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February 16, 2011

RSS feeds from Twitter

Follow-up to Evernote as a Twitter archive from Steve's blog

I was just about to write a blog about feeding Twitter into Evernote via the Twitter RSS feeds and an RSS-to-email service when I discovered I had written about it years ago. What I missed out of the blog, though, was the URLs for the RSS feeds. So here they are.

The URL of the feed for your own tweets is listed on your profile page, but not, apparently, in new twitter. If you’ve switched to the new twitter design, switch back and look at the bottom of the right-hand column. It will look like this: “http://twitter.com/statuses/twitterid/digits.rss”.

The feed of your favorites looks like this: “http://twitter.com/favorites/twitterid.rss”. As far as I know, this doesn’t appear on a twitter page anywhere. You just have to know.

I also feed my mentions into Evernote. There’s no simple RSS feed for this. I use a twitter search, like this: “http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=%40steverumsby”. That “%40” is an ”@”.

Set these up as three separate separate feeds in Feed My Inbox, all sending to your evernote email address – you can get that from your account summary page on evernote.com.


December 03, 2009

TweetDeck 0.32 and Twitter lists

The new TweetDeck, v0.32 released a couple of days ago, supports Twitter lists. Even better, it is moving to using lists instead of its own “groups” for organising your twitter stream. This makes synchronising Tweetdeck columns across multiple machines trivially easy. A great improvement. Or so I thought…

It turns out that Twitter lists have a feature I hadn’t spotted, that affects the visibility of @replies. Normally, if somebody in your twitter stream sends a reply to another user, you get to see that reply if you are also following the other user. If you are not following them, you don’t see the reply. It didn’t used to be this way, and there was a big fuss from lots of people (including me) when it changed, but I’m used to it now, and I don’t imagine it ever changing back. I’ve even been glad of the behaviour occasionally!

Anyway, back to lists. When you are viewing a list’s twitter stream (i.e. the tweets posted by people on the list) you only see replies if they are to somebody else also on the list. That kind of makes sense if you are following somebody else’s list, but makes no sense of you are using your own lists to organise the people you follow. It especially makes no sense when using TweetDeck to organise people you follow into columns.

To be clear, with TweetDeck’s groups, when ever somebody I followed replied, I saw that reply if they replied to somebody else I followed. Even if I put the other person in a different group/column in TweetDeck. That’s the behaviour I want and expect. By converting my TweetDeck groups into twitter lists and building columns based on those, even though the people in the list-based columns are the same as those in the groups-based columns, I start missing replies. This is a bad thing.

Am I wrong about this? Is there something I’ve misunderstood? What’s the best way of fixing it?

For now, I’ve gone back to group-based columns in TweetDeck and will stay there until this issue is sorted out…


November 01, 2009

First thoughts on Twitter Lists

I’ve spent a few days now playing with the new Twitter lists and right now I’m not really sure what to make of them. At first sight the mechanism is straightforward – organise the people you follow into lists and then you can be more selective about whose tweets you read. Put the people really want to follow in a “Friends” list and you can make sure their tweets don’t get lost amongst all the others. This is a step forward for those occasions when you need to use Twitter via the web site but I rarely do that – TweetDeck’s Groups provides this functionality.

But that’s not all that the lists functionality does. You can create lists of people you don’t follow, and follow them via the list rather than your regular timeline. I’m not sure I see the point of that. Why not just follow them and use lists to control what you see when? If you consider that your “timeline” – the tweets from the people you follow – is really just another list now, the “default” list you see on your Twitter homepage, then either follow everyone or follow no one. And certainly this feature makes follower counts meaningless. Some would argue they have been all along, of course…!

You can also build lists for other people to follow. Any lists you build are public by default. But that creates a problem. If I classify my followees for my own purposes I’d end up with different lists from if I classify them for other people’s benefit. And maintaining two sets of lists seems like a lot of hard work.

Finally you can follow other people’s lists. That seemed quite attractive at first, until I realised that those lists were then out of my control and I could end up following people I don’t want to, or not following people I did want to, because control of the list membership is in somebody else’s hands. Some lists might even be deleted and I’d lose contact with everyone on them. Plus, for any given category of interest there are already lots of lists of people. They all overlap but most have their own unique members. Do I follow one list, or several? That’s just a mess. What I’m going to end up doing is looking through the members of these lists and following the people individually. I can’t see myself following many lists built by others.

Aside from all of this, there’s the impact of lists on the people included in them. How would you feel if you found yourself on somebody’s “Annoying Tweeters” list. Or if you didn’t find yourself on somebody’s “Friends” list. Or if all the lists your were on were about X and you thought of yourself as more of a Y person? Think carefully when constructing those public lists, people.

So, where does that leave me with Twitter lists? I think I’m going to end up with a single, private “Friends” list for those times when I need to use Twitter via the web interface, not bother creating any others, and probably only follow one or two lists built by others, those I consider “definitive” somehow. This really isn’t going to make a big impact on my Twitter usage.

Now I’ve only had access to lists for a few days so I could easily have got it all wrong. I know there’s a new version of TweetDeck coming along that integrates with lists. It is early days for the feature, and it could easily change as it matures. We’ll see. What do you think?


September 10, 2009

Evernote as a Twitter archive

These days I keep all of my notes in Evernote. In fact, not just notes, but anything I think I might want to refer to later. Web pages, product brochures and manuals, scanned articles from magazines. Pretty much anything. All are suitably tagged to help find them, and all are available on all my laptops, via the web, and on my iPhone. Evernote is brilliant.

Something I set up a little while ago now is a feed from Twitter into Evernote. Twitter provides RSS feeds for various of your twitter pages. I take the feeds for my updates, my mentions and my favourites and feed them into Evernote. Evernote doesn’t (yet) have a facility to import RSS feeds directly, but it does give you an email address that turns emails into notes. I use feedmyinbox.com to turn the Twitter RSS feeds into emails to my Evernote email address. This gives me an archive of everything tweet I’ve ever sent, every tweet mentioning me, and every tweet I’ve favourited. It would be nice if Evernote supported this directly, but until then this does work quite well. The emails from feedmyinbox.com produce somewhat messy notes, but at least the content is there.

I’ve had this set up for a few months now and not really used it until this afternoon. I remembered something I’d said to somebody on Twitter but couldn’t remember who. A quick search via my iPhone and I found the tweet from back in July and so found who I’d sent it to.

I’m not sure how often I’ll find this useful, but Twitter doesn’t make it very easy to search through your old tweets directly so I’m happy knowing I have a way of doing it.


May 18, 2009

Why I want Twitter's '@reply' behaviour to be restored

Last week, Twitter changed the behaviour of “replies”. It used to be that you had a choice of what happened when somebody you followed replied to a tweet:
  1. You didn’t see any replies at all, so you didn’t see it
  2. You saw all replies, so you saw it
  3. You only saw replies to people you also followed, so you saw it sometimes and not others.

The default behaviour was number 3 above. An apparently small number of people, including me, changed the setting to option 2. I’ve no idea how many people changed to option 1. Last week, Twitter changed the reply behaviour so that the only choice was option 2 – you only saw replies from people you follow if you also follow the person they are replying to.

There’s been a bit of an outcry, much of which you can find by search for the #fixreplies hastag. A lot of the focus has been on how people used the previous behaviour (option 2) to find new people to follow. If one of your friends says something interesting to somebody you didn’t know you might want to follow this third person. I’ve certainly found a few interesting people this way. But that’s only half of the issue. One of the things I get from following people on Twitter is a much better impression of them as people. I get to know them better from what they say. What matters here is the whole collection of things they say. That’s why tweeting what you have for lunch may not be interesting of itself but when combined with all the other stuff you tweet it contributes to the bigger picture of who you are.

Now, of course, we no longer get the full picture of the people we follow. How they interact with others is an important part of their personality and we all now see only a subset of that. That’s not good. I understand that some, maybe even many, people don’t want this behaviour, and it wasn’t the default and shouldn’t be. But some people do want it, and until it is restored Twitter will be broken in their eyes. Twitter say they are working on a way of discovering new people to follow, on the assumption that that will make everyone happy. While it will help, it won’t make me happy and I suspect I’m not the only one.

Twitter, I understand there are technical issues with continuing the original reply behaviour, but you need to figure out a way of restoring it somehow, or Twitter will remain less useful to me.


January 06, 2009

Twitter is like reality TV…

This just came to me last night, and it still makes sense so there must be something in it!

One of the things I like about some reality TV series, specifically those involving celebrities, is that you get to see people in a different context. Rugby players learning to dance, etc. You learn something about the person rather than just about their abilities in their chosen field.

Twitter is the same. There are lots of well known tweople out there, and following them lets you find out about their “normal” life as well as the stuff they’re famous for. Following @stephenfry is fascinating, for example. But this isn’t just true for well known people.

It works for friends and colleagues too. There are people here at work that I rarely meet, or have never met, but that I’m getting to know through interactions on Twitter. If we ever have to work together, or even just meet in passing, we won’t be starting from cold.

At first I thought that having all this random stuff cluttering up the Twitter stream was just irritating and getting in the way of the interesting stuff. Now, for at least some people I follow, the twitterings of daily life are the intersting stuff.


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