Jun. 15th, 2009

joreth: (Rock Climbing)
I'm writing this mostly for my own archival purposes, but I'm leaving it public in case others want to know, along with the background of what brought it up, since it's amusing.

Here's a good explanation of some work-arounds for Twitter from [personal profile] zarfmouse on how to mashup Twitter with a bunch of other stuff. I'm writing about the ones I plan to use.

So, I'm on Twitter (as Joreth), even though I don't find it very useful but I do find it mildly entertaining. If Twitter ended tomorrow, I wouldn't be heartbroken, but it has some utility. What I get out of it the most is cool atheist quotes and I'm having a bit of fun participating in the RT fad of immediately re-posting something that someone else posted (called ReTweeting). I think what I like about it is related to what makes people send glurge and sappy forwards and really stupid jokes through email, but with LJ and Twitter, I can just post it more or less publicly without emailing someone, which I feel is somewhat intrusive. If someone wants to read what I pass on, they have to come to my page or they have to friend me, which indicates that they want to read what I post.

So I find it to be useful in that respect - indulging in my not-really-important shouting out to the world something interesting without feeling like I'm interrupting my friends.

I have friended a few people, but not all of my friends, and I've friended a couple of my skeptic heroes, like Richard Dawkins, Rebecca Watson, Phil Plait, and James Randi. Who I decide to friend depends primarily on how social I'm feeling at the exact moment they friend me. It has nothing at all to do with how I feel about that person specifically. Much like who gets friended on LJ :-)

One of the neat features of Twitter is that I can send tweets from my phone. This, again, indulges my "OMG something funny I have to tell someone RIGHT NOW but really isn't important or I'd actually call someone" desires. It's the stupid joke I just heard and would share with someone if someone were there, but since no one is, I'll probably just forget about it because it wasn't that big of a deal sort of thing. But I have a very limited text messaging plan, so I have the feature that sends other people's tweets to my phone turned off.

Here is where Twitter has pretty spectacularly failed, IMO. You can subscribe to any specific person and get ALL of their tweets. And that's it. I can't subscribe, on my phone, to a particular hashtag (like wanting to read everything that's tagged with "shouldbeobvious" regardless of who tweeted) and I can't receive on my phone only those tweets that are directed specifically at me like replies to something I've tweeted about (in tweet-speak, that's any tweet that has @Joreth somewhere in the text).

This is profoundly annoying. I discovered this when I posted something to Twitter from my phone and then realized that I couldn't see if anyone responded to that tweet until I got home to check my Twitter page. Unless I subscribed to all of my friends and got ALL of their tweets that day. This, of course, also leaves out anyone who is not currently in my friends list who happen to see my tweet and responded (this happens mostly when I put the #atheism tag at the end of one of my tweets and anyone who searches for #atheism will read it even if they're not currently following me).

So I'm either Twitter-blind when I'm not near a computer and I can send tweets out but can't receive any, or I'm bombarded with all tweets by whomever I subscribe to - and some of my friends are rather twitter-happy ... you know who you are! This would quickly send my SMS plan skyrocketing. And I *still* wouldn't get tweets from people I'm not subscribed to if they send a reply tweet (@Joreth) or if they attach a tag that I'm interested in following. So Twitter fails with cell phone messaging.

Another #fail of Twitter is that you can't have more than one Twitter account associated to a single phone number AND you can't have more than one phone number associated with a single Twitter account.

So this means that, when I set up the OrlandoPoly Twitter account to post last-minute information, like where we're going for dinner after the meeting, I can't send a tweet from my phone because it's already associated with my personal account. I have to log in to Twitter from a computer to send those tweets so that people who are attending *just* the social dinner can get that information in time to join us.

Fortunately, The Center, where we meet, has a computer lab, so this *shouldn't* be a problem most months. Except this month when the key wouldn't work and we had to move the meeting at the last minute to another location and I couldn't get in to use their computer lab.

I also couldn't add multiple phones to the OrlandPoly Twitter account if I wanted to distribute the responsibility among a panel of OP officers or administrators, if I wanted to.

Here's why this comes up now:

In the last couple of days, I've been having a go-round with some idiot who has the absolute hubris to name himself TrumpetofGod on Twitter. It started by pointing out his logical fallacy of claiming that atheists who reject god are therefore setting themselves up to be god. I couldn't resist notifying him that people who do not believe god exists at all can't therefore claim to be a god, because we would then cease to exist ourselves (or believe ourselves to not exist). He then proceeded to send nearly a dozen @replies full of gibberish. It was a major blue-fish-tuba moment. As in, I understand the definition of each of those words, but strung together in that order and the sentence has no meaning. One or two of them were understandable, if by "understandable", I mean that I did actually understand the meaning underlying the sentence but he was still speaking religious nonsense.

One of those sentences was: "Jesus answerd did you hear. He said U want to kill me because my Word (pure love) has no place in you. Ur heart is either for love r"

Our exchange has quickly gone downhill from there.

So I thought I'd add him to my Online Skeezballs tag here on LJ for everyone's enjoyment, but rather than copy/paste my tweets, then go to my @reply page and copy/paste his tweets, I decided to do a Google search to see how this whole auto-tweet-to-LJ thing worked and if I could filter or specify or do something to post just this exchange.

That brought me to this guy's LJ with his Mashup instructions.

TwitterMail SMS -> Twitter Feed

TwitterMail will give you a special secret email address. When you send an email to that address it'll get posted to your twitter. Unfortunately you will need to give TwitterMail your Twitter password which is not something I'd normally recommend (since TwitterMail is a third party), however your twitter is a public feed with very little sensitive information so the cost of being hacked by the owners of TwitterMail is very low.

Now if you store the special secret TwitterMail email address in your phone's contact list, you can quickly and easily send an SMS to that address and it'll go instantly to your twitter feed. This also bypasses the possibility that Twitter could in the future charge a premium rate for their built-in SMS service.

You can register the email address of your cell phone (e.g. 7735551212@tmomail.net) with TwitterMail so that when people @reply to your twitter messages that'll get SMS'ed back to your phone.

I tried this.  I was able to successfully post a test message to the OrlandoPoly Twitter account from my phone even though that phone is currently associated with my Joreth Twitter account.  But so far, receiving @replies isn't working.  I registered my cell phone email address with my Joreth account, then sent an @reply from the OrlandoPoly account at the website, but I haven't received that as an SMS yet, 2 hours ago by the time of this posting - I will update if it starts working

UPDATE from the Twittermail FAQs page: 
If a friend send you a post on twitter (by using @yourusername) we will send it to your emailaddress. You can enable/disable this in your settings.

We're checking your replies every 2 days, if you want an e-mail instantly when you receive a Twitter reply, then we have a special feature for Friends of Twittermail (this means that people who donate $15+ become "Friends of Twittermail and get replies instantly).

So apparently I won't get my @replies right away.  I'll wait 48 hours for an SMS and I'll post what happens here.  If I actually get an SMS with my @replies, then I might spend the $15 to get them instantly, because waiting 2 days defeats the purpose of having them sent to my phone - I could just check the website.

RSSFWD - Twitter Feed -> Cell Phone

If your phone doesn't work with Twitter's built in SMS service there will still be one piece of the puzzle missing. You want to get updates from certain friends sent directly to your cell phone so you can have up to the minute status updates.

First determine the email address of your phone.

Next determine the RSS Feed of the twitter feed you want to send to your cell phone.

Then just go to
RSSForward and enter the feed URL and submit. Use text only messages (there's a checkbox for this). When it asks you what email address to subscribe you should NOT use your cell phone's email address directly. Instead you should use your gmail account or some other account that lets you set up a custom filter.

Then in your email program (e.g. gmail) set up a filter so that messages from rssforward get forwarded to your cell phone. You could get arbitrarily clever with this and subscribe your email address to ALL your followed twitter feeds but only forward certain ones to your cell phone.

The reason for the filter-forward step is so you can easily use the "unsubscribe" link provided in each rssforward message.

Why the RSSForward feature is so neat, is that I can subscribe to the RSS feed for a hashtag and get all tweets that are tagged with something specific. For example, I just subscribed to the RSS feed for all tweets that have the hashtag #shouldbeobvious but nothing has shown up yet (including the test tweet I sent 30 minutes prior to this posting).  If that changes, I'll update this.

UPDATE: I finally received an email/text with the hashtag #shouldbeobvious.  3 days later.  I had actually forgotten which hashtag I was supposed to be looking for.  Since the hashtag I chose has such little activity, I don't know if this will be a recurring flaw in the process or it just took that long to set up.  I'm betting a recurring flaw, like the @reply service above. 

But I'll keep it set up for a while and see how long it takes between hashtag postings and receiving a text.

So, if the RSSForward thing actually sends tweets of specific hashtags to my cell phone, that'd be awesome!  And if Twittermail actually sends @replies to my cell phone, that'd be awesome!  But if not, at least I found a way to send tweets from my cell phone to multiple Twitter accounts.

And if ya'll want to read something that makes your brain hurt, check out TrumpetofGod's Twitter.

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