As Twitter develops, the service's users are pushing the envelope beyond the company's initial expectations - taking what was supposed to be vanilla status updates to a small group of friends, and extending it to include features that are practically standards at this point - including replies from one account to another, and retweets. But some of the discovery to find related items from one tweet to another can be very hard. Individual users can see mentions, and with some work, Twitter Search can be useful, but for the most part, individual updates are disjointed pieces of conversation.
Twitterfall, a project undertaken by a pair of 19 year old students in the UK, already seen as a potential news discovery engine, has now extended their prowess to include capturing all data around replies - to one individual, or any specific tweet.
Replies to Facebook Developer Joe Hewitt on Twitterfall
The new Twitterfall Reply Search gives you two ways to find replies.
The first is to enter the ID of the specific tweet. Each tweet has a unique identifier, which is the number at the end of each tweet's specific URL. For example, a tweet with a URL of http://twitter.com/ev/status/3538745942 has the ID of 3538745942. To find replies to that tweet, you would enter "3538745942" in the first box. (Results displayed here)
Replies to President Barack Obama on Twitterfall
Replies to Digg's Kevin Rose on Twitterfall
The second way is to search for an individual user, which will show you their most recent tweets. Click on any result and you will see any replies in the database for those tweets. Fun ones would include popular accounts, from tech leaders, to yes, celebrities, who have highest engagement on Twitter.
You Can See Replies to All of Oprah's Tweets By Clicking on Twitterfall
The results display the original tweet, and each successive reply, in the order it was delivered. Twitter Search, in contrast, may find you each individual reply by finding the user's @alias, but even then, "show conversation" is hit and miss. Assuming the Twitter API doesn't fail us, TwitterFall's new approach is an interesting research tool for concatenating responses. In parallel, the company also launched their own API to access the replies database.
See also: Twitterfall's posterous: See who's replying - right now.