Tweetbot Bookmarklet for Chrome

Despite a few quibbles, I’ve pretty much fallen in love with the desktop Twitter client Tweetbot. But the one thing I really missed from the official Twitter for Mac client was a good browser bookmarklet for Chrome, so I could start a new tweet from the current web page’s URL and document title.

I did find one referenced in this review, but it was DoA in Chrome – does nothing when clicked. With a bit of monkeying around, I’ve modified it to get along with Chrome:

javascript:window.location='tweetbot:///post?text='+encodeURIComponent(document.title)+encodeURIComponent(' ')+encodeURIComponent(window.location.href)

To install: Copy the code above to your clipboard. Create a new bookmark (of any page) and edit its properties. Paste over the URL with the contents of your clipboard. Save, and Bob’s your uncle!

A Guide to Twitter for Facebook Users

Some of my Facebook friends have been asking why I seem to spend more time on Twitter than on FB, and wonder what I see in it. I’ve started to realize that a lot of Facebook users kind of misunderstand Twitter, and don’t realize how much value is there. The two networks represent very different kinds of parties, and it’s not like you have to choose one or the other – you get very different things from each of them. I can’t imagine not doing both!

Finally decided to put together this little guide to clarify a few things. Hope you find it useful!

Image via Boing-Boing
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Batch-deleting Twitter favorites

Update: This script broke when Twitter started requiring all API interactions to use oAuth2. The script would have to be made far more complex to support this change, and I have no plans to do so. My current advice: Leave your favorites in place. They don’t hurt anything. Think of them like Facebook “Like”s – you wouldn’t try and delete those, would you?

I read Twitter primarily on the iPhone, and find tons of great links I want to read in a proper browser later on (I personally find reading most web sites on an iPhone to be more hassle than it’s worth). Perfect solution: Side-swipe an item in Tweetie and tap the star icon to mark it as a favorite. Later, visit the Favorites section at to follow up.

Unfortunately, over the past couple of years I’ve favorited way more things than I’ll ever have time to read. As of now, I’ve got 1600 favorites waiting to be read. Ain’t never gonna happen. I declare Twitter Favorite bankruptcy! Needed a way to batch-unfavorite the whole collection, and doesn’t provide a tool for that.

Ended up writing a script on top of the Tweepy library to get the job done:

Twitter Favorites Bankruptcy

Evan Williams Keynote Interview

Loose notes from SXSW 2010 session: Evan Williams Keynote Interview

Director of the Havas Media Lab Umair Haque interviews Twitter founder Evan Williams (@ev). The interview began with technical difficulties, segued into a way-too-brief introduction to the new integration platform @anywhere, got interesting for a little while, then became mired into  me-centric, smug ramblings of an interviewer who appeared more interested in showing off his own intelligence than in extracting juicy bits from the interviewee. Eventually the whole thing turned into a train wreck, with audience members walking out in droves. The back-channel was brutal to Haque, and attendees were walking out in droves. A full third of the audience left out of boredom after half an hour. Almost embarrassing to watch.
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Why I Don’t Do Facebook

I have a confession to make to people who count me as a “friend” on Facebook: I don’t “do” Facebook. Yes, you do see a lot of status updates from me on FB, but I don’t post them there directly. Truth is, I’m pathetically Twitter-obsessed, and use a pair of Facebook apps to funnel my Twitter posts (“Tweets”) and blog entries directly to FB. So while I do have a Facebook account, I never spend time surfing around on it, which means I may not see your updates unless you’re also on Twitter. Is that rude or uncongenial? It’s not that I’m trying to avoid you, but that I prefer to avoid the high noise-to-signal ratio on FB (I find Twitter much more focused).

In addition – and this may sound funny coming from a tech nerd like me – I find Facebook completely confusing. Am I posting to your wall or my wall? Wall-to-wall? Is that same as posting to your inbox? Is this a private message? I’m never quite clear whether what I’m writing on FB is going to be publicly visible or not. When installing a FB app, I’m never quite clear how much info I’m giving away, how much tracking I’m allowing. I recently replied to a group discussion on FB and ended up with a flood of content-free noise in my email inbox for the next two weeks. Every person replying on the thread generated an email to me, and there was no apparent way to unsubscribe from the thread.

Basically, Facebook seems like one big, nasty, unfocused clusterbomb to me. While Twitter has its own share of noise (depending on whom you follow), I find it much easier to dial in to my own work and conversation patterns, easier to distinguish public from private on, easier to find focused information, and just more pleasant to work with in general. See Guy Kawasaki on the Power of Twitter and Tim O’Reilly’s Why I Love Twitter.

If a bunch of you tell me that it’s rude of me to auto-post to Facebook without actually participating in it, I’ll stop. Just let me know.

Music: Cul De Sac :: Homunculus

Get Your Twitter Timeline into WordPress

After Twittering for a few months, I started to feel uncomfortable about not owning my data, and wanted an automated way to store a copy of each Tweet for posterity. Another installation of WordPress would be perfect as a Twitter backup repository (alternatively, you could copy all of your tweets to a dedicated category within your main WP installation, but I chose to do it in a separate install, since I wasn’t looking for integration with my main blog.

There were really two problems to solve:

1) Have new Tweets automatically hoovered into the WP backing store.
2) Get all of my older Tweets ported into the system as well.

Here’s the resulting site. It’s not really intended for public viewing – I don’t care if people browse it, but it’s really just a backup system in the form of a WordPress site.

Part 1 is pretty easy; Part 2 was more complicated. Here are recipes for both procedures.

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Notes on Twitter

Twitterrific Icon Twitter (microblogging in general) is changing the way I communicate and consume. With ever-shrinking windows of available free time, the self-imposed expectations/pressure to blog something every night, or even a few times a week, melts away. Instead, I drop quick thoughts and notes into the ether as they occur. The 140-character length limit means there’s never any expectation that thoughts be fully formed. Maybe that’s yet another sign of cultural acceleration and the cheapniss of snack-sized media, but it works for me.

Twitter has also become a partial cure for my ongoing failure to actually read anything. Hundreds of feeds in the RSS reader, thousands of bookmarks, and I rarely look at anything that doesn’t find its way into my inbox. But for some reason, I actually take time out to consume what’s going down in the Twitter stream — it’s become a partial cure for bad media consumption habits. Twitter has become a 2nd inbox, perhaps more playful than the first, but essential nonetheless. Twitter has clicked for me in a way no other social network has.

In the few months I’ve been on the service, Twitter has found my phone, I’ve been able to follow one of our J-School students as he was jailed (and then freed) in Egypt for covering riots, I’ve gotten music and software recommendations, watched as journalists experimented with new ways to reach their drifting audiences, gotten to listen in on conferences there would be no way I’d have time to attend…

At times it almost feels like Twitter should have its own internet protocol, like it’s something new altogether. Not quite IRC, not quite IM, not quite blogging, not quite RSS. It’s all of those things synergized, yet still http-based.

Twitter-holics deal constantly with Twitter’s outages, which have become a near-daily occurrence. Talk about a killer app — what other service’s userbase would remain so loyal with such consistently bad uptime?

Twitter is built on Ruby on Rails, which has taken a lot of heat in recent months as a result – much buzz about how Rails doesn’t scale. But remember: “Languages don’t scale, architectures do.” And that’s the rub – Twitter was built quickly, with all the wrong assumptions, without foresight into the complexities that would be brought on by massive popularity 18 months later.

The issue is that group messaging is very difficult to achieve at a grand scale.

Excellent article at Hueniverse on Twitter’s scalability challenges. Summary: Rails is a framework used primarily for building content management systems. But Twitter isn’t a CMS at all – it’s a messaging system and an API. While most web apps read from the database hundreds of times more frequently than they write, Twitter is writing constantly, which creates a whole different kind of strain. And while most web apps depend heavily on caching to maintain performance, Twitter is cache-resistant, since every single user has a unique view, and each user’s view needs to be refreshed constantly. Caching need not apply. And since the API is both public and powerful, multiply the strain x dozens or hundreds of external desktop clients and filtering sites and services.

Twitter is currently being rebuilt piece-by-piece, and things are slowly getting better. There are rumors that the rebuilt components are all written in PHP, though the company denies the rumors.

Tip: To make Twitter work for you, you need a desktop client. I use Twitterific. And don’t be afraid to follow strangers. Check out who you’re following are following.

Music: Minutemen :: No Parade