Sunday, March 29, 2009

Recommended reading with Twitter

"Twitter is a waste of time", some of my friends are saying. "Why do I need to know what others are doing?"

I guess most of the reluctant guys take Twitter's incentive, "What are you doing?", too literally. Surely, this is not interesting in most of the cases. I couldn't care less when others wake up, if their coffee tastes good or if it's raining in London. Except if I'm going to London, of course. But in that case there are 100 websites to check the weather.

Twitter is a flexible platform. There are probably a ton of articles out there explaining the benefits of Twitter and the way one may use it. I guess one of Twitter's strong points resides in its mass usage. You can see what's hot. For instance, just search for "Earth hour" updates to get an idea.

A few days ago I was reading an article, probably this one, and I realized that amongst the things I read on the web, some of them I would like to keep track of, as in the case of the books. And I also want to share them.

I could use Delicious for this, as I do with all my bookmarks, but I wanted something like a stream of articles that are sent to more than my network of people on Delicious.

Twitter to the rescue.

However, I needed something more than just: "Hey, I found this nice piece of work - link", more specifically I wanted to be able to differentiate between other updates and the ones referring to articles.

Therefore I prefixed the update with the string #RR, as an acronym for Recommended Reading. The hash sign "#" is there to indicate some sort of a label for that update.

Ok, now I have the procedure in place, but how do I make these updates stand out from the crowd?

Chris Heilmann had a neat idea on how to dig through his series of updates on Twitter after certain ones. Here he describes how he used Yahoo Pipes to drill after tweets ending in a "§", the character he appends to each update he considers useful. Then he processed the last 5 tweets with Javascript to display them in a panel on his blog.

I shamelessly cloned Chris' pipe and changed it a bit to match my needs. I wanted a feed with the recommended reading updates, which is easy to get by changing a parameter in the pipe URL that tells the pipe what to render as result.

Here is the RSS feed with the recommended reading from Teamness. Please feel free to subscribe to it.

I also kept the Twitter id in the pipe configurable, so if you mark some of your updates in the same way, prefixed with #RR, you may use the same pipe by changing only the id below:


Eduard said...

Interesting article! One question..if my life is going well without Twitter...why should I start using it from now? :) (I might add to this that I am among few people without an account on Facebook)

Paul Marculescu said...

Thanks, Eduard.

I'm not saying you should start using Twitter. I don't have a personal Twitter account myself.

I don't have a Facebook account either. We can start a social network of our own: people without Facebook accounts. :D