You Are What You Eat

twittersheepI’ve never really understood the phrase, “You are what you eat.” If it were true, I’d probably be an In-N-Out burger (double double animal style) or something far worse for you and/or better tasting.

Recently, I overheard someone on Twitter saying something to the effect of:

“You are the sum of the five people you hang out with the most.”

My immediate reaction was to disagree vehemently. I’m totally not like that! I’m exactly who I want to be! I don’t subject myself to the influence of others like that! Etc.

Not only am I completely wrong about this, but it may be that — in some strange cosmic way — I’m actually the sum of ALL the people around me, good, bad and everything else under the sun.

Today I discovered TwitterSheep. (No, this has nothing to do with sheep, fraternity rituals or anything else of a sexual nature, I assure you.) TwitterSheep simply looks at your followers and constructs a tag cloud based on keywords in their bios. That’s not really remarkable, but what is remarkable is that when I ran my Twitter account through the application, the resulting tag cloud literally read like my own bio. Seriously. It’s a visual representation of terms that — when you sum them all together — equal me. The largest words are what I do and care about most.

Am I right about this? Are you the sum of your followers?

Try TwitterSheep and let me know how it worked for you!

Feedback Loop

We’ve been keeping a close watch on what people are saying about my.SXSW and trying to respond to as much of the feedback as possible, either directly from us or via the folks at SXSW.

It’s no surprise — in this “2.0” world of hypersharing and total transparency — that we’ve seen literally hundreds of blog posts and tweets about my.SXSW, but we’ve only received a handful of e-mails.

We don’t really like e-mail anyway, so this is cool.

The SXSW help desk has received a lot of support requests via e-mail, with issue #1 being that the welcome e-mails and password reset e-mails aren’t showing up, most likely due to downstream spam filters. Ah, the irony! Again, this is why e-mail sucks, but it’s sort of something that’s hard to live with and also hard to live without.

So, how are we tracking and responding to feedback?

We’re using a jury-rigged system of free tools: search.twitter.com (remember Summize?), Google Alerts and Google Reader.

This “system” only takes a few minutes to set up and it can be used to track virtually anything being said about anything in a public space on the interwebs.

Basically, you can set up “comprehensive” Google Alerts and have them “delivered” via feed (or e-mail, but you already know how we feel about that). You can do the same with search.twitter.com.

Simply plug the feeds into Google Reader, organize them into folders/tags and voila, your feedback tracking system is ready to roll.

We’re searching for terms like “SXSW,” so obviously we get a lot of false positives. However, it’s easy to manually “star” or “share” items in Google reader and then publish the resulting list of shared or starred items back out as a feed to share with your team via a web page or, if you like, put it back in Google Reader. (Yikes! We know that sounds like it might be infinitely or mutually recursive, but actually, it works — trust us, we’ve tried it.)

So, here it is: a pretty comprehensive list of all the good, the bad and the ugly things people are saying about my.SXSW. Hey, it’s all public information on the interwebs anyway, so why not republish it all in one place?

Adding Context to my.SXSW Tweets

There has been quite a bit of chatter that we’ve been following in the SXSW community about the launch of my.SXSW. Fortunately, most of it has been good news. (Phew!) We’ve also gotten some great, constructive feedback and some fabulous ideas for new features that we wish we would have thought of ourselves!

There’s one issue that has come up a few times that we’d like to address in this post. Several people in the community have expressed concern about the lack of context in tweets coming from my.SXSW. (This only applies to people who have integrated their Twitter accounts.)

We’ve applied two changes to The Social Collective software to help with this. First off, we changed the application source from “The Social Collective” to “my.SXSW” with a link back to the my.SXSW site. Also, we added a “on http://my.sxsw.com” link back to messages that notify people when you join a group.

Keep the feedback coming — we’d love to hear from you!

Friday Fun: Rails, Django and Caprese Salad

twitter(2)I had this Twitter argument today with former coworker, fellow web developer and friend Bryan Hughes:

bucchere: The Spring Framework is driving me crazy. If this were Rails, I’d be done already.

huuuze: @bucchere If it was Django, it’d be faster and ready to scale.

bucchere: @huuuze I’m not interested in a religious war right now. Please don’t provoke me. 😉

huuuze: @bucchere No war — even the Rails guys agree: http://is.gd/1ZZu

bucchere: @huuuze Apparently Gluon is even faster than Django. But is anyone using it? You have to consider factors other than performance.

huuuze: @bucchere Um, Django’s used by thousands. It’s not some fringe framework. Guaranteed anyone that’s used RoR and Django will prefer Django.

bucchere: @huuuze How could you make that “guarantee” when you’ve never used Rails? I said I didn’t want a religious war, you damn Python Nazi. 😉

huuuze: @bucchere I’ve built a couple sites using Rails. How many sites have you built using Django?

bucchere: @huuuze bdg’s svn server just crashed. I have more important things to do than continue this pointless argument.

huuuze: @bucchere Then quit wasting time on Twitter. I’m not trying to start anything with you. Just be aware that RoR isn’t the only game in town.

bucchere: @huuuze There are lots of religions too. And if I want to pick one and say the others are “wrong” then that’s my prerogative.

huuuze: @bucchere Whatever dude. Not sure why you’d say Django is “wrong.”

bucchere: @huuuze All I’m saying is that language/framework wars are like religious wars. I have mine, you have yours. Leave it at that.

bucchere: Enjoying a homemade caprese — my favorite salad. (Now watch while @huuuze tells me his favorite salad is better than mine.)

huuuze: @bucchere Having never tried caprese, I have no opinion on the matter.

bucchere: @huuuze LOL. I’m glad we can still be friends. 🙂

huuuze: @bucchere Get real. I’m only friends with Christians and Django users. 😉

* * *

So the time it took me to compile this discussion made me wonder why Twitter doesn’t have threaded discussions. Summize (now search.twitter.com) has “conversations” but, like Facebook’s wall-to-wall feature, just because the posts occur consecutively, it doesn’t mean that they’re actually “in” the same thread. If I were re-writing Twitter, adding threaded discussions — and with it, the ability to reply to a specific Tweet — would be near the top of my list.

Happy Friday everyone (and happy 3-day weekend for hard-working and hard-twittering Americans)!

Nobody’s Gonna Read This (and Why That Makes Me Happy)

Boy do I love the fact that no one reads this blog. And to the few people who are exceptions to that general rule — thank you for being so supportive!

I just hit two or three web pages in a row (TechCrunch, Digg and the Meebo blog) wherein each post I read had 80+ comments that reminded me why I rarely ever actually read comments.

Haters, trolls, flamers, spammers — whatever you want to call them, the internet is ridden with people who are filled with spite and rage. The funny thing is that in no other forum (except for perhaps while driving) are people this cruel to one another. It’s just not socially acceptable.

I realize that e-hate isn’t a new problem: in fact, it dates back to the early days of UseNet, Netiquette and the ol’ “do we allow AOLer’s on the internet” debate. While doing some fact-checking on wikipedia, I was really amused to read about Godwin’s Law, which sums up what I’m talking about better than I ever could: “As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”

We all know the Kathy Sierra story. I’m glad she had a thick enough skin to re-emerge in the blogging world and on Twitter because the world is a better place with her contributions than it is without them.

We all remember The Great Sarah Lacy Twitter Massacre of SXSW 2008. I recently met Sarah at a tech event in DC and, believe it or not, she doesn’t have horns, literally or figuratively.

Jason Calacanis recently “retired” from blogging. When I read his post, I immediately thought that it was just a PR stunt, but I’m beginning to realize that I can sympathize with his viewpoint. I really don’t want to ever be an A-list blogger or “internet famous” because it’s just like painting a big target on your own ass.

I love my family and close friends, I love the physical neighborhood in which I live and I love the virtual networks that have developed around my career and my passions for the past 15 years or so that I’ve been using the internet.

But honestly, a big part of me doesn’t want anyone else to read this. Not because I don’t take criticism well. (I don’t, but then again nobody does.) I just wish some of the same general rules that apply to social interactions — at say, a cocktail party, a baseball game or at the supermarket — would apply to the internet.

Comments welcome. Just be nice, ok?

Are Twitter Replies Fundamentally Broken?

Has anyone noticed that Twitter replies are fundamentally broken? Or, I should say, at least the “Replies” *tab* is jacked.

This isn’t another “Twitter is down” post — this is about a feature that doesn’t work as it’s designed.

As far as I can tell, replies to me only end up in my “Replies” tab if my Twitter account name (@bucchere) is the first token in the tweet. Yet a lot of people reply to multiple people or use the “@” notation in context, e.g. “I’m playing tennis with @bucchere.”

That “reply,” although it’s clearly got my name in it, won’t end up under my replies tab. Oops.

In The Social Collective, any time an @ token is found, it stores the message as a reply. Isn’t that how Twitter should work as well?

Has anyone else noticed this? Is anyone else annoyed like I am by this obviously broken “feature?” WTF?

There is a workaround, but it’s kludgey. You can use Summize (now located at search.twitter.com) to search for @bucchere. I did this, then ingested the resulting RSS feed into Google Reader and now I go there instead of to my Replies tab in Twitter. FAIL.

[Update: This is now fixed. Yay, Twitter!]

Twitter down again?

twitter-down-againWith the amount of downtime that twitter experiences, it makes me wonder whether or not Ruby on Rails is a viable alternative to PHP, Java, etc.

Is it the platform (RoR) or is it just bad code from Twitter? Or something else entirely?