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Tag Archives: twitter

I hardly use Twitter anymore, and I’ve noticed that I’m starting to get the same way with Facebook. I know why I don’t use Twitter anymore, and that’s because there’s too much garbage in my Twitter feed (RTs and what not that the people I follow care about, but I don’t). In the past, I even specifically stopped following people because they post too much. Later, Twitter went to an algorithmic feed to help create a feed of things I Twitter thinks I care about, but you know, I don’t really care about that so I stopped using it.

To me, the Facebook News Feed is following the same path. When the News Feed came out, there was a lot of content posted from the people I follow. That was interesting! Sure, sometimes the feed was sparse, because people weren’t posting anything about their lives, but I was OK with that.

Now, the News Feed surfaces all sorts of random stuff. I’m not talking just about ads – I mean it’s surfacing things that my friends may have liked (about random people who I have never heard of before). That is not interesting and it is just noise. I also dislike the algorithmic feed as it is not by recency and I have a FOMO of things that my friends have posted. So I’m back to using a polluted “most recent” list.

But you know, I don’t actually get a lot of value out of that News Feed feed anymore. I still have to use it because there’s no alternative, but it’s actually pretty crappy!

I’ve been using Twitter a lot more this year, to such an extent that I don’t update my status on Facebook anymore (I just let Selective Twitter do it for me). The main reason for this is because it takes two minutes every time I start the FB app on my phone – even if I just multitasked away from it 10 seconds ok. This seems like a horrendous bug by Facebook and I’m not sure why it’s not fixed since it has very high visibility. I’m sure people have wasted thousands of hours waiting for Facebook to come up.

But my usage of Twitter has grown beyond a replacement for Facebook. I share lots of random thoughts on there now, some of which are mirrored onto Facebook and some not. I think I’ve found more use for it because not a lot of people check it – it’s not that I’m afraid of posting private stuff on Facebook, it’s that I’m afraid of flooding other people’s news feed with my updates. Instead, Twitter provides me with a corner of the internet to shout to no one – kind of like a micro blog. And so Twitter fills its intended niche in my online world now.

During CASCON this year, I participated in a Hackathon that was organized for IBMers. The hackathon brought in a couple of charitable organizations (Scott Mission, World Vision Canada, aboutkidshealth, and Sick Kids Hospital) who described some social media related problems they were having and we tried to solve some of their problems.

I worked on a problem that Sick Kids’ was having where they were having filtering out noise and false positives from the Twitter search queries (e.g., searching for “sick kids” returned tweets like “My kids are sick at home”). I thought it would be interesting to play with the location data that was embedded in tweets; so for example, we could filter out tweets that were located around the Toronto area.

While making this we ran into a couple of problems. The first problem is that most tweets don’t have location data! It seems like there is a big push to tag status updates with location data (I’ve seen them on Facebook as well), so I thought that there would be more data tagged with location. In fact there weren’t, and I had to use a backup of checking the user’s profile location (which is unreliable).

Second, we ran into rate limit issues. We wanted to calculate a “reach” for each tweet, which is basically the number of Twitter users a tweet reached (either from the original update, or by retweets). Calculation of this reach on our search results quickly ran us into the 150 requests per hour limit and we had to stop working on it for awhile. In the end we made the reach calculation done at the user’s request, updating the page via Ajax using the Dojo library (which we are supposed to use in IBM).

I also ran into a rate limit trying to geocode locations (both from the search and from Twitter users’ profile). Google Maps API has a rate limit of 2500 per day. This ended up being problematic because I hit the threshold once we had completed the prototype and were ready to demo! There was some mad researching before I found out that the Yahoo PlaceFinder API does the same thing and has a rate limit of 50,000/day. I switched to that and had no further issue.

When I get lazy with blogging, I just post links to some neat stuff around the web:

Earlier this month, I started messing around with Android app development, and for a two-week period, that was basically all I did in my free time. I’m glad to say that I am quite over that obsession (at least for a period now). In the end, I churned out 3 apps, VIVA Next Bus, Gas Up Eh? which is an Android front end to my gas site, and Twitter Followers which is a home screen widget that displays how many Twitter followers a user has.

Each app served an educational purpose, the VIVA app was my “Hello World”, the gas app allowed me to experiment with UI layout, and the Twitter widget taught me how to write widgets. Maybe I’ll combine all my experience into a more complex app in the future, but first I’d need a good idea to hit me.

I thought the Twitter widget was a promising idea. It could serve a (world-)wide audience, unlike my other two apps; and for some reason, no one had thought about writing something like that before! I toyed with the idea of making it a pay app – primarily because there is no way to put ads onto a widget – but in the end decided to make it free. Although I think it is a novel idea, I don’t think there is a barrier of entry that would prevent a competitor from writing a free version and killing my market. Plus, I’m not writing apps to try and make a few bucks on the side (and it would probably be only a few bucks!).

I haven’t blogged about my Free iTunes Downloads blog for a long time, and you might think it’s dead or forgotten, but it’s not – it’s chugging along generating steady AdSense revenue. It hasn’t been on my radar much because there hasn’t been anything new or special about it. It’s like a sporadic job that I’ve been working at for almost 5 years now!

I did get a ping recently about it, from a marketing firm who was looking for the iTunes demographic. They were offering a $10 iTunes GC for me to give away. At first, I ignored their request because I wasn’t getting anything out of it – not that I want or need additional monetary compensation from the site. But it seemed like a rip-off to me since they would be leveraging my blog’s reputation to get free marketing for only $10.

In the end, I changed my mind and decided to hold the contest. Lucky for me, they weren’t too demanding and I was able to operate the contest on my terms; with the goal of growing the number of Twitter followers. I still don’t think it’s worthwhile to run a contest like this because I don’t value the reward (more Twitter followers, Facebook fans, etc) as much as the promotional opportunity I’m giving out. Hopefully there is something that changes my mind.

If you read my lifefeed you might notice that often I would have an item with the same status from Twitter and then from Facebook. The reason this happens is because I have the Twitter Facebook app which automatically copies my Twitter updates and posts them as Facebook status updates.

That’s a bit redundant, and one of the reason why I don’t end up using Twitter as much as I could. The other reason is because no one pays attention to my Twitter so I might as well be talking in an empty forest.

But I think I’ve finally figured out why I would want to use Twitter over Facebook. On Facebook, my status gets spammed to all my Facebook friends, but it only gets to those people. Whereas my Twitter updates are unprotected, and most importantly, they are searchable. If I have 140 character tidbits of information that I would like the world to know, they should go on Twitter, while inside jokes should stay on Facebook. I can’t believe it took me this long to realize this.

Surprisingly, I found a good use for Twitter that doesn’t involve me writing my own ‘bot! Although, it isn’t truly a new use since conceptually I’m using it the same way.

Actually while I’m writing this, I just realized I found a second way to use Twitter – which was when the earthquake hit Toronto Ottawa. I hopped onto Twitter and used their live search to see if anyone else was tweeting the possibility of an earthquake, which confirmed my suspicions.

But I digress. What I wanted to blog about was that I used Twitter to keep up to date with the NHL draft. I don’t get TSN (although they offered free streaming video – this seems to be a trend in 2010) plus I wasn’t going to be home during the draft, so I just followed a couple of big hockey columnists and set it so their status updates would be sent to my phone. This allowed me to get quasi-real-time updates without actually paying attention to the draft! Wow, technology is pretty cool.

I was driving home about two weeks ago when I realized that I never check my gas site to see what the price of gas would be the next day in the GTA before going home. This wasn’t the first time that happened, and its difficult to solve since I don’t have a data plan nor are you allowed to play with your cellphone while driving!

It had been in the back of my mind for awhile to incorporate Twitter into my gas site somehow, but I was thinking that if I just tweeted predictions, it would be information overload. But as I was thinking about my current predicament, I realized that I could boil the problem down to a simple solution, I just needed notifications when the price of gas is going up tomorrow. I didn’t care if the price of gas was staying the same or going down the next day because I could still fill up tomorrow without any loss!

I set out to build a little Twitterbot that would do this, similar to my twitterbot to tell me the Leafs scores. Whenever the price of gas would go up the next day, I would get an SMS notifying me. Eventually I realized that, because I had to poll for the prediction, and then my twitterbot code had to poll for the fact that I now had a prediction, and then update Twitter on a delay; that by the time the notification reached my phone, I could be at home already! Instead I used the Twitter API and created a Twitter App to post to Twitter directly after I have a prediction. Now you can get notification around 5PM everyday if the gas price does go up.

The final problem I’m struggling with is that I want my to be available to people who don’t have or don’t want to use Twitter. I looked around for free SMS gateways but they’re either not reliable or free. I guess I am stuck with the Twitter infrastructure, but it really is good. My phone signals that I have an SMS while I’m waiting for the page to reload after a tweet!

When I get lazy with blogging, I just post links to some neat stuff around the web:

I’m always wary of signing into websites from public terminals; you never know if there is a key logger or device running in the background to grab your login information. I’m not so worried about credit card #s, or even of identity theft but I’m worried about my Google account and my Twitter account!

My Google account covers so many things now that it would be an epic tragedy if it were ever compromised. My email, calendar, blogger account and a variety of smaller things are all tied into a single login (cleverly, I have my AdSense and FiD feeds on another Google account). It is quite scary the number of things that we funnel through Google now. I certainly would not want to lose my primary account.

I’m also afraid to lose my Twitter account, not because it’s important to me but because I have such an awesome nickname. Yes that is vanity.

To hopefully prevent such a thing from happening, yet have access to email and Twitter on the road, I’ve created a second GMail account which has a replica of all my mail in my primary GMail account. Plus, I signed up for a service where you can tweet by mail. All of this preparation is great, but now I just need to get internet access when I’m travelling!

I find that Twitter is almost useless to me because everyone I follow basically falls into two groups: 1) they never update, or 2) they mirror all their updates onto Facebook. But Twitter is still really attractive to me because of its ability to push little bits of information to your cell phone.

Because of this, I’m always on the lookout for interesting Twitter feeds that I can subscribe to on my phone. The only one that I’m following so far is @WiredResearch. But that got me thinking, what interesting things do I want pushed to my phone? My email – sure though that didn’t work so well. And then I figured that I want to know the result of Leaf games. Yes, I’m usually not so interested, but the recent acquisition of Phaneuf has piqued my interest again. I did a search and there weren’t any Twitter feeds for this! Sure, there were lots of feeds with hockey/Maple Leaf news or feeds that updated every time someone got a penalty or scored, but I just wanted, at most, one tweet a day with the final score.

Of course, since such a thing didn’t exist – I set forth to build my own. It turns out that the toughest part was to find a reliable feed for scores. I wanted a RSS feed but, like the Twitter feed, such a thing doesn’t exist! Eventually I found a good source to parse and create my own feed, and then socialized it to my brand spanking new Twitter account @DidTheLeafsWin. This feed should update within 30 minutes after the final buzzer and send the result to your Twitter feed or your phone! I only wish that I could test it more often than twice a week.

September means school starting and going back to the routine. Except Labour Day was about the latest it could be this year so it felt like the middle of September before school was in full swing.

We didn’t go anywhere significant for Labour Day and it doesn’t feel like we did anything particularly special. So I’ll just list some of the random things that have been occupying my time:

  • I bought Beatles Rockband and was playing through that, but it’s not that good of a game.
  • Picasa came out with version 3.5 which introduced name tags, and I spent some time letting Picasa crunch my photos and suggest various faces as being a particular person
  • I started using Twitter my vigorously seeing as how it’s so easy to tweet from my phone.
  • We put through probably over $1k in insurance claims between the two of us since it’s that time of the year to get new glasses and other medical expenses.
  • Everyone went to see U2 at the Skydome, except for me. No regrets though, I don’t even like U2!
  • I liberated my last domain from Yahoo! domains and bought That spurred me to work a bit on the scripts behind it

I’ve been trying to build up my Twitter list so that I’m following some useful/interesting people. There are some Twitter users that post fact-of-the-days type things, which are pretty interesting. I found up about the Tetris effect through one of them (but it wasn’t interesting enough of a user for me to follow).

I’ve had this happen before, yes with Tetris. And also with Warcraft. It happens more in my dreams, and apparently this is known as Hypnagogia.

A lot of the Canada Day activities were cancelled in Toronto but fortunately for us, there was one in our backyard! This was the first time we’ve actually walked around the city hall area and we’ve been living here for a year! There were activities all day, but we just showed up after dinner to watch Kreesha Turner. You may remember Kreesha Turner from hearing Don’t Call Me Baby on the radio, but what you may not know is that she’s part Chinese (and in away she’s a lot like Kristen Kreuk). We went to support the Chinese! (Ok, I just learned this now when I looked her up)

The concert wasn’t that great (her non-hits are pretty boring) but she was really promoting herself with new generation techniques. She name dropped her Twitter and filmed us on her Flip to be posted on to YouTube (we were right front and centre so hopefully we’ll be visible).

I bought a star filter a few weeks ago, and was trying it out. It kind of sucks in that you have to manually turn the filter so that the crosses are angled correctly. I thought it would be cool to take pictures of the fireworks so that they’re all stars, but in reality the filter doesn’t work like that. It needs some level of light in order to do the crosses, but if there’s too much light, it just gets messed up (see above).

For the fireworks, instead of fighting with the crowd, we headed up to the 38th floor of our building. I thought it would be cooler with a different perspective, but it wasn’t as neat as I thought it would be.

I’ll remember June for all the events in the news. The biggest news was probably the (most likely) fraudulent Iranian general election. There were many civilian protests and some deaths, ironically reminiscent of Tiananmen Square (which occurred 20 years ago on the 5th). This event was noteworthy because the Iranian government suppressed the media and Internet, but they failed to stop Twitter. Twitter even delayed its maintenance at the request of the US government (who may have other nefarious reasons for doing so)!

In addition to that, there were four celebrity deaths: David Carradine, Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. The MJ saga will stay in the news for quite a long time though.

Aside from that, my life has been pretty normal. I started 12 months of Xbox Live Gold so I’ve been trying to complete online challenges in Burnout Paradise, and I’ve been working on my resume and my work contacts through LinkedIn.

Update: Wow, I totally forgot the Toronto garbage strike and how New York’s Senate flipped over to the Republicans after a couple of Democrats were convinced to flip sides.

I was all ready to write a whole long fist-shaking post about how I agree that Twitter kids should stay off my lawn, but then I realized that I pretty much said the same thing just a couple of months ago.

You know, my opinions haven’t changed and I still find it a bit useless. In fact, I find it useless for plain old people like me to have a twitter account. I can understand if some celebrities twitter because it allows them to have controlled interactions with their grassroot fans, but what does it offer me? I still don’t get it!

Jeb sent me a link of the Twitter users from Toronto, sorted by join date and I’m number 7. That’s pretty hot, I have some T-dot nerd cred. Too bad my follower and friend numbers are WAYY off.

I have a twitter account, but I don’t get it. I’ve tried using it for a bit but I just don’t buy into this whole microblogging thing; who cares about the minutiae of your daily life? Now I know what old, cranky, anti-blogging grandmothers feel like.

But it’s stories like this one where a pair of Twitterati meet THE_REAL_SHAQ that intrigues me enough to give it more mind share:

Today Sean and I were discussing rumored trade situations over IM, and the possibility of Shaq being traded to Cleveland.

“Well, I just got a twitter from The Real Shaq, and he’s at 5 & Diner right now,” Sean informed me.

“Let’s go then” I said, assuming that I’d finally put this “Real Shaq” crap to rest.

Twenty minutes later we were pulling up to the restaurant and looking for the big black truck that he’s rumored to drive around town. “Maybe that’s it” Sean said, pointing at an older, but nice Van and laughing. As we pulled up I saw the Superman symbol on the grill.

Now if only Toronto had some interesting celebrities on Twitter. No Adam Giambrone and Michael Ignatieff don’t count. I wouldn’t mind running into Nelly Furtado at Just Desserts.