How I created a TwitterGroup for Gnomedex

twitbot.gifI see Dave has posted a few ideas that he’d like to be able to do with Twitter. His ‘use case #1′ is regarding the ability to subscribe to a kind of ‘reading list’ of people at a conference. Good idea! TwitterGroups are what we need! :)

So, while I was at Gnomedex, I wanted a way to track tweets (that’s Twitter posts, for the uninitiated ;p ) from others at the conference who were also on Twitter. A show of hands from the audience showed there were a LOT of us ;) Naturally, I don’t want to have to follow every user and see everypost/tweet from them – I just want the ones relevant to the conference.

Having got the idea of how to do it in my head in the first morning session, I hacked it together quite quickly during the lunchbreak. It’s based very much like my Urban Dictionary ‘TwitterBot’ which will go and search for the (urban) meaning of a word, at the command of any follower.

So, here’s how I did it:
1. First, I set up an account, called @gnomenet

2. Then I set up a simple database table in MySql with a ‘status_id’ column and a ‘screen_name’ column.

3. I then invited people to ‘follow’ that account and instructed the followers to start a post with  ‘gd’ if they wanted their tweet to appear in the ‘group’ timeline – if they had something to say about the conference.

4. Then, I had a PHP script set on an automated cronjob to poll the followers.xml for the gnomenet account.  The followers.xml file always has the latest tweet from each follower, also providing the status(tweet) id and the follower’s screen name. It polled the followers.xml file once a minute, which is under Twitter’s API limit of 70 per hour.

5. When the script sees ‘gd’ at the start of a follower’s tweet, it then adds the screen_name and status_id to the database table. Then it sends that Tweet to the @gnomenet account after removing ‘gd ‘ from the start. This is easily done using Twitter’s very simple API.

6. The next time the script polls the followers.xml file, if it sees the same user posting the same thing (it compares each status_id with existing records in the database) it says to itself “this user already said that!” and ignores it.

7. If the follower does not have gd at the start of the Tweet, then the script goes and deletes from the database table any post from that user/screen_name  – ie: mostly, there is nothing to delete, as people don’t post to it all the time.

Doing this keeps the database table clean and compact. It worked pretty well for 52 followers! I wonder how many them were not even there at the conference! :)

This has a load of potential uses for TwitterBot automation and TwitterGroup creation, though I’m sure there might be a more graceful way of doing this. Happy to hear more ideas

Gnomedex was GREAT fun again – this was my third. But I have to say, I’m looking forward to the possibility of ‘GnomeStock‘ ;p

4 Responses to “How I created a TwitterGroup for Gnomedex”


  1. 1 Robert Sanzalone August 16, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    This was SO fantastic. Thanks SO MUCH for putting it together for Gnomedex. Yes I WAS one of the people who was NOT able to be there this year.. but still attended from Japan through this! Very cool!

    Any plans on expanding this for others and their conferences or meetings! Would love to duplicate it somehow but other than WP blogs, not so familiar with MySQL.

    Great job!
    Robert

  2. 2 trishuss August 16, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Kosso … Sorry I didn’t get to chat with you in person at Gnomedex, but I certainly appreciated the work you did!

    I’d love to see more of these done for conferences.

  3. 3 Pauly August 21, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    sounds a bit lame saying “3.0” now, as if you only just thought of it, you can do better than that…


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Who is this ‘kosso’ anyway?

I am a 'Createc'. A creative technologist, entrepreneur/ hacker/ geek. Worked on building things on the web for over 12 years.

Used to work at BBC News interactive and created the publishing and delivery systems for video news to get distributed on huge screens in major railway stations around the country.

I left the BBC to become CTO / sole-lead architect/developer at podcast.com for three years.

I have now left them to build a start up a new system called 'Phreadz', which is a 'Social Multimedia Conversation Network', integrating everything that is 'V.I.T.A.L' to us on the web. Video, Images, Text, Audio and Links.

I built the whole thing my myself. I programmed every line of code and positioned every pixel. I'm looking forward to attracting an hiring new members of the team to help me out! :)

There are currently over 1000 happy and helpful beta testers on the system so far and one client of a white-labelled solution.



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