Category Archives: Microblogging

Twitter and Facebook updates etc

Twitter spam

Spammers have discovered Twitter. That's not really surprising; it had to happen sometime.

What is surprising is that, in this example, 45 people have blindly followed the spammer when they followed them. Do people not even look at who it is?

I mean really. “Jenny” of “online friend”, with such an obviously spammy bio?! Could it be any more obvious that this person intends wasting your time?

Twitter spammer

Twitter shuts down outbound SMS

Twitter shuts down outbound SMS updates for all users except in Canada, India and the US. Inbound via the UK number still works.

Understandable I suppose, given the huge cost they must incur from it. But must be annoying to those who use it.

A lot of Aussies in the initial comments, probably due to the timing of the announcements. Introducing an Australian inbound SMS number would have cushioned the blow.

Twitter == yoyo?

Twitter’s ups and downs are now almost legendary. There’s now a web site which can tell you if it’s up or not.

Twitter is very popular. It has a lot of users. (Including me.)

But it hasn’t commercialised. There’s no ads, no user subscription fees, no deals, and, I suspect, no money. Or at least not very much.

Or at least not much. It’s maintained its independence and integrity, but I wonder if subsequently having no dosh is the reason the service is becoming so unreliable as popularity increases. At least the commercial services out there have been through all these issues.

Some are blaming it being built on Ruby On Rails, which evidently doesn’t scale very well, but this is only a problem if they don’t have the funds and the will to migrate it onto another platform.

It’ll be interesting to see where Twitter goes as more people pile on. Are they up to the challenge? Will they just give up and sell out in return for investment in reliability, or can they find another way forward?

Twitter to WordPress to Facebook

(Skip the lecture, go straight to the instructions — but note the update.)

I’m yet to be convinced that microblogging (eg Twitter, or those status updates in Facebook) is genuinely useful. Maybe, maybe not. But I’m willing to try it out.

Problem is of course that if you use multiple services, you don’t want to be having to update them all individually. If such a concept is going to work, you’ve got to be able to update once and have it cascade to everywhere.

Facebook has an app to push updates out to Twitter. Which would be fine, but for those outside North America, you can’t update your Facebook status from anywhere except within Facebook. (North Americans can use SMS from a mobile, but others can’t.) Okay, so maybe you’d want to do it mostly when in front of a computer anyway, but I do like about Twitter than you can update from anywhere… anybody can SMS a number (it’s based in the UK, so for me it’s costing 50 cents… so I’d better not go mad using it) so no fiddling with mobile web access just to post an update. Twitter also takes updates via IM (such as GTalk and Jabber). I also like that it’s open; people can see what’s going on without registering.

I normally hate words like synergy and leverage and convergence, but that’s what’s gone on here. Alex King has written code that updates WordPress from Twitter every 15 minutes. Christian Flickinger has written code that updates Facebook using PHP, with a hack using the Curl library (since Facebook doesn’t actually accept inputs like this) that logs into Facebook’s mobile web page and does the business.

And Blake Brannon has put the two together, so a Tweet (that’s Web 2.0 talk for a Twitter post) will cascade to your WordPress blog, and then on to your Facebook status.

Neato, huh? Now that really is leverage. If it works. Which it does for many people, but it didn’t for me. I was having problems with Blake’s code; probably an issue with my Web ISP’s configuration. I ended up splitting it off to a separate WP plugin, which was messy, but allowed me to use the code in isolation, and figure out the problem.

It may be an issue that only affects particular versions of PHP or Apache or something — I’m no expert — but the problem was the Curl call couldn’t write to the cookies file. Creating the my_cookies.txt file and making it writable (777) and modifying the code slightly to specify where the file lived solved it. Another issue involved Curl being unable to use the FollowLocation flag, but it turned out this wasn’t needed.

I also ended up with Blake’s (modified) code in a separate file to Alex’s, rather than inserted into it as Blake intended.

So in summary

Update 2007-08-31: Blake’s been told that automated access into Facebook is against the Terms of Service. It’s unclear if Facebook will actively go chasing those who use or distribute code like this, but it would seem to pay to be cautious. Sorry.

  1. Download Alex King’s Twitter Tools and put in your wp-content/plugins directory
  2. Download twitter-wp-fb.txt. Put your Facebook details in where shown, then put it into your wp-content/plugins directory
  3. Create an empty wp-content/plugins/my_cookies.txt file and make it writable (777)
  4. Go into your WP Plugins page and activate both Twitter Tools and WP/Twitter to Facebook
  5. Go into the Twitter Tools config page and enter your Twitter credentials
  6. Cross your fingers and post something in Twitter

I think that’s all the steps. Good luck.

Thanks to Blake for his assistance on this. And to Alex and Christian, whose code this is all built on.

Twitter hype

Wait a minute, wait a minute… maybe I’m missing something… all this hype about Twitter, letting people know what you’re doing right now… Scoble posted how people on Twitter reported the Mexico quake first…

It’s just IRC with archives, a web frontend and a mobile phone interface, isn’t it?

Seriously, those of us on IRC during the first Gulf War back in 1990-91 would watch the Israelis posting about Scud Missiles raining down on their cities.

Real-time citizen reporting is not a great leap forwards. It’s been around for decades.

So what’s so different about Twitter? Or is it just another case of a new, shiny, evolving (but not revolutionary) thing getting all the hype?