts your questions for other users to answer, then alerts you when an answer is forthcoming. They have two twitter accounts setup, one for the answers, and one for questions. To Ask a question follow toask – and post an @ message to it. To answer someone else’s question simply follow toanswer then post the [questionId]. Both questions and answers are syndicated on the toAnswer website.



Twitter: whoishosting

WhoisHosting have come up with a brilliant way of boosting their public profile via Twitter. Basically their twitter bot allows you to find out which webhost is hosting a website. Want to know where is hosted? No problem. Simply send a direct message to the Twitterbot, which will reply with the details.



Twitter: @askthat

Put together by a lone developer, @le_punk – twAnswers allows posting of a question both through the website at twAnswers, and via the twitter account askthat. It works in much the same way as toanswer, however it features the latest contributors in a sidebar, providing further exposure of it’s users, and thus giving back to the community.


Commuter feed

Twitter: commuter

There’s nothing worse than being stuck in traffic. Well, thanks to Twitter, commuters in the US can now at least pre-emt builds up of traffic, and alerts you to it, before you hit the road. You can now warn fellow road users of builds up of traffic just by tweeting @commuterfeed – with the details of your traffic knightmare. The service isn’t perfect, as it can’t currently geo-tag you, however they have worked on proposing an open standard for traffic alerts, which could help to see something like this take off worldwide.


As Twitter grows in size, these services will only get more and more useful. Websites such as Yahoo Answers, and Microsoft’s recent offering QnA are at real risk from some of the service listed above, as more and more people turn to near real-time answers to give them the help they need. Any of you guys got any other twitter bots or websites that you use to get real-time help? Let me know in the comments.


  • March 28, 2009

    Got Questions??? Twitter has the answers…

  • March 28, 2009

    These are all good ideas, but getting info off Twitter has its limitations. For instance, if something is going wrong with your computer, there is a 100% probability that you’ll get the answer “get a mac“.

  • March 28, 2009

    I have been engaging with new twitter people through which lists all tweets that has “Does anyone know” keywords in them. And its a cool service.

  • March 28, 2009

    I’ve seen this hashtag among foodie tweeples: #helpcook — real-time help while u cook =)

  • March 28, 2009

    This element of Twitter was one of the most immediate benefits for me. Before it started driving much traffic to my site even. It is great having a community that never sleeps always keen to help out.

  • March 28, 2009

    Wow, lot’s of great resources Paul. I’m glad you spent the time putting these together as it saves me a lot of time.
    One of the reasons I started my new fitness site was to help people with their health and fitness questions, but I’m trying to deliver it in a short and effective format, like Twitter.

  • March 28, 2009

    I found the Commuter Feed particularly interesting. I began offering traffic updates to my radio station’s listeners back in the fall as just another way to push the info out. Listeners can actually just text “follow wayfm_nashville” to 40404 and get updates right on their phone without even “officially” signing up for a Twitter account. However, we encourage them to do so and hope to interact with them in the process.

    Currently, I’m weighing the option of utilizing a traffic-only Twitter handle (@WAYtoWorkUpdate) to separate the traffic updates out of the other updates, conversation and contesting that goes on via the original Twitter handle. You can see more here:

  • March 28, 2009

    Great id id know that this pages and tools exist that you for the pots.

  • March 28, 2009

    Great tools mentioned, twitter has been a source of answers for me.

  • March 28, 2009

    These resources for Twitter Q/A methods have not been familiar to me but this post is very useful since you have listed great ways to get questions answered. I have asked a few questions on twitter without getting any feedback or answers so these tolls will be helpful in terms of finding out if anyone actually answers your questions.

  • March 28, 2009

    Just one more to add to the list – we have just (today!) launched @blurtit – if you ask a question @blurtit it will search our q&a database and tweet back either the answer, or it will set up a new question at and will tweet back once your question has been answered. Give a try, feedback most welcome :)

  • March 28, 2009
    Frank Olsen

    Great compilation! You should probably add which is an upcoming startup that can be a threat to even Google. It shows important and interesting web pages for any given topic — and I guess they measure popularity based on how popular they are in Twitter. I guess they are still indexing more pages, but for now, it’s a great site to spend time.

  • March 28, 2009 is another twitter question site that has actually been around a little longer than tweetez :D

  • March 28, 2009

    I’m very skeptical…
    Twitter is already crowded with self proclaimed gurus. Since I don’t expect the busy, real experts to answer my questions in real time, the quality of the answer may not meet my expectations.
    And guess who’s going to jump on your question? The bored self-proclaimed guru who wants to impress you.
    So no, twitter is not the right tool for real time answer… yet.

    Important example for some of you twitter freaks: if you need urgent medical assistance, all 911, period. (until a real professional medical assistance is available on twitter and it can answer you as fast as somebody on the phone).

    Oh and twitter does not bake eggs either…

  • March 28, 2009

    Extremely useful article! I also found a few new apps from this post that I can list in :)


  • March 29, 2009

    Thanks for a fantastic post. I am bookmarking this page and will be back to play with the twitter resources you wrote about.

    I recently had a traffic guide that I just recently finished and needed a few volunteers to read over it for me.

    I posted a quick message on twitter asking for volunteers and within 1 minute I had received several emails from my followers offering to help.

    Twitter is awesome if used correctly.

    Thanks again for the resource list.

    BTW, I stumbled this too. And I

  • March 30, 2009

    I love the idea behind Twecipe and the lazytweet doesn’t seem to be bad either..I need to figure out to make the best out twitter for one of my sites…

  • March 31, 2009

    Great post Paul

  • April 1, 2009

    Cheers Lee, Appreciate it.

  • April 23, 2009

    Funny how the so called web gurus are waiting for anything and everything to proliferate before they scream EXPERT at anything hyped by the media.

    Anything your parents didn’t teach you can be learned from Internet Marketing Gurus.

  • June 9, 2009

    I like the fact I can ask a random question and get a reasonably instantaneous answer from my tweeps. However what I don’t like are the keyword ’scanners’ which are bot looking for particular keywords in Twitter – when someone says something containing a keyword being scanned for my a particular tweep you get an auto follow. So you end up with some bizarre followers. No complaints though most people in my following are great.

  • October 22, 2009

    is this thing better then yahoo answer?

  • April 7, 2010

    Thanks Paul.

  • April 8, 2010

    that is a great way but there alwys more option like yahoo answer which well trusted or oven like to name a few

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