Archive for October, 2008

New Twitterless Feature: Groups and Filters

October 27, 2008

After a few weeks of hard work, some new features have been (tentatively) rolled out for Twitterless:  groups and filters.

FILTERS:

Since Twitterless keeps a pretty up-to-date list of your followers, there’s a lot of interesting data to play around with.  It’s one thing to know how many people follow you but another thing entirely to find out who those people are.  This is what the aim of Twitterless filters is.  In the followers section of your Twitterless profile you will notice a variety of filtering options aimed at helping you parse and understand your follower base.  Right now you can filter by type of relationship (friends or follower), order by friend/follower ratio and alphabetically by name, and narrow followers down based on a keyword in their profile descriptions.  

Furthermore, a special search function allows you to search for terms in the tweets of all your followers.  

This is different than doing a broad search on search.twitter.com or tweetscan.com because it’s limited to just your followers.  

Find out what your followers think about an article you wrote or a hot topic while filtering out the noise of the general Twitter public.  Because these searches take a while to process, they are archived so you can refer back to them without having to run them again.  More filters will be added over time, so suggest any you wish existed and they will be implemented.

GROUPS:

There have been many requests out in the Twittersphere for an application that lets users create groups to help manage the high volume of tweets one receives at any given time, and Twitterless was uniquely positioned to provide this functionality because of the aforementioned follower updates.  With groups, you can create a group and add friends and followers to that group wherein their updates will be neatly contained.  You will notice a new “Groups” tab in your Twitterless profile.  From there, you can create a new group, go to your “Followers” tab, and begin selecting followers you want to add to that group.  That group will now be displayed in your groups section along with any other groups you create.  You can refresh groups individually or refresh them all at the same time.  

“Groups” is still very much in its early stages of development, but the basics are in place.  The more feedback given the better they will get, of course.  Because there is no straightforward way to grab the timelines of every group member the process of refreshing a group can take a long time (directly proportional to the number of members in the group). 

 It is well worth the wait, however, because you can see what your followers are saying whether or not you follow them back and you can organize your tweets into more digestible feeds based on any parameters you choose.  In fact, the filters discussed above directly contribute to the functionality of groups.  If you want to create a group that contains rails developers like myself, you could filter your followers and/or friends down based on the keyword “rails” and add them to a group called “Rails People”.  If you wanted to create a group that has only people with very few friends but many followers (popular/famous users), you could sort by ratio and add the first 10 or so resulting Twitterers.  

Groups will be receiving quite a few handy features over the next week and a lot of these will be heavily based on your feedback, so please post suggestions here or use the feedback form on twitterless.com (the link is in the footer).  Thanks to everyone who’s beta testing and a very special thanks to those who are providing feedback!

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Twitterless No Longer Requires Twitter Passwords

October 20, 2008

Ever since Twitterless was first launched, the biggest failing was the requirement to store user’s Twitter account passwords.  The reason these passwords were required was because Twitter puts limits on the number of requests an IP address or Twitter account can make per hour.  Twitterless needs to make many more than 100 requests per hour to find dropped followers for people so the only way to get around this limitation was to make the requests using the authenticated account of the user it was currently checking.  In other words, the burden was distributed across many accounts.

The folks over at Twitter put these limits in check for a reason, most importantly to keep too many people who use the API from overloading the system (any more than it already is).  However, to help foster an active development commnity, Twitter will “whitelist” accounts for developers of Twitter-centric web applications they deem worthy.  I didn’t ask for Twitterless whitelisting status until recently because frankly I thought that the Twitter people may not accept an application that tells users when people stop following them.  As Twitterless grew in popularity, the number of grievances about password storing grew in kind, so I finally decided to request whitelist status despite the chance it may get rejected (or worse, blocked entirely).  

My fears were laid to rest last Friday when I discovered another service called Qwitter that also sends out notifications when followers drop people that actually had whitelisting status.  Not too long after that, whitelisting status was granted for Twitterless and the need for passwords was extinguished – yippee!  Existing users can go into their Twitterless accounts and change their password to something other than their Twitter password and rest easy that it has been erased.  

Now there are some drawbacks.  There are a few Twitterless features that still do require authentic Twitter passwords despite whitelist status, namely: address-bar-posting, auto-block, and auto-follow.  Because the number of people who actually take advantage of these features is very small so far, it isn’t a big deal, but for those of you who are using them you can still take advantage by leaving your actual Twitter password in the database.  The second drawback is that users with Twitter accounts that have been set to “private” will need to continue to supply their authentic Twitter password to Twitterless in order for the service to work for them because “private” also means “nobody, not even programs using the API, can access your information.”  If Twitterless can’t access your info it can’t find out who stops following you. 

So that’s the skinny.  Those of you who were worried about your passwords being stored by a service other than Twitter can now rest easy.  You can change that password in your settings and the new password will be what you use to access your Twitterless account from then on. Also, whitelisting will also allow me to implement some new an interesting features that wouldn’t have been possible without it, so stay tuned for those.  Thanks for trusting me with your passwords up to this point and helping test the application.