Despite its recent problems, Twitter remains a powerful source for real-time thoughts, moods, trends and news -- and third-party developers are still eager to tap into Twitter for the benefit of us the users. These are five free, slick apps that sit on top of Twitter and pump out all kinds of useful features.
1. Nuzzel (breaking news)
Give Nuzzel access to your Twitter feeds and it proves itself very adept at spotting breaking news -- in other words, stories being shared by a lot of people you're following. If you don't have Twitter open all day then it can be an invaluable way of hearing about news events as they happen.
In the time I've had Nuzzel up and running it's worked well at picking out key stories from the Twitter deluge, especially on the mobile app (you get about one or two notifications a day). You can also elect to receive real-time email alerts and there's even a personalised newsletter.
2. Zapier (save links from favourited tweets)
Zapier is a more professional spin on the IFTTT idea, letting you connect together all kinds of sites and services (including Twitter) to create new tools. Paid plans are available for power users, but if you don't need a lot of 'zaps' and are happy with 15-minute updates on the links you create, then you can just use the free version.
There's a lot to explore but here's just one Twitter-related zap you can create: whenever you favourite (or love!) a tweet, Zapier pings the URL it references over to Instapaper (or Pocket) where you can read it at your leisure. It saves you having to hunt through your favourites list for new reading material.
3. The Latest (digested links)
The Latest is perfect if you find your Twitter timeline a little overwhelming or underwhelming in terms of the number of quality links it serves up. The Latest doesn't actually use your Twitter account at all: instead it analyses tweets from "a bunch of the most interesting people" on the social network for its needs.
What you're left with is an elegantly distilled list of 10 of the most popular links of the moment, with rising and falling (and new entry) icons on the right. Toggle the notifications switch at the bottom to on if you want to get an alert in your browser whenever there's a new link to check out.
4. ParrotRead (book recommendations)
What to read next? It's not always an easy question to answer but ParrotRead mines the data left by the people you follow on Twitter to come up with a few suggestions -- assuming you respect the tastes of the people you're linked to on Twitter, you should like the reading advice ParrotRead throws your way.
Recommendations appear in the form of a weekly email, so you're not overloaded with suggestions, and based on the feedback we've seen so far the service works very well. If it's not completely to your liking, try following a few more of your favourite authors (or well-read friends) on Twitter.
5. Choose your own adventure
Twitter can even be used to craft a classic 'choose your own adventure' story -- the adventure that starts here is one of the most recent we've seen, although there are others out there. Each fork in the road of the story directs you to another Twitter account, where you're asked to make a new choice.
The story is obviously rather short and succinct because of the limitations of Twitter itself but it's another fine example of how Twitter can be used creatively. If you're interested in how the CYOA story was created (or even if you want to build your own), the author has explained his methods here.