My most re-tweeted

Yesterday evening was inspirational.  I solved a problem that was posed to the twitterati at large earlier in the day, a solution that I thought might be useful to the general Twitter community, and which had certainly challenged my own technical limits.

I awoke to a whole bunch of re-tweets (ten in total, which is about 400% more than my previous record, I reckon) which made me giddy.  Giddier even than I had been the previous evening at my relative technical prowess at having solved the problem, which is saying something.

Twitter is lovely.  It gives a sense of community which your life doesn’t necessarily afford; and it allows you to share ideas and innovation with people of a relatively like mind, and for them to spread the word.

The tool I created?  A way of creating a Google Reader feed from your password-protected Twitter feed—using Yahoo! Pipes.  Probably beneath most of my audience; but an immense source of pleasure for me.

Your Twitter feed in Google Reader. FTW

@olibarrett and @hubmum gave the following request on Twitter earlier.

I would like a weekly or daily email digest of all of the URLs the people I follow share on Twitter. How could we build this?

At first, I resorted to my trusted Twoogle solution, trying to get feeds aggregated in Google Spreadsheets and then parsing and filtering as necessary.

But this just wasn’t practical.  Particularly when the number of people followed increases (190 and 246 for oli and hub respectively).  (My Twoogle solution is fine for up to 20 followees.)

So I resorted to Yahoo! Pipes.  And before tonight, I was a Pipes virgin.  It’s not the most intuitive app. in the world, but eventually I got there, delayed both by their unintuitive naming convention and by my parallel-running the experimentation with the heating up of the scrumptious meatballs my wife had made earlier.

Anyway, here’s a summary of what I did.

I had to create two pipes.  The first gave me a Yahoo! Pipes URL of an authenticated RSS feed of my own Twitter stream, with my Twitter password embedded and fully visible in the URL.  The second took that RSS feed as the input, filtering the feed to keep only the posts containing http.  So the output was an RSS feed of tweets containing links.

Now RSS feeds only generally contain 20 items.  This one contained less, because it contained the subset of 20 items that contained links.  Not ideal.  But beautifully, Google Reader remembers.  So you can use the output of the second Pipe as a Google Reader feed, and it will keep amassing all the tweets containing links.  I think.

(BTW, bypass step 2 above, and you get your entire Twitter feed in Google Reader.  Neat!)

So, here are the steps to address the original request.  I’m going to try to give noddy steps to prevent loads of questions.  Apologies if they come across as patronising to the more technically savvy.  (Bear in mind, I’m beyond the edge of my knowledge-base here.)

Creating your authenticated feed

  1. Grab and copy your Twitter RSS feed’s URL.  To do this, either
    1. Go to your feed page in Twitter, right-click the RSS feed link on the right-hand side, and hit Copy link location, or whatever your browser’s equivalent is
    2. Or use http://twitter.com/statuses/friends_timeline/MyUserName.rss, replacing MyUserName with, er, your user name
  2. Go to http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.info?_id=ChgxzmTd2xGblhSrnkartA
  3. Enter your password, username and the above-copied feed address in the corresponding fields, obeying the specific instructions for escaping special characters.  Also remember to remove the http:// from your feed URL
  4. Hit Run Pipe
  5. Your feed will appear on that page.  Right-click the Get as RSS link that appears, and hit Copy link location (or your browser’s equivalent)
  6. Paste this into Notepad for future use

That URL is an authenticated feed for your Twitter stream, so keep it safe.  (You’ll notice that it contains your password for all to see.  Don’t worry, though.  This is not an issue.)

Now to filter out the posts without links.  For this, you’re going to have to create your own Pipe from scratch.  Don’t worry though—I’m right beside you.

  1. Go to Yahoo! Pipes: http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/
  2. Log in if necessary using Yahoo! credentials.  (If you’re a Yahoo! virgin, you’ll have to create an account.)
  3. Hit Create Pipe
  4. From the Sources section on the left, drag Fetch Feed into the gridded working area, placing it near the top of that area
  5. Copy and paste the URL that you saved from the first set of instructions into the URL box
  6. Now expand the Operators group on the left-hand side and drag Filter across to the working grid, placing it just below the Fetch Feed module that you’ve just completed
  7. Using the little blobs at the top and bottom of the modules, connect the bottom of the Fetch Feed box to the top of the Filter box
  8. Change the Filter module to say “Permit items that match all of the following.  item.description contains http”
  9. Connect the bottom of the Filter box to the top of the Pipe Output box
  10. Save the Pipe, giving it a suitable name (Twitter links?)
  11. Hit Run Pipe.  This will give you the feed that you want, with links at the top representing different options
  12. Hit the “+ Google” button, and the feed will be added to Google Reader

And we’re done.

If you want your full Twitter feed in Google Reader, just do the first set of steps and use that URL as your Google Reade feed address.

House warming soirée

If you’re reading this, I’m hoping you’ve noticed that we’ve moved.  Five years to the day after our birth.

That’s right: Tangential Ramblings was born on 6 July, 2004 as a means of documenting our time in New York which started six days later.  And since then, we’ve had (suffered?) 1,512 posts that have attracted 1,968 comments.

We’ve moved to make way for the professional offering of osirra consulting, which can be found at osirra.com.  Please pop along there to see whether any of the services are of interest to you.  And please update your bookmarks to http://blog.osirra.com and your feed addresses to http://feeds.feedburner.com/TangentialRamblings to make sure your feed is always up-to-date.

And welcome to our new home.  Take a look around; and if you go to the toilet, please put the seat down when you’re done.  Thanks.

A wonderful life

Tonight I’m sat on our balcony having just devoured a delicious mountain of self-barbecued meat and scrumptious wife-prepared salad.  The blackbirds are hopping around the freshly-watered lawn below in search of aquaphobic worms; and delightful engine noise interrupts the evening every 90 seconds or so, as planes make their final descent, returning holidaymakers to Heathrow.

The sun has dipped over the house and now drenches the tops of the trees and the houses opposite with its deep orange sunlight.  And the breeze is sufficient to make the trees rustle and sway, but is not so strong as to interrupt my pleasure at the passage of the evening.  Meanwhile my daughter sleeps soundly and safely in her cot.

Life is good.

We’re moving

So, five years after osirra.com was created as the home of Tangential Ramblings, it has moved house.  Only round the corner though.  Please read on if you’d like to continue subscribing to the blog.

Tangential Ramblings has moved to http://blog.osirra.com.  The plan is to use the main http://www.osirra.com domain for an altogether more professional presence, advertising my company’s offerings and being the home of my less bizarre side; and there won’t be much in the way of cross-linking from the sublime to the ridiculous.  For the next few days, it will continue to point to Tangential Ramblings, to allow you a few days to accommodate the change.

The new sub-domain (http://blog.osirra.com) is already working, so please change your bookmarks and subscription details so that you’re not caught looking for the old blog come the big switch.  All being well, the new http://www.osirra.com site will be going live on Monday, the fifth anniversary of the domain.

Please comment if you have any questions.  And welcome to the new home—grab yourself a glass, and cheese and pineapple on a stick.

Monday 6 July, 2009. Statistically significant

I’m sure you’re all aware of the double significance of Monday.  But I thought I’d document it for completeness and for the heathens among you.

Monday 6 July, 2009 will mark the fifth anniversary of this humble little blog.  And it will also be the 40,000th day since the start of the 20th century. *

The latter fact is, of course, significant given that Excel calculates time in days using 1 January, 1900 as its point of reference.  (50,000 will occur on 21 November, 2036, in case you want to book a venue in advance.)

Happy fifth birthday for Monday, little blog.  And happy 40,000th birthday, Excel.

* Actually, Tuesday 7 July, 1900 is the 40,000th day since the start of the 20th century.  But Excel purposely included a bug making 1900 a leap year (it wasn’t; remember?) to comply with other flawed date systems.  So Excel thinks 6 July, 2009 is represented as 40,000, even though it should be 39,999.

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