how to make twitter lists useful (and keep your timeline clean)

For those of you who don’t know, twitter lists are like custom timelines away from your main timeline. Lists contain a selection of twitter users that (usually) have something in common. For example, I have a list called ‘Musics’ which contains artists and bands I’m interested in. Grouping these twitter users in a list, rather than following them in the traditional sense, means that I can still keep tabs on them, without having my main timeline spammed with stuff that I’m not bothered about 100% of the time. The problem I have, is that I rarely think to check my lists for any updates that do pertain to me. For quite a while I wondered if it was possible to export lists to read in my feed reader (RSS/atom). I figured it wasn’t possible, or wasn’t easy at least, since clicking on the feeds button in firefox gives 3 options to subscribe to: my main timeline, my mentions, and my favourites. Also, none of the microblogging clients that I have used (most recently: pino, gwibber, choqok) have a lists feature. I’m unsure if applications on other platforms support lists, let me know if they do!

Anyway, while poking around with the twitter API for a while today, I just noticed that ‘lists’ can be called externally as an atom feed. <- Click on that linked text for all available parameters, etc. Basically, as long as a list is public, it can be seen by anyone. Feed URLs are in the following format for atom feed readers:

https://api.twitter.com/1/:user/lists/:id/statuses.atom

where :user is replaced with the ‘curator’ of the list, and :id with the list name. For example, the list I mentioned earlier called ‘Musics’ which was created by me, has the following feed URL: https://api.twitter.com/1/twitz0r/lists/musics/statuses.atom.

If a list is private, it can’t be viewed by anyone except the twitter user who created it, and so can’t be viewed by any regular feed readers. I’m sure that if you have some super cool feed reader that authenticates you with twitter then that’s not a problem. It isn’t a problem for me, since private lists are boring anyway. I hope this post will be useful to anyone who has the same pining to use lists as they should be used! Good day.

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open social stepping stones

I just stumbled across an interesting new project today called Ostatus. Basically it aims to provide ‘distributed social networking’ by using some existing protocols to existing blogging and microblogging networks. Depending on what sites implement it, it could be very exciting (I’m excited already, can you tell?). So far, they list Google Buzz, StatusNet (and sites running the StatusNet platform, such as identi.ca), WordPress.com, and tumblr as having implemented some or all of the necessary protocols.

If higher profile sites such as twitter and facebook get in on the act, then it could be the answer to a lot of problems. It would mean that we would not all need to have an account on every platform on the web to interact with our acquaintances. We would not need to provide so many sites with our personal details, just because we have a handful of friends that use each. For example, the thousands of people who have left facebook recently could still show up in the friend lists of the zombies who still occupy it, not as facebook profiles, but as profiles from other social networks or blogs.

Some will inevitably ask: Why don’t we all just use the same social network, then we wouldn’t have to worry about all of these unnecessary growing pains?

Well, we all know what happened with the facebook, and why not everyone would agree with that. If there is some aspect of one network that you don’t like, such as the privacy policy, terms and conditions, or the features it provides, you would use a different one instead. Couple this with OpenID, another exciting decentralized open standard, add a few bells and whistles, and we would have a much more open and social web!

Through their unprecedent kickstarter success, the Diaspora guys have proven that we all want more choice and diversity, while at the same time having control over what details we share publicly. This is another project I look forward to. Due to be released in September, it could well be the ‘next big thing,’ if it can do what they promise! The project page already mentions the possibility of OpenID, among some other phenomenally cool stuff. Everyone (who wants to use it) will have a ‘seed,’ which will harness all of their existing information from the social sites they use (and choose to tie in to the seed). When you want to check up on a friend, you check their seed, without having to worry about scouring the web for different sites with the information. It will also mean that the information we see will be a little more ‘proven’ – we will be more certain that the information about the person, is by the person, and not fraudulent. Also, did I mention it will all be encrypted?!

Who knows, maybe by then the internet won’t be cool anymore…

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