All posts by Brian Cantoni

Tweetfave Support for Longer Tweets

Tonight I spent a couple hours troubleshooting a problem with my Tweetfave service and handling of links. Luckily I discovered it was a simple matter of keeping up with Twitter’s API changes. This service has been running so smoothly and the API has actually been pretty stable. I needed to dust off my PHP skills and dig in to track down and adapt to an important change.

Background

Tweetfave is a free service which monitors the tweets you mark as favorites (now referred to as “likes”), then sends them to you by email. Currently the system stats show over 250 users have tried the service, recording just under 400,000 tweets!

One of the handy features in Tweetfave is the “un-shortening” of the short URLs embedded in the tweet. Rather than showing a generic “http://t.co/xyz” link, the software will reveal the original URL.

Problem

This has all been working fine, but recently I noticed something strange where the URL decoding resulted in a link back to the original tweet. Instead we should be seeing the the links within the tweet.

Here’s an example with the original tweet which doesn’t have any links, but does include an embedded image which should have a Twitter image URL:

Truebeck tweet screenshot
Example tweet with image

However when it’s processed by Tweetfave, the resulting email snippet shows a link back to https://twitter.com/i/web/status/831963043508596736 which is the original tweet:

Truebeck tweetfave email snippet
Incorrect Tweetfave email snippet

Solution

It took a bit of trial and error, debug logging, and Google searching to find the culprit: the support for more than 140 characters in tweets. When Twitter added that support, they wanted to retain compatibility. Any API call which returned tweet text was still limited to 140 characters, with the link back to the tweet to read the rest.

It looks like the announcements came out in May 2016:

They were a little fuzzy about when the actual changes would happen, but from my logs I think it was around October 2016.

In the end the change was quite simple:

  1. Include the parameters extended_tweet=true in the API requests
  2. Retrieve the original tweet text from the full_text rather than text response field

With those changes in place everything works again. For example this tweet from TheNextWeb includes both an article link and an image:

TNW tweet screenshot
Example tweet with image and link

Once decoded and sent by Tweetfave, the result included decoded links for both the article and the picture:

TNW Tweetfave email snippet
Corrected Tweetfave email snippet

Mac Command-Line Notification Tools

Mac Keyboard

Photo credit: Not afraid of the Dark by nez (Flickr)

Here’s a collection of useful command-line notification tools for Mac developers. I’ve been using these for long-running build jobs or other tasks which I’m waiting for. The three methods I describe here are voice audio, system notifications, and SMS text messaging.

Voice Audio

Voice audio is built into Mac OSX and available from the command line with the say utility. To learn the various options, refer to the say man page (or locally just man say).

In the simplest case, just give it a text string to read aloud:

$ say "hello"

Run this at the end of a build step (or anything else which may take a while):

$ ./gradlew test; say "build and test done"

You can also choose which of the system voices to use: OS X Yosemite: Change your computer’s voice.

System Notification

With Mavericks and later (OSX 10.9), you can do this using AppleScript’s display notification command:

$ display notification "the build is done" with title "Builder"

To make this easier to remember, you can create a notify command (/usr/local/bin/notify) like this:

# !/bin/bash
/usr/bin/osascript -e "display notification \"$*\" with title \"Terminal\""

Then you can call it from the command-line like this:

$ ./gradlew dist; notify "Build complete"

This idea is cribbed from this great answer on AskDifferent.

SMS Text Messaging

Finally, we have text messaging. The above two options are useful when you’re at your computer, but if you want to be notified regardless of where you are, text messaging is perfect.

There are a few different options for text messaging from the command line (Google Search for ‘command line text message’ to see a few), but I prefer to use Twilio. It’s much cleaner than some solutions (especially the ones which rely on mobile carriers’ email-to-SMS gateways) and it’s quite cheap ($1/month for a phone number and $0.0075/message).

To set it up, visit the Twilio Labs Bash SMS example page to download the script, configure with your account details, and see the usage patterns.

A simple example will look like this:

$ echo "Watson come here" | twilio-sms 415-555-1212

Then like the other options above you can combine it with your build commands like:

$ /run/some/long/process; echo "It is done" | twilio-sms 415-555-1212

Tech Advent Calendars – 2016

City Advent Calendar 2012 by brickset on Flickr

It’s that time of the year again and I’m happy to see Advent calendars for many tech communities are still going strong. As in past years (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and for some reason skipped 2015), I’ve gathered a few here that I’ll be following this year:

In years past I also created a combined feed through Yahoo! Pipes, but sadly that service was shut down in 2015.

Luckily there is still a bit of RSS and feed infrastructure out there, including the aptly-named RSS Mix. Here’s a combined RSS feed with all of the above calendars: http://www.rssmix.com/u/8215936/rss.xml

Update: The RSS Mix feed was sometimes not working correctly, so I also created a mix using MailChimp’s ChimpFeedr service: http://mix.chimpfeedr.com/af982-Tech-Advent-2016

Update #2: From Perl Weekly I just learned about Advent Planet which combines all of the above advent calendars and more into one mega-advent!

Happy Holidays!

Recommended Tech Podcasts

Microphone photo

Here’s what I’m currently listening to when I can. They’ve been piling up a little bit now that my commute is so short, but last week I had a round-trip drive from San Jose to Fresno so really got caught up :) See last year’s updates at
Best Technical Podcasts.

.NET Rocks! [rss]

Hosted by Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell, this is probably the podcast I’ve listened to the longest. As their site says, the shows “range from introductory information to hardcore geekiness.” In particular I really like their “geek out” episodes, most recently: Supersonic Aircraft Geek Out

Startups For the Rest of Us [rss]

Continues to be a favorite of mine with lots of discussion around bootstrapped startups, with updates from hosts Rob Walling and Mike Taber and occasional interviews.

Hanselminutes [rss]

Still one of my favorites. Scott is really a great interviewer and has a real variety of guests & topics. Recent interesting episode (with a sweet tag line): Failure – “What if you fake it and don’t make it?” with Kronda Adair

Giant Robots Smashing into other Giant Robots Podcast [rss]

Ben Orenstein and Chris Toomey talk about design, code and marketing decisions for a couple of thoughtbot SaaS products.

Bootstrapped Web [rss]

Brian Casel and Jordan Gal give weekly updates on their own “bootstrapped” web projects, with occasional guest interviews.

The Changelog [rss]

All open source, all the time. Recent (awesome!) episode: The Changelog #200: JavaScript and Robots with Raquel Vélez (rockbot)

RunAs Radio [rss]

Hosted by Richard Campbell (also co-host .Net Rocks!), this podcast is more IT-focused rather than developer-focused. Recent interesting episode: The Infrastructure Release Pipeline with Steve Murawski and Michael Greene

Software Engineering Daily [rss]

I found this one when I heard that Tim Berglund would be talking about Cassandra and have stuck around for a nice variety of technical interviews.

Photo credit:
heil pr40 in studio ozdorp by Peet Sneekes (Flickr)

Tweetfave Growth Tops 240K Tweets

Ever since I launched Tweetfave in 2013, it’s been quietly working away and slowly growing. (For some more of the background, see Brief History of Tweetfave.)

An update on the numbers so far:

  • Over 200 users have tried the service, with over 100 still active
  • Over 240,000 favorite tweets have been marked and emailed

Here’s a growth chart which shows the tweet count growing at a steady rate ever since we went live. The rate of new users cooled off after that first year but is still growing by a few each month. The growth has basically been some word-of-mouth and people who stumble across it (I’m not doing anything active to reach out). I guess you could call it a “hockey stick” growth curve if you count those first 2 years with me as the only user :)

Graph showing total tweets growing to 240,000 and users to about 200
Tweetfave 5-Year Growth Chart