Posts from the Twitter category

Twitter Raises API Limit

Great news for Twitter developers!

I just noticed in my web app iTweet that Twitter is reporting a maximum of 150 API requests per hour now! Hurray!  This is great news for Twitter clients, as the API limit is a constant challenge in user interaction.

Twitter had mentioned that this was in the works, but so far I haven't heard mention of them actually launching this upgrade.  I hope it is here to stay!

They have also recently fixed a long-standing bug that caused followers/following methods to report incorrect data. Along with this fix came some new API methods for managing follow relationships - I will be updating iTweet with a new follow/unfollow UI just as soon as I can get to it!

There are some really great improvements coming soon to - stay tuned for much much more.

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Retweet Conventions

Will there become a universally accepted standard?

I saw a lot of discussion going on in the Twitterverse recently about standard conventions for "retweeting" - the increasingly popular habit of repeating someone else's tweet verbatim with a credit to their username (or as close to verbatim as possible inside of the 140-character limit).

I personally don't retweet often, but I see it happening more and more every day. (Whether or not this increases the quality of Twitter conversations is a debate for another post.) Enough users of, the Twitter client for the Web and iPhone that I make, requested a retweet button so I went ahead and added one several weeks ago.

Several weeks ago, savvy user David Simmons had written me to ask if iTweet could use the Unicode "recycle" symbol ♺ as a standard for retweeting.  I immediately liked the idea - it's expressive, cool-looking and best of all it's only one character long, conserving space for more tweet.

Unfortunately I looked into it and found that the symbol doesn't render in SMS messages or on the iPhone.  Since is an iPhone web app, and since a large number of Twitter users rely on SMS, IMO this makes it a no-go for a standard retweet convention.  Bummer!  Many other Unicode characters display just fine on the iPhone - I don't know why some do and some don't, but ♺ is not one of the friendly ones.

My point here is that if a convention isn't able to be communicated through all channels, it shouldn't become a standard. For this reason I have made the ♺ symbol available in the "symbols" section, but can't recommend using it as a retweet symbol for anyone who wants maximum exposure and clarity in their tweets.

Anyway there is some great discussion on the topic over at Stowe Boyd's blog - go check it out if you're interested - and this made me think I should put my two cents in on the subject.

There has been other discussion about whether "RT" or "via" makes for a better standard.  I personally think "via" is a bit more friendly to newbies and a lot more readable, but "RT" seems to be the most common convention, so that's currently what I use in my Twitter client.

I also found this interesting article at Dan Zarrella's blog where he states:

Contrary to what I initially thought, “RT” is used more than 4 times more often than the full word “retweet”.

I am quite open to the idea of using something different if a better standard is proposed.  What's your favorite retweet convention?

Leave comments on this blog, or let's talk on Twitter or Facebook.

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Tweetbeep is the new Track

A solid (and maybe better) replacement for Twitter tracking.

Colby Palmer: Not having Twitter tracking...The "tracking" feature in Twitter had become a staple of my communication. I used it to catch @colbypalmer, @itweet or @colbyworld replies, and to find out what people were saying about iTweet, my Twitter client, or my other projects. It's also a great way of monitoring your competition! It was recently disabled as a part of the Twitter downgrades, and I found that I was missing replies (checking the Replies tab for all three of my accounts is something I just can't keep up with) and feeling "out of the loop" as far as my product's relationship to its users.

Enter "Like Google Alerts for Twitter". This tool was created by Michael Jensen, @mdjensen on Twitter. Tweetbeep scans Twitter for terms or usernames (they use the excellent Summize for this) and emails you with your results.

It's not as real-time as the original tracking, but that's kind of a nice thing as you can opt to check for your updates hourly or daily, and you don't get a million text messages all day long. You can also add links to your search, which are gathered in real-time; Tweetbeep will even find links that have been masked via a TinyURL-type service, which is awesome since most links on Twitter are TinyURLs.

The part that I really like is that it's archivable, both in your email and aggregated in itself, which is a huge plus! Now I don't have to feel like I'm missing out by not following everybody on Twitter.

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Twitter Maintenance Notice

Ok son, put the Twitter down and back away slowly...

Twitter maintenance noticeTwitter sent some downtime notices today via a regular friends_timeline JSON request. Even though the downtime is a bummer, this kind of error reporting is really nice, as you aren't left with that "should I keep refreshing the page?" feeling. Often Twitter crashes return full XHTML pages to API calls, like the "Too many tweets!" page with the whale that we've been seeing lately. These aren't parsed into a Twitter feed like this error message was (API rate limit notices and other errors are returned as valid JSON though). This can be worked around by looking at the HTTP code that is returned, but I wish there was some way for the app to return valid JSON error messages to API requests instead of the default XHTML crash pages. Leave comments on this blog, or let's talk on Twitter or Facebook.

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About the Twitter Downgrades

And our tumultuous relationship with the Bluebird of Happiness/Crappiness...

Twitter API Limit Downgrade Twitter has decided to remove a certain call from their API that the iTweet 2 private beta relied on to create the "ticker" effect that kept it updating at nearly real-time speeds.  The rate limit for API calls also remains handicapped, cut to 30 per hour from the usual 70.  This makes using Twitter API tools extremely inconvenient, and developing them is also quite frustrating. For now I have removed the "ticker" feature and the friends timeline will refresh every 140 seconds, though this number may be adjusted slightly as I attempt to keep the page open and in use today.  (Big thanks to all my helpful beta testers for your excellent feedback on the last iTweet 2 development cycle!)  Further development on the beta will continue when the API rate limit returns to normal.  Until then, Twitter API development is a waste of time as most people seem to be ditching API apps for the non-limited Web site. This is actually a good thing for me, as I am working hard on developing some other tools for The Illusion Factory that I will be posting more about soon.  Apologies for the lack of updates recently, I've been in "workshop mode" for quite some time but I will be posting details about the new ideas, tools and projects I've been working with in the coming weeks.  (I call this "pimp" mode as I will be hawking the bejeezus out of my work.)  I'm building some really neat ways of connecting with people, and I am very excited to share them as soon as possible! Twitter has been very cool about keeping the community updated on its current status, present challenges and plans for future improvement, despite some really nasty attacks and and the lively scrutiny of about a million people speculating on who is to blame, or how a business model could be developed, or how they can fix Twitter's problems in a single blog post/comment/tweet.  They were also kind enough to post a poll in the dev group about removing the friends_timeline/username API call.  This is not something they HAVE to do, so I thought it was nice of them to bother. And — even though I was getting great use out of this feature — I voted that if removing it meant a tangible improvement to Twitter's stability, I would take it out back and shoot it myself. Here's why I would vote to remove a feature that made iTweet's beta the most bitchin' Twitter interface for the Web: The problems Twitter is suffering from are going to take a while to solve, and more downgrades may happen. The Twitter team is working on it, and I am willing to be patient during the downtimes and downgrades while they get their app sorted out. I enjoy using Twitter and making fun stuff with their API.  But I have lots of other things that I like, and plenty of projects in the works.  I know they are doing their best to improve and/or rebuild their service, so when they've gotten through the current setbacks, I'll be back for more.  Rather than getting cranky about it, obsessing over it, or otherwise wasting my mental energy on it, I'll just go play with some other toys until this one gets glued back together again. And of course, in the meantime a shinier toy may come along and Twitter may end up collecting dust.  That is the risk they are running every day that their service is downgraded... and I am sure no one is more aware of this than the Twitter team themselves. Leave comments on this blog, or let's talk on Twitter or Facebook.

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