TweetStat Mashup

In lew of my review of TweetStat I decided to do an interview with the head developer of the web service. Just before I started to type up the article for the service review I sent a private message to @TweetStat on twitter. As luck would have it Damon agreed to the interview. We then settled up the time for April 10, 2008 at 3:30 MST. The transcript goes as follows:

3:37 TweetStat

Hello

3:37 Dwight Spencer

Hi

I’m glad that you agreed to the interview

3:38 TweetStat

Not a problem at all – what are you looking to chat about?

3:39 Dwight Spencer

its mainly about the site. So to start off what inspired you to create TweetStats?

3:40 TweetStat

Well it was just before my 2000th tweet and as a fairly recent Twitter-holic, I was curious how I had used the service over time.

So I sat down with some perl, Excel pivot tables, and Numbers charts and in a couple hours had a script to download all my tweets and graph them over time

I eventually posted the script to my blog and after a surprising number of downloads and seeing that other people were interested in graphing their timeline, I had the desire to make it a web service.

3:43 Dwight Spencer

very nice. which that brings up what development environment did you decide to use in development of TweetStat?

3:52 TweetStat

Short answer – Ruby on Rails.

Long answer – it was important to me that the charts looked good. I had seen some other implementations online but they had some things I didn’t like whether it was as simple as an ugly chart or more complicated as not being able to gracefully handle a large amount of traffic.

So I researched charts and seeing as how I wanted to site to have a clean web 2.0-ish look, I figured Ruby on Rails was a suitable language – I’ve also been wanting to learn Rails for a while.

3:54 Dwight Spencer

quite a good way for it too.

3:56 TweetStat

Hehe definitely – Fortunately there are a ton of good tutorials/howtos/etc.

3:56 Dwight Spencer

that there is.

As many who have used the twitter client, Twhirl have know one can use your service from it. will there be a published API for other app writers to use?

3:57 TweetStat

haha, good question.

I am hoping to provide some sort of badge or other JavaScript-fu that people can query or display on their site. I hadn’t considered a full-fledged API as this is really just a hobby project for me.

4:02 Dwight Spencer

How long did it take you to develope the site?

4:03 TweetStat

All told, probably a couple weeks time. I announced/released it one month after I put out the perl script. It was mostly coded in the space of two very sleep-deprived weekends, though.

4:04 Dwight Spencer

very nice. I’m impressed.

4:04 TweetStat

Hehe, thanks. I got oddly motivated and ignored everything else.

4:05 Dwight Spencer

I know the feeling, its the same way for me with many of my oss projects.

4:06 TweetStat

yea, I def wish I could put more time into it, but alas…have to pay the bills somehow.

4:06 Dwight Spencer

very true. and that brings me to my next question.

Why did you deside to use a donation model for the site revenue?

4:07 TweetStat

Well I’m not incurring any extra expense as the site is on a server that I already own. I was never hoping to make any money on it, but am definitely appreciative of any donations people make.

That being said…

I would definitely like to be able to make the site perform better and am considering ways to do that. I, personally, am not a big fan of ads although I do realize they are a primary means of generating revenue on the net these days.

I made TweetStats because I enjoyed doing so, not because I wanted to rake in cash – call me naive.

4:10 Dwight Spencer

nah, I’ve found that’s usually how it goes for developers that’s not from Silicon valley. Its nice and refreshing in these days.

4:12 TweetStat

Yea, as I mentioned – my motivation was to have fun, enjoy learning a new language and if people liked it then so be it.

4:12 Dwight Spencer

Very nice indeed. How do you see the site growing in the new future(features, users, traffic)?

4:13 TweetStat

I’ve gotten a number of feature requests for different types of stats – more detailed, % of replies that are @’s, etc.

Right now I’m trying to focus on some more detailed stats and helping users identify their followers better. For example:

1) The ability to see your activity over a specific period of time. The past x days, etc. This is in “alpha” at the moment.

2) Try to incorporate JavaScript charts as well (current charting component is flash-based) so they can be embedded on web pages/blogs and work on the iPHone.

3) Branch out into other areas where I see a need in Twitter such as the ability to visualize your followers better, find intersections and see who else you might be interested in following.

It’s not the most “useful” site, I’ll admit – but it’s definitely fun. I’ve gotten some spikes when big names on Twitter mention it or it gets blog, but the traffic usually hovers pretty low.

Of course – the above is all based on the assumption that I am able to add extra hours into our current 24-hour based days. I’m working on that as a side project too, hehe.

I think there’s a lot of room for Twitter to grow in the statistics area to improve the user experience (see http://www.kungfugrippe.com/post/31376570) and while I would love to further that goal…my time is limited.

That of course offers the question – should I open source it and allow others to contribute?

4:18 Dwight Spencer

hey, that’s my next question.. hehe

Would you ever consider offering up the project to the open source community?

4:21 TweetStat

I’ve gotten a couple requests to do so and I am considering it in order to make the site better. As a novice Ruby coder, I’m sure others code do a much better job.

4:22 Dwight Spencer

well it would be nice to see it opened up. I know I have a few ideas for RSS output and xml API already.

4:23 TweetStat

I would also like to set up a Jabber server so I can pull from the public timeline instead of having to go back and scrape tweets – but again, that full-time job keeps getting in the way.

4:24 Dwight Spencer

so true. heehe

that’s about it, other than Who holds the credit for the service? or as Scoble puts it bluntly, Who are you?

4:27 TweetStat

Daunting question.

I suppose I wrote the original twitter_stats.pl script, but TweetStats wouldn’t be what it is without the work of many others in the community such as backgroundrb developers, Fusion Charts developers, @kejadlen who wrote a ruby port of the twitter stats script that got some use and the awesome rails tutorials that are available on the net…

oh, and I guess I should mention I’m @dacort on Twitter and my personal blog can be found at http://dcortesi.com.

4:31 Dwight Spencer

smashing. Well unless you have an questions for me? I think that’s about it for the interview

4:32 TweetStat

Just wondering where the interview will be posted and when I suppose?

4:32 Dwight Spencer

great question

its going to be at The Teachings of Master Den Zuko(denzuko.wordpress.com) and I’ll have it up by tomorrow morning

4:33 TweetStat

awesome!

4:33 Dwight Spencer

I usually do a tweet when I post a new article

4:33 TweetStat

Well thanks for the interview, I definitely appreciate the interest in TweetStats!

4:34 Dwight Spencer

your welcome. and I appreciate you taking the time out for me to do the interview.

4:34 TweetStat

Of course, anytime.

And now I’m off to pick up @MarinaMartin (who, as luck would have it…I met on Twitter lol)

4:35 Dwight Spencer

nice. have fun mate. cheerio

All in all it was a very good interview and I still can’t thank Damon for agreeing to the interview. Though, there was some network hiccups there on my end, but those where edited out for readability.

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