Author Archives: dougal

Not Dead Yet

No, really. We’re actually working on new stuff!

A new version of Twitual is in the works. And when I say new, I mean new. Twitual 2.0 is being built completely from scratch, using the very latest cool web toys tools. It will be completely dynamic — no more waiting and waiting and waiting for results to come back to your browser!

The display will also be less cluttered. Rather than displaying all of the permutations and combinations of your friends and followers on the same screen, we will focus on one at a time. But we will still make it clear which tweeps fall into the various categories. Also, you will be able to get more details on friends, refocus to a new user, see recent tweets, etc.

Most likely, these features will be rolled out in stages (because you’d rather be able to do some of this than none of it, right?), and the timeline is still sketchy. I hope to have the first iteration up early next week (fingers crossed).


Count limits lifted

We have removed the cap on the total number of friends and followers, so you can now try to analyze any Twitter user on Twitual. We will warn you, however, that with very large friend + follower counts, the process of fetching all of the information can be slow. To give you a general idea, some recent tests were taking about 3 minutes to analyze a user with 10,000 combined friends and followers. Obviously, this makes it pretty impractical to analyze highly networked users like @wilw or @mashable (who each have over 200,000 followers).

The reason it takes so long is that the Twitter API only allows us to fetch 100 entries at a time. There are API calls to return all of the friend/follower IDs for a user at once, but they only return numeric IDs, not the screen name, which is far more useful for display. So we either need to find a way to fetch multiple batches of information in parallel, or we need to mirror the entire database of Twitter IDs and screen_names on our own server. Or maybe both. Even better would be a new API call to fetch all the screen names, but that’s not our call.

And, we realize that there is currently no feedback in the browser while Twitual is doing its thing. We’re going to be working on that, and hopefully when we’re done, we’ll have some spiffy whiz-bang progress bars to let you know what’s going on, and how close we are to being done with your request. Just don’t expect it to happen overnight — we’ll have to take our current, simple, no-nonsense code and transmogrify it into a bunch of complex, full-of-nonsense code. Those kinds of things take time!

In the meantime, we still think Twitual is a pretty nifty tool, and we hope you do, too. If you agree, keep spreading the word about us. Let us feel the love, we’re needy that way!

Bugs fixed, limit raised

After the initial public announcement of Twitual, things took off pretty well. Unfortunately, we discovered a sporadic bug that was causing us to sometimes get into a never-ending loop requesting information from Twitter, and resulting in “Twitter Overload” errors on our site. We’ve identified and corrected that problem, so if you were having trouble before, please feel free to try again.

We know that some of you were frustrated by the 5,000 combined followers/friends cap that was in place. We are raising the limit to 10,000 now. After we give some more time for the service to shake down, we’ll try raising that up some more, and hopefully one day we can eliminate it completely.

And yes, it’s obvious that we need some slick-looking, AJAX progress bars to display while Twitual is fetching and processing all the follower/friend information. That will come in time, as will some other niceties. 

Thanks to everybody who has tried Twitual so far. Make sure you follow @twitual on Twitter to keep up with the latest news. Keep spreading the word!