The purpose of Twitter API: Up and Running is to provide an introduction to using the Twitter API--the means to get at the rich Twitter data--to build web applications. This book has three main parts: an overview of the Twitter ecosystem and culture; background information on the languages and environment you need to create your applications; and working code for a suite of sample applications meant to get you started on your programming adventure. As Twitter lowers barriers to publication through its simplicity, so this book will provide easy access to the skills and resources you'll need to build web applications for its API.
One of the strengths of Twitter is its flexibility. Every information stream is unique and can be customized in the way that best fits the individual at that moment. Are you getting too much information? Unfollow some people. Do you not have time to tweet? Don’t. Want to chat with your two best buds for an hour and chase away all your other followers? Feel free. Because of this versatility, there are no universal rules for how to behave on Twitter; each user can control his own experience.
Meet the Sample Apps
This small suite of sample web applications is offered to you as a way to illustrate use of the Twitter API, the collection of web service methods that bring Twitter data into third-party programming. These applications explore some common reasons to access the API:
A master account is needed to do things like send direct messages and conduct data mining on the backend. Unlike most of the user-driven tools, the master account must be available even when the account holder (you) isn’t around to log in. This simple tool allows the master account’s password to be saved to the database in a safe way. Only you will use this tool. In fact, without knowing the password attached to the master Twitter account, others shouldn’t be able to do anything with this application.
This application is a straightforward status updater. To publish to your own timeline, enter your Twitter account information and a short 140-character message. After doing so, you will see a link to the new tweet.
Each member account can be associated with a single RSS or Atom feed, from which a new tweet will be automatically generated. There is an automated task associated with this application that checks each registered feed for new content in six-hour cycles and posts the most recent article.
This is an aggregation tool, where you can collect daily tweets from a handful of other Twitter members into a single RSS item. An RSS feed is generated that contains information for up to 20 days of activity, collected by an automated task that checks for new tweets once a day. Each member account can have one aggregation feed.
Tracking tweets based on keywords is made easy with the Twitter search API. Each member can list a few keywords in Tweet Alert and receive a notification when any of those terms appears in a public tweet. The content scans are performed every 15 minutes. If a match is found—and the member is following your master Twitter account—a direct message is sent to that member with a link to the search results.
Probably the most useful among the suite of tools, this web application allows Twitter members to see the profile images of all the people they’re following. Private accounts are outlined in red, and (in most modern browsers) mousing over each picture reveals additional detail about that member.
About the Author
Kevin Makice is currently a Ph.D. student at the Indiana University School of Informatics, the first such doctoral program in the nation. His research interests center around local use of technology and the application of relational psychology to complexity and design. Prior to completing his Masters of Science in Human-Computer Interaction in 2006, Kevin was the primary Internet programmer for TicketsNow, a clearinghouse for sports, theatre, and entertainment tickets available in the secondary market. Along with three others, he won the CHI 2005 student competition by designing a concept for ad-hoc volunteering system for elderly residents in assisted-living centers. Past research includes political wikis, tangible interfaces for children's games, machinima, and network analysis of ball movement in basketball. Much of his blogging and academic efforts over the past year has focused on exploring Twitter as a means of community building.