Beta Test for Twitter Service

In my last two posts (see here and here – or here for all my Twitter blogs) I outlined a few ideas I had for improving the twitter feeds that I have had running for about a year. The original idea was just to tweet every so often (about ten times a day), with each tweet being a random scientific publication. This worked pretty well but I thought that it might be more interesting/useful if I tweeted on a particular subject over a 24 hour period. That way, followers would only need to look at my twitter feed when I was tweeting on a subject of interest to them. In fact, they would not even need to follow me, they could just subscribe to the service and when I was tweeting about a subject they wanted to follow, they can do this, simply by using the search options on Twitter.

I have spent a few hours getting an initial implementation.

As it stands the system:

  • Enables you to register;
  • You can choose which subjects you are interested in;
  • When I start tweeting about those subjects I will send you an email and/or a tweet (you choose). That is, just as I start a 24 hour tweeting session on your subject of interest, I let you know;
  • I did implement functionality where I would email/tweet you whenever I did an individual tweet on a subject that interested you, but I disabled in, on the basis that I might be tweeting too often;
  • Although it is all in the background, there has been a lot done to ensure that you confirm who you are when you register, else somebody could register for you. What happens now is that I send you an email and you have to click on a link before your registration is confirmed.

I am now welcoming people to register, in order to try and the system. I’ll class it as beta (just in case it all goes wrong!) but I’ll try to ensure that I don’t ask everybody to register again.

Of course, if you do use the system, I’d welcome any comments you have.

Like all these things, it is never finished and I have some things that I need/want to do.

  • The most important is to get the database populated with better quality entries. The database is not too bad at the moment, but I have started the (long, very long) process of collecting more scientific publications, which are even more relevant than the ones I have there at the moment;
  • I would like to interact with the various publishers more than I do at the moment (which is not at all, except for the occasional retweet from INFORMS (thank you));
  • As well as tweeting on scientific publications, it would also be useful to have more generic tweets on a particular subject. But this is quite difficult to do; or at least collect good quality tweets;
  • Some of the subjects do need a little refining. For example, sport is a tough one as it covers so many different areas (e.g. different sports as well as injuries, predictions, gambling etc.). Surveys is also a tough one as it is not immediately obvious what a ‘survey’ is. Anyhow, I am sure that the subjects will evolve over time and become more coherent;
  • One of the problems I recognise is that if you are interested in one topic out of seven (and more in the future) you won’t see many tweets as it takes while for each subject to come round. Therefore, in the future, there might be a case for refining the system so that we have a specific twitter account for a given topic.

In implementing this system, I have faced several challenges (such as how to register people, how to maintain a database, how to automate tweets). I will discuss some of these issues in later posts, as I am sure that other people face similar challenges and, perhaps (quite likely) I have not done things in the best way possible so I might be able to learn how to do something better.


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