Tag Archives: Twitter

Twitter limits developers

If you notice problems with your favorite Twitter app, it could be because Twitter has shut down API v1. An API is a programming interface that allows others to use their data services when building apps. In the early days of Twitter, they wanted all the attention they could get and this API made it easy for apps to pull in Twitter content.

Today’s retirement is unlikely to affect any popular apps — since developers have been well aware of the impending transition for some time, and can largely continue affected — but it is a clear milestone of Twitter’s once open ecosystem becoming more restricted.

One popular app that will no longer function is TweetDeck, but others have either become more expensive or shut down completely because the restrictions on the new API meant is was impossible to function profitably.

You’ll find a more complete description of this issue at The Next Web.

How to follow a Twitter list

We all know how well Twitter lets us keep up with friends and family, but did you know how useful Twitter is for news? Twitter lets users organize the people and organizations they follow into lists. These lists can then be used to create topic-specific news feeds. The @genBUZZ user offers several genealogy-related lists providing a sort of genealogy version of the Associated Press. The @genBUZZ lists let you follow (keep up with) specific topics that match your interests. For example, there’s a list for archives, another for old photographs and another for society news.

This is all well and good, but just how do you keep up with the topic of your choice? To do that you need to know how to follow a list.

View the list page of any Twitter user.

If you know the username for a person or organization, you can easily visit their list page using this URL: https://twitter.com/[username]/lists. So, https://twitter.com/genbuzz/lists will display the page you see above. Scroll through the lists and when you see one you find interesting, click on the list title to display its page.

From here you can see samples of the tweets being feed by this list as well as the Twitter users who make up the list. If this is a list you want to follow, just click on the Subscribe button and it’s added to your Twitter feed. You don’t have to follow a Twitter account to follow one or more of its lists.

While you can “read” the list in your favorite web-based twitter app, there’s a growing number of mobile device apps which will turn that 140 character tweet into a delightful reading experience. Probably the best of these is Flipboard [iOS & Android – free]. It supports Twitter lists as well as searches.  Once you have followed a list in your Twitter account, it appears in Flipboard under Accounts > Twitter > Lists You Follow. All you have to do is tap the list name to add it as a Flipboard content section.

genBUZZ News Service Update

The news that Google Reader is shutting down has generated a lot of concern among geneabloggers. Fortunately, a number of people are working hard to fill the void Google Reader’s demise will create. Other apps and platforms are sitting pretty because they already use alternative forms of content distribution. One of those alternatives is Twitter.

The more I experiment with Twitter as a news aggregator, the more impressed I become. That’s why I set up the @genBUZZ account some time back. It’s sole purpose is to provide a genealogy news service. If you are blogging, make sure you are announcing each post via Twitter in addition to your platform’s RSS feed. WordPress users will find this quite easy to do using the Publicize component of the Jetpack plugin. It takes little or no effort on your part, while expanding the reach for your posts.

Once you’ve got your Twitter announcements set up, go to Twitter and follow @genBUZZ. I check followers regularly and add them to the various lists maintained in the profile.

Here are the reading options currently available via @genBUZZ:

  • By following the account’s timeline, you’ll receive updates from all the sites @genBUZZ is following.
  • The account’s tweets provide a curated collection of interesting news, articles and information – not always limited to genea-sources.
  • You can also follow any of the account’s lists for topic-specific content like archives, genealogy pros, graveyards, publishing, photography, geneabloggers, societies and research techniques.

Flipboard [iPad & Android- free] is still my reader of choice and it turns @genBUZZ into a delightful magazine. It now works on iOS and Android tablets. iPhone/Touch readers can use the smartr [iPhone/Touch – free] app for reading Twitter and Facebook updates. Another option is Taptu [Android & iOS – free]. It supports multiple Twitter feeds and has a nice layout for the small screen. I’ve seen photos of it on a tablet that show an awesome interface so it’s definitely worth a look.

genBUZZ will continue to grow and while I’m having great fun doing it, it’s not just for me. All comments and suggestions are welcome.

Tech Notes – 28 September 2012

An evening paddle on Moultrie Creek.

There are serious security issues with Java – so serious that McAfee, the computer security company, is recommending you turn off Java unless absolutely necessary. From CNET:

Security Explorations conducted tests on a fully patched Windows 7 machine, and was able to exploit the bug using the Java plugin in the latest versions of most popular browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera). While the error was only tested on Windows 7 32-bit, being in Java means it is not limited to the Windows platform and will affect anyone with Java installed on their systems, be it Windows, Linux, Mac, or Solaris.


Apple has been so concerned about Java that it removed it from OS X releases after 10.6 (Snow Leopard). If you are running either Lion or Mountain Lion, you do not have Java on your computer unless you installed it yourself.

NOTE: Java is a major programming language. It has nothing in common with Javascript – a scripting language used for Web development – except the name.

Have you seen the new NOOK HD tablets? There’s both a 7″ [starting at $199] and a 9″ [starting at $269] model. The tablets are beautiful and Barnes & Noble does have a huge selection of books and magazines, but it’s still lacking in other media and apps. Hopefully, their collaboration with Microsoft will help improve that.

If, like me, you’re concerned about where Twitter’s headed, this article from ReadWriteWeb may help explain what’s happening. I love Twitter on Flipboard for both reading and conversation, but if that’s taken away from me, Twitter will become significantly less interesting. I’m sure Flipboard is planning for that eventuality and I’m guessing they will have an amazing alternative ready . . . Oh, and if you’re as fascinated with space as I am, you might want to subscribe to Flipboard’s  Space feed.


Camera+ [iPad – $0.99] – the amazing camera app for the iPhone – has now come to the iPad bringing “professional quality shooting and editing” features to your iPad. I love the iPhone edition but I’m not sure how much I’d use my iPad to take pictures . . . Right now both editions are on sale for 99¢.


TextExpander [Mac – $34.95, iOS – $4.99] recently updated the desktop app to version 4.  Over at Mac|Life, you’ll find a very nice article on getting started with TextExpander. Elements 2 [iOS -$4.99], a very nice notes app that supports Markdown, now also supports TextExpander.

The folks at CottageArts.net are having a lot of fun with Instagram – even making a gorgeous calendar page using their photos. See if it doesn’t inspire you too.

Google now lets you sync your contacts with Apple. ReadWriteWeb has the details.

New Kindles start arriving next week!  Stay tuned to see if they live up to all the promotion.




What’s going on with Feedburner?

Feedburner is the service that serves RSS feeds for many bloggers, podcasters and news services. It also maintains stats on those feeds and provides other services to analyze traffic associated with those feeds. Google bought Feedburner sometime back, but it appears to have become an unwanted step-child. Yesterday two things happened. First, I saw a note on ResearchBuzz that Google was shutting down the Feedburner API effective next month. Then, I noticed a lot of people complaining that they weren’t getting stats from Feedburner. Mine took a dive too, but they are back up now. TechCrunch reported Monday that the Feedburner blog and Twitter account had been shut down back in July.

I don’t think Feedburner is going away any time soon, but it does concern me that it is being so ignored. Yes, there are alternatives to Feedburner. WordPress users (both .com users and self-hosted) can take advantage of WordPress.com’s Site Stats feature (self-hosted users will need the Jetpack plugin to get this feature). It doesn’t have Google’s powerhouse analytics behind it, but it doesn’t look like Feedburner does anymore either. I highly recommend taking advantage of your blog’s sharing features to announce each post on Twitter. As I’ve discussed in earlier articles, Twitter has become quite a capable news service too. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer much in the stats arena.

Is it time to pull my feeds back to WordPress? I’m seriously thinking about it. I’ll keep you posted.


Reporting Live

It doesn’t matter if it’s a major conference, a monthly meeting or a social event, there are a growing number of ways to provide live updates that will allow those who can’t be there to get live reports from the event. The solutions shown here are either free or low cost ways to share the excitement of your live event. And, in some cases, you can even provide two-way communications between the live and distant participants.

Twitter Widget

Twitter has developed a widget that works much like embedding a YouTube video or Scribd document onto a blog or web page. You choose the options you want in the widget builder and Twitter gives you the embed code to paste on your site. The widget can be configured to present a single user’s timeline, all the tweets associated with a list or with a hashtag. In the example you see below, I’m created a widget for the #RootsTech2013 hashtag. Right now there are only a few tweets, but come back to this post once chatter about the conference starts picking up and you’ll find there’s a lot more to see.

    Because it’s a widget and WordPress only supports widgets in “widgetized” areas – usually the sidebar or footer – I’m also using the Widgets on Pages plugin which lets me display the widget here in the post.

    The beauty of this solution is Twitter itself. Tweets can be sent from just about any kind of portable device – including many “not so smart” phones set up to text to Twitter. Smarter phones can send photos as well as text updates. And, all of those updates can get published with minimal bandwidth meaning they are more likely to get published in situations where Internet connectivity leaves much to be desired.

    Live Blog with WordPress

    The folks at WordPress.com have come up with another fabulous plugin for self-published WordPress sites which will turn a WordPress post into a live blog offering updates from multiple authors as they are submitted. I saw this in action at The Verge during the Kindle event last week and it was very impressive.

    Once the plugin is installed, you just create a new post with a title and some introductory text, select the checkbox defining this post as a live blog, then publish the post. Now, go to your blog’s home page and you will see that post with a data entry box just waiting for you to add more information.

    A live blog just waiting for one of the event’s reporters to add an update.

    Event “reporters” will need to have author accounts on the blog and be logged into their account. They will then see this view from the site’s front end with the New Entry box just waiting for them to add an update then click the Publish Update button. Their update will appear immediately below the editing box with their name and a datestamp showing when it was published.

    As you can see on The Verge example, Readers do not see the New Entry box or the Publish and Delete buttons. The page will update each time new entry is published so the reader doesn’t need to constantly refresh the screen either.

    I was able to post updates using Safari on my iPad, but the image drag and drop only worked – for me anyway – on my desktop.

    Sample image dragged onto the edit form from my desktop.

    This option would be good if you have several people dedicated to reporting from your event. Although the reporters don’t need WordPress experience to submit their updates, someone with WordPress knowledge will need to help manage things like photos. It isn’t as mobile friendly as the Twitter option so the updates won’t be as spontaneous either. On the flip side, since you control who can author updates, you can also set limits on what to post. In situations where controlling the message is important, this could be a better option.


    The Storify platform allows the publisher to pull content from across a number of social sites as well as web sites to build a centralized “story”. These are not live updates, but more like the nightly news report. With Storify, the publisher collects and curates items from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Flickr, Google+ and even RSS feeds. You choose which items are to be included in the story, their order and you can add your own comments as well.

    Sample published story using Storify.

    Storify stories can be viewed in the Storify platform or they can be embedded into a blog post. Although it would be tough to curate a “daily update” from a large event like a conference, it could be a very nice option to report on a keynote address or individual sessions. The nice thing about Storify is each story can get “set up” ahead of time. In a conference situation, this could mean that links to materials presented during the session could be added to the story file long before the presentation even begins. Although these publications wouldn’t provide the spontaneous reporting of Twitter, you control which items are included without having to write each update yourself. It could be used to provide a curated report of the sessions or events using the best updates/photos/whatever from across the social media spectrum.

    Each of these options offers a way to provide updates to people who can’t attend an event. They all serve to keep those people engaged with your organization and included as part of the event – even from a distance. All are quite affordable and easy to use. The toughest part is developing a plan to incorporate them into your organization’s outreach efforts. Start small – reporting on meetings for example – to get a feel for the platforms. Once you’re comfortable using one or all of these platforms, you’ll be ready to tackle larger events.

    The technology is here and many of your members are already using it. Isn’t it time your organization did too?

    Conversational Twitter

    Yes, I’ll admit I’m a devoted Twitter fan. Just when I think I’ve seen everything Twitter can do, someone comes up with yet another use for it. Actually, this isn’t a new use, but it is an effective one. I’m talking about the Twitter Chat. A Twitter chat is a conversation about a specific topic held at a specific time using Twitter as the chat platform. We in the genea-community have been doing a rough sort of Twitter chat during live conferences where the attendees share their experiences with those of us who can’t attend. Why not put it to work on a day-to-day basis to organize regularly-scheduled chats?

    How do you create a Twitter chat? You simply set a date, a topic and a hashtag then invite everyone interested to attend. At the appointed time, kick off the chat with a tweet that gets the conversation started. Participants need to set up a saved search for the chat’s hashtag and include that hashtag in each of their tweets. That insures everyone can follow the chat. The conversation can include comments and opinions, replies to other’s tweet, links to related sources and even photos.

    To kick things off, I invite you to join me tomorrow (Sunday, July 22nd) beginning at 3:00 pm EDT. The hashtag for the chat is #gnotes and this week’s topic is Twitter – how you use it, your favorite client and any tips you have. It should be an interesting conversation and I hope to see you then!

    Emergency Tweets

    Twitter is an amazing communications service. Those 140 characters have generated conversations, shared interesting tidbits, organized movements and made a damned good news service. They are also an impressive emergency communications system. Not only are there Twitter apps for just about every mobile device, you can also use the SMS system on even the most basic cell phones to send and receive Twitter updates.

    Why is this important? Because when disaster strikes, one of the first things that happens is both land and cellular phone systems become clogged with traffic as emergency services rev up and people start calling their loved ones to see if they are okay. Within a matter of minutes, it’s almost impossible to get a call through. In most situations, however, you can often send and receive SMS messages. SMS operates on its own communications backbone and it doesn’t hog as much bandwidth as voice communications. So, if you and your family have Twitter accounts set up for mobile access, each of you can let the rest of the family know your situation with one 140 character tweet. Here’s how it works.

    The first step is to set up your Twitter account for mobile. In your settings, go to the Mobile pane and under the section titled Activate Twitter text messaging, select your country and enter your mobile phone number.

    The mobile pane in your Twitter settings

    Next you’ll want to select the mobile options you want turned on. If you’re paying for text messages with your phone service, you will want to limit the notifications Twitter sends you. In this example, I’m only getting notifications from the Twitter accounts I’ve enabled for mobile. Even that can be a lot of traffic, but fortunately, you can turn that off/on via SMS so I usually keep that off until I need it.

    Activate mobile notifications on an account.

    The next step is to turn on mobile notifications for each Twitter user you want to hear from/send to in an emergency. Go to their profile and select the Turn on mobile notifications setting. I’ve also included a local news radio station which uses Twitter to broadcast news and weather bulletins. Make sure your family members have their Twitter accounts set up for mobile too.

    To tweet via SMS all you do is send a text to 40404 in the US. If you’re outside the US, check Twitter help for the code for your country.

    Now develop a plan for your family so everyone knows how to use Twitter and SMS in emergency situations. It could be as simple as having each person tweet where he/she is and his condition. That one tweet will let all the other family members know his status. You could also define a family hash tag for use in an emergency to manage longer conversations. SMS users can’t search for hash tags, but they can include them in their messages so others can. Don’t forget, there are family members outside the disaster zone who are concerned about you too.

    You might want to create a cheat sheet of Twitter SMS commands to share with your family. Even though they may all be big Twitter users, if SMS is the only transmission system available, it’s good to have the important commands handy for reference. For smart phone users, save it as a note or PDF that they can keep on their phone.

    Twitter is an amazing service for news and conversation, but its simplicity makes it a valuable tool for your disaster plan too. These few steps will help you and your family stay in touch when other communications services are too overloaded or fail.

    To learn more about Twitter’s capabilities, check out The Twitter Book by Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein.

    Tech Notes – 29 June 2012

    Tropical storm Debby kept things wet and blustery much of the week, and while the rain has helped ease our drought problems we are glad to say goodbye to her. There’s still lots of interesting tech news to report so let’s get started.

    Apple has finally released a podcast app [iOS – free] although Lifehacker prefers Downcast [iOS – $1.99] and I can see why. Kindle Fire and other Android devices can take advantage of BeyondPod [Android – free and $6.99] which supports both audio and video podcasts and integrates Google Reader as well. TuneIn Radio fans [iOS, Android, Blackberry & Windows Phone – free and $.99] know that it supports podcasts as well as radio. Did you know that TuneIn Radio is also available on your Roku box? Love it!

    More ebook-building goodness with the addition of Folium Studio. You can build beautiful ebooks yourself or let them do it – all at a very reasonable price. It’s an online platform so this solution works for all users.

    While we’re discussing book projects . . . Lynn Palermo, the Armchair Genealogist, has produced a great video as part of her Blog to Book project that shows how to structure your blog to support the book.

    TextExpander [Mac – $34.99]  has upgraded their desktop edition with tons of new features. Unfortunately, Apple’s new restrictions has forced them out of the Mac App Store. The update from version 3 to version 4 is $15. The iOS version of TextExpander [$4.99] is still available in the app store.

    Mac|Life has a great article on how to create a journal using iPhoto on the iPad/iPhone. This is my favorite feature on iPhoto and this article is a great overview on how the journal works. Unfortunately, this feature isn’t available on the desktop version.

    Here’s a hands-on look at the new Facebook plugin for WordPress (self-hosted) sites via @DearMYRTLE.

    Skype users should find these Mashable tips useful.

    Save A Grave sends us to a very special National Geographic program on Arlington at Netflix

    While you’ll always find the best genealogy reads at Moultrie Creek Books, you might also find Caroline Pointer’s Family History Book Club a fun way to find interesting books and share your thoughts on them with others.

    You may already be aware that I am a big Twitter fan. I think Twitter a fabulous news source and the growing number of apps that turn tweets into gorgeous reading experiences all agree with me too. The Twitter posts you see here are totally functional. If you are a Twitter user, you can follow, retweet or respond to any of the tweets included in this post. If you’re not a Twitter user, grab a copy of The Twitter Book and go sign up today. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

    Keep the people of Colorado in your prayers as they battle these awful fires. A donation to The Salvation Army or Red Cross will help assist the tens of thousands who have been forced from their homes.