Sometimes you need an excuse to learn a new programing language. For me, that language is Python and that excuse is creating a ‘bot’ for Twitter. I won’t talk about what the bot does yet, since it’s only about 40% done at this point, but I thought the experience of learning how to create it was valuable and worth sharing.
Why Python? Well Google, xkcd, and Mark Pilgrim seem to like it. For me, that’s actually good enough right there. And why Twitter? My good friends Shawn Smith and Mike Lambie think it’s a pretty cool service and will probably keep growing. So I figure it’s worth learning the Twitter APIs.
The most important thing to getting people to use software is to make it easy. Easy isn’t easy, but some companies do a great job of making things easy. The social websites that have done well have done so because they are good at lowering the barrier to entry for people. My grandpa has a Facebook account and I since I never showed him the site I’m not kidding when I say to you that easy is what really matters.
Let’s talk about Facebook for a minute (I’ll ignore MySpace for now since it’s basically Facebook’s very ugly and very dumb little bastard brother). Let’s look at both the good and the really stupid. Facebook gives you a way to easily join, and search for friends, and do things with like look at you friend’s pictures and interact using the site. On top of that they build (and let others build) Facebook apps to increase what you can do there. They do it well, but it’s pretty much like every other social site. You join, you put up stuff, and you find your friends and their stuff. Same process over and over.
It’s 2008. We are all now spewing information about ourselves in every which way. This is great for sharing our lives online and using the internet as a social medium. The only problem with this is that this system begins to break down more with each additional service that you use. And you have to use multiple services, since you have different friends and audiences on each. You have no choice in the matter. What’s worse, they don’t always often almost-ever play well together. It’s like they don’t even care about you.
Twhirl, everyone’s favorite cross-platform Adobe AIR based client got a public update today with the release of version 0.8. Most notable new feature is added support for FriendFeed. Go download it here.
So first off, FriendFeed is a great service and kudos to all those that have worked hard on it. I’ve been using the service for a little while now and I’ve come to believe there are three features that it really needs to make it into a much more powerful app.
1) Personal Ranking of Users and Content Type
Facebook already has this. When you get your news feed of your friends activity, you can signal a thumbs up (or the equivalent of a thumbs down) and Facebook learns what type of friend activity you are actually interested in. FriendFeed should give you the ability to do this both on a user level (i.e. friends you care about more than others) and on a friend service or content type level (e.g. I like their tweets but not their flickr photos). When it learns what you like, FriendFeed should show those items more often and respectively other items less often or never.