Webware readers know I like Twitter. It's my little perpetual chat room. I ask for feedback on my blog posts, complain about my car and my laptop, and kvell over my son. Twitter is great for all of that. (Follow me here.) But one thing it sucks at is tracking conversations.
That's partly because Twitter is based on a very strange communications protocol: Users have to intentionally subscribe to all parties engaged in a discussion to see the full thread. Otherwise, watching a Twitter discussion can be like listening to one side of a telephone call. And a comment sent by a Twitter user to someone they are following may not be seen by that person unless the recipient is careful to check their "replies" tab on Twitter.com (or if they use a Twitter client app, like Twhirl, which tracks replies for you).
A new app, Quotably, goes a long way toward making Twitter discussions more readable. You give it a Twitter name, and it will show you each of their recent posts as well as all replies to that post, and the replies to the replies. You don't have to be following any of these users to see what's being said.
It's a useful app, although its implementation is less than perfect; I found it filed some replies to my Twitter posts in the wrong place. And following discussions on Twitter in a separate app from Twitter itself--or whatever Twitter app you currently use--is a distraction. Also, you have to know who started the discussion to see the full thread.
Eventually I expect this feature to be embedded in a Twitter client. But for right now, if you find yourself interested in a developing discussion on Twitter, it's worth knowing about.
Alternatively, you could rely on Pownce, which does a much better job of discussion tracking. But that doesn't mean much when all the cool kids are using Twitter instead.
New to Twitter? See our newbie's guide.