21 May 2008
The second release in my thing-a-week discipline is Tweet and Shout. Tweet and Shout monitors twitter for buzz about bands, ranks them, and lets you see what people are saying about an artist. For example, you can see that Coldplay is one of twitter’s most talked-about bands, or note that most of what people are saying about Britney Spears is gossip. You can see which twitter users have recently commented about an artist, and which artists a user has mentioned. Each artist’s page also shows how they’ve done over the past few days (on twitter as well as amazon mp3).
I’ll be the first to admit that this app isn’t groundbreaking or thought-provoking. The fact that it’s interesting at all is due entirely to a few simple things:
- Recency. Twitter posts are only interesting for a few minutes; then they get old and obsolete. Grouping posts by subject helps you get a sense of recent sentiment on that subject.
- Relevance. Most random twitter messages are irrelevant. Normally, you filter out irrelevant twitter content by only reading tweets from your friends. But with a list of band names and summize, you can find content relevant to music in general.
- Pictures of people. I love stating the obvious: it’s fun to see a lot of faces and suvery, or imagine, the range of attitudes they express. In tweetandshout, this goes for both twitter users and musicians. Without pictures, I’d be hard pressed to generate some amazing statistical reports to make the site informative. With pictures, the tone changes completely; it’s enough to just browse and people-watch.
- Bands we know. The world of music is dominated by a few hundred extremely well-known artists. It might be more interesting to see what people are saying about local, not-yet-famous artists, but it’s a lot easier to just look at and talk about a single popularity contest.
The app is built on Summize, an excellent search engine for twitter. Tweetandshout stays relatively current by pulling a few hundred Atom feeds from Summize every hour or two. The list of artists comes from AmazonMP3′s top 400 rankings, which are updated daily.
It might be interesting to see an app like this targeted at a topic area other than music. A generalized summize+ranking+trends app could help you capture the buzz about, say, your local restaurants, the town where you live, a set of geeky events, or just a few friends of yours. Maybe Summize will incorporate that as a feature of their product. (Note to summize: I might be available for some consulting work. )
Reflecting on the Week
Tweet and shout wasn’t my original project for the week. I had started out trying to build a little MP3 streaming program for my BlackBerry. See, my BlackBerry Curve has wifi and, according to the API documentation, the ability to stream music over the network. Maybe if I hacked things right, I’d be able to use my BlackBerry as a sort of wireless headphone system at home, streaming music stored on my PC.
I released oraclebot last Tuesday (the 13th) and then started studying the Blackberry environment. By Thursday, it was clear I couldn’t complete any significant mobile app in under a week. I’d worked through some tutorials, read a book and a half in PDFs downloaded from RIM’s developer center, installed the SDK, and gotten a customized “Hello World” program onto my BlackBerry. But I didn’t know the basic UI APIs, and many of the BlackBerry’s APIs (e.g. the ones that talk over the network or launch the browser) require the developer to sign their code with a cryptographic key that costs $100. Plus BarCamp Boston was coming up, and as an organizer, I’d be 120% occupied during the event on Saturday and Sunday.
So I switched gears to a simple app I thought I could release. I worked on it for most of Thursday and Friday and spent the weekend at BarCamp. Exhausted after the event, I took Monday off — had a long lunch with some friends and watched a movie. I mostly wrapped up the coding on Tuesday, and meant to ship and announce this morning. But between hitting a bug in _elementtidy.fixup on my server, adding a last-minute tweak to attempt reasonable searches for bands with names like “The Who” or “Yes”, and writing this post, it looks like I’ve soaked up most of today as well. Oh well, at least it’s done. Better late than… even later.