Category Archives: Twitter

Why I like Twitter

Recently I discovered that the Environment Agency published water levels on it’s website, however other than a two day graph it didn’t have an real historical data.
So I went about and created a script to scrape the data for me. This ensures that I have data past the 48 hours and allows me to see exactly what kind of changes have taken place say in the last week.
Now as I was already collecting the data, it seemed sensible to create a twitter account to publish key changes. So I set up @sincildrain. It has some pre-defined boundaries which if the levels go past it sends a new tweet.

With the Twitter for Android app, you can then set notifications whenever an account tweets, like the old days when you used to get an SMS from each one. So now I near time information on the water levels of the drain just meters down the road.
However the great advantage of Twitter is it’s one-to-many broadcast method.
Previous bots I built would either email or MSN message an update, but to scale required building in subscriptions, anti-abuse and stop methods.
But Twitter does this already, my bot just needs to tweet and with public visibility anyone can follow the account to also get the latest updates, at present 44 people are checking to see if the water levels are too high.

Introducing twhash in time for #bbcqt and #ashes

For the last few weeks in my spare time, I’ve been trying to create a hybrid of Dabr (a PHP open source twitter client which supports oAuth) and juitter (a javascript jQuery client).


Today I can announce twhash.
To do anything you need to be logged in to the site, via the oAuth call to Twitter (don’t worry if you don’t understand, just follow the links on the site).
Then you select the #hashtag you want to follow, and in near real time the tweets appear on the page.
If you want to take part you can enter a tweet at the top of the page, and if you want to reply to a message hit “reply” first and it will fill in the @name and set the flag to link the tweets together.

Lessons from Twitter #2: Don’t use the UK shortdial (86444)…

…for the time being.
For some reason all tweets to 86444 are appearing multiple times in the timeline. Each message has a unique tweet id, and as the Vodafone traffic is only showing one message the fault must be with Twitter (the same issue is happening with a Canadian shortcode 21212)
As I do all my tweeting via the browser on my phone I can’t confirm this, however I believe sending tweets to the UK long number +447624801423 won’t result in duplicate tweets.

Lessons from Twitter #1: Don’t use TwitPic

TwitPic is a sort of add-on for Twitter. You can upload an image via their website, a 3rd party twitter client from your mobile or send them an email/MMS with the picture. They then tweet on your behalf with a link to the picture.
The problem is that sometimes the picture they link to isn’t your picture. Below is an example of what happened to Philip Schofield during the Brits last month.

Schofe Schofe 19:38 – Nearly showtime!
Schofe Schofe 20:08 – Oh my God!
Schofe Schofe 20:23 – Nearly took a pic of Girls Aloud! Name that TV exec?
Schofe Schofe 20:24 – Nearly took a pic of Girls Aloud! Name that TV exec?
Schofe Schofe 20:37 – Coldplay!
Schofe Schofe 21:10 – Take That proper show biz!

As you can see unless Take That had gone abroad to do their piece, the picture wasn’t the one which Philip Schofield wanted. The give away to the picture being wrong is the grey “bars” at the bottom of the image.
From my guess it would seem that an image got stop part way through a process to resize and then attached to the wrong users tweet. You know that no one has hacked Phil’s account as the words follow from the previous messages.

So far not really a problem, Phil noticed the issue and applogised for the lack of Take That. However this wasn’t the case for BBC Tech corospendant Rory Cellan Jones.
He spent quite a large amount of time at the BBC News studios covering the YouTube / PRS story, and showing of Twitter to the journalists took some pictures.

ruskin147 ruskin147 18:18
Tellng George Alagiah about YouTube and music.
ruskin147 ruskin147 18:38
Now BBC World with the lovely Tanya Beckett.
ruskin147 ruskin147 19:32
And now Joanna Gosling and Ben Brown on the News Channel. Ben has just joined Facebook. Not so keen to tweet..

Now two images have been removed (from TwitPic, so the links go to an error page). The one of Tanya Beckett was quite a nice shot of her. However the picture of Joanna Gosling and Ben Brown clearly wasn’t them. Nor was it safe to view whilst at work.

Rory followed up with these tweets:
19:37 oh my god i’ve been hacked – really really sorry.
19:46 Very very shaken by that Twitpic hack. Has that happened to anyone else? The tweet was genuine – but not the picture
20:01 Not sure how keen I am ever to use Twitpic again. Is there another way to link pix?
20:51 To clarify for those who missed my Twitpic horror earlier I uploaded a pic of BBC studio – instead something very post watershed appeared
21:59 Twitpic tell me I wasn’t hacked – it was “a random bug that we are working on..”. Oh, fine! About to go live on 10 – hope no random bug

So the simple lesson is AVOID TwitPic.