I’ve started experimenting with Twitter – for those who don’t know this is a ‘micro-blogging‘ tool which essentially asks you to answer the question ‘What are you doing?’ in 140 characters or less.
Although initially this may seem like a trivial or pointless exercise, there is something intriguing and immediate about the format. It allows you to share minutiae which can give insight without being overly intrusive.
To give a personal example (which I used to try to persuade my Mum that Twitter wasn’t a complete waste of space), my brother and his family live in the US – how nice would it be for my parents to get updates about the activities of their grandchildren like ‘B riding a bike for the first time’, ‘Zs first day at school’ etc.?
Twitter can be updated from the web, IM clients, by SMS, and via a number of applications built to help Twitter (e.g. Twitterrific, Twitteroo). There is an API if you want to develop your own applications.
You should be able to see my ‘Twitters’ in the lefthand column of this blog (those reading from a feed will need to click through of course).
Twitter only really comes into its own once you are ‘following’ people – that is, you get their Twitter updates (again, lots of options how you get these, I’m currently using Flock’s People sidebar), and hopefully have people following you. In this way you can form a community with others – you can also limit who can follow your Twits if you want. You can ‘reply’ to other people’s Twitters by putting @username in your Twitter, and this can lead to something approximating to a Twitter conversation (worth noting that this goes against the ‘10 commandments of Twitter‘ – although I prefer the ‘Are you a Twitter Twit or a Twerp‘ approach to this issue.)
Those of you who are Facebook users may see the parallel between Twitter and the Facebook ‘status’ – which serves not a dissimilar service. So, I (along with others) wanted to update both my Twitter and Facebook status simultaneously. The most straightforward is to install the Twitter app in Facebook (remembering to click the ‘Want Twitter to update your Facebook status?’ link which is large and obvious, but I inexpicably missed it when I first installed the app). Once this is installed, when you Twitter, each Twitter will automatically appear as your Facebook status, prepended with ‘is twittering:’.
However, the way I first came across was to allow the RSS feed of your Facebook status to update your Twitter using Twitterfeed, a web app which allows you to update Twitter via any RSS feed. This works in the other direction, meaning that when you update your Facebook status, it updates your Twitter – and Twitterfeed allows you define any pre-pended text to your Twitter per RSS feed.
What I actually wanted was to allow Twitter to update Facebook AND Facebook to update Twitter. So I setup both the above methods. Unfortunately overnight I discovered a problem, which was that because the Twitter app in Facebook pre-pends the status with ‘Is twittering:’ I found that the following happened:
- I update Twitter with ‘back at work’
- Fb is updated ‘is twittering: back at work’
- Twitter is updated ‘is twittering: back at work’
- Fb is updated ‘is twittering: is twittering: back at work’
and so on, until by the morning my Fb status said ‘is twittering: is twittering: is twittering: is twittering’ until it ran out of room! Although this was a good advertisement for Twitter, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted.
Someone suggested to me that you need to decide your ‘authoritative’ source for Twitter, but sometimes I’m working in Facebook and sometimes Twitter.
For the moment, I decided to stick to Facebook to Twitter updates using Twitterfeed. The reason for this is that I’m also using Twitterfeed to acheive a couple of other things. Firstly I’ve setup Twitterfeed to moniter the RSS feed from this blog – and when I post to it, it updates my Twitter with ‘Is blogging: ‘ and the title of the post.
Secondly, I wanted to be able to update my Twitter feed from my work calendar (afterall, what better source of information about what I’m doing at any particular time?). Unfortunately this proved a bit of a tortuous to setup – I managed it as follows (there may be better ways):
- Set my Exchange-backed Outlook calendar to sychronise with a ‘ScheduleWorld’ calendar, and set the ScheduleWorld calendar to sychronise with my Google Calendar – I got this from the Internet Duct Tape blog.
- Created a Yahoo Pipe to take a iCal feed from Google Calendar, and output events happening either up to an hour before or up to an hour after the current time (I’ve published this as Google Calendar iCal feed filter public version)
- Subscribed Twitterfeed to the RSS output of this Pipe
I have to admit that it seems slightly flaky, and I’m not sure if this is Twitterfeed (which is a free service, and so comes with no guarantees), the Yahoo Pipe (either the service, or my setup), or something else.
So, for the moment, I’m leaving it there – I’ll see how both Twitter and FB develop over the year – who knows, by 2009 I might not be using either…
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