Scripting News for 3/28/2007

Today’s links 

Is Apple un-hacking user-enhanced AppleTVs?

If I’m not mistaken that’s Mike Arrington, Chris Pirillo and Robert Scoble in the latest JibJab.

Good question from The Dude Abides.

CBS5-TV report on Twitter with Scoble. “Apparently, Facebook wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard before he had a chance to take any history classes.”

How basic is Twitter? 

Like so many others in the tech blogging world, I’ve spent the last few weeks exploring Twitter. I understand that there were lots of people using it before me, and before that, the developers of Twitter envisioned something that all the rest of us didn’t. So before going any further, let’s pause for a moment and appreciate their innovation and contribution to the richness of the cyber-environment that we work in. Congrats on a great accomplishment.

Now the next step is to wonder what the next step is. πŸ™‚

I’ve been following the digging work that Nik Cubrilovic and Steve Poland have been doing, with great interest, particularly the report yesterday on the upcoming Twitter API feature that will allow users to direct private messages at invidual users. Both Steve and Nik have observed that names in the Twitter space may become quite valuable in the future. And Nik observes that the Twitter folk may have made a mistake by not reserving some of the juiciest names for themselves, like GET, for example.

@get “berkeley weather”

If you play it out, the Twitter command line could evolve to be something much like the Unix command line, with an important difference, it’s world-wide in scope. Before you lose your breath, this is hardly the first such command line, the address bar in the browser has a similar property as does the search box on Google (of course, any search engine). But Twitter’s would be newly interesting because the thing it wires together, better than any environment before, is something we’re all interested in — people.

So inevitably, a query about the value of namespaces leads you to wonder if there will be TwitterClones, web-based services that emulate the Twitter API, that keep internal data structures similar to Twitter, and most important, peer with Twitter, the same way Twitter peers with IM and SMS systems.

This is as far as I got in my thinking when last night I decided to ask Les Orchard, a developer I know for quite a few years, and who I’ve worked with on a couple of projects, both of which use the kind of technology that would be required for such a project —

What if there were an open source implementation of Twitter?

Nik Cubrilovic happened to be online at the moment and he jumped in with an idea. Les confessed that he was thinking of doing such a project. I thought to myself that there must be a lot of developers thinking about this right about now. We agreed it was an interesting question, and I said I’d write it up on Scripting News, which is what I’m doing right now.

What do you think? Is Twitter important, like web servers, or blogging software, so important that we should have an open source implementation of something that works like Twitter and can connect up to Twitter? Where are the tough sub-projects, and how much does it depend on the willingness of the developers of Twitter #1 to support systems that connect to theirs?

If you have something to say about this, either post a comment here, or write a blog post, and point to this article and your piece will show up in this Technorati query.

Les Orchard: “Twitter is not just a technological thing.” Amen.

Yahoo mail API 

Yahoo is announcing a new open API for mail. Interested to hear what people think. I was briefed on it earlier today.

A QuickTime screencast with Ryan Kennedy, Jeremy Zawodny and Matt McAlister from Yahoo, explaining the API and what they can do.

It sounded to me like the API allowed developers to create new user interfaces or “skins” for Yahoo’s mail, through SOAP or JSON interfaces, but they said that it could do more than that.

I’d like to see another huge Internet infrastructure company provide what Amazon does with S3, and Yahoo certainly qualifies. This API is not that, but it’s still a good thing that more of the user-level services on the net are being opened through APIs. And Yahoo is one of the leaders in that effort.

Wes Felter: “The standard API for email is IMAP.”

Amateur justice 

Wikipedia: “Presumption of innocence is a legal right that the accused in criminal trials has in many modern nations. It states that no person shall be considered guilty until finally convicted by a court.”

Doc Searls: “If Alan is right, everybody on this giant thread has been taken for one of the oldest rides in the park.”

Next time — think before you trash someone, no matter how much you dislike them, especially because you dislike them.

It takes courage to stand up to a mob, but that is the best of what it means to be an American.

Postscript: I agree we need a blogging code of conduct, but not the kind of code these people have in mind.

Mitch Ratcliffe: “Trolls created the impression of a crime and sat back to watch human nature show its worst side.”

A hive of activity 

Scripting News has been a hive of activity this week, with lots of flow coming from the BBC and TechMeme. But it’s worth noting that while these sites are massive flow-builders, another high-flow site that I’d bet not many of you are aware of, is also making a huge contribution. The pie chart below illustrates.

A link from Daring Fireball keeps everything moving. It’s a gift from heaven. Thanks so much! I’m not worthy I’m not worthy. πŸ™‚

All that is important, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t also point out that the all-time authority champion for my site is, according to Technorati, TechCrunch. Mike, thanks so much for helping Scripting News stay on the map!

Dynamic duos 

I feel like I’m finally catching up with all the events of Russo & Hale that have loomed so large in my life for the last year or so. It’s so funny, when I said on December 12, that I was keeping the site running because I needed an advantage in a fight that was coming up, a lot of people thought I was talking about Mike Arrington, including Mike himself. No way. I love Mike, even though sometimes we have our differences. Please note the smilley I’m putting right here: πŸ™‚

Anyway, Russo & Hale made sure that they loom large in my world, now I’m showing them, hopefully, that I can loom large in theirs. I think some of their current clients will soon be asking them why they are suing one of their former clients without even trying to negotiate a settlement. Could it be that they’re using the fact that they have free legal service, and the former client has to pay for his?

To me, I liken it to a programmer leaving a virus on a client’s computer, and then coming back a few months later and asking to be paid to remove it. That would be highly unethical, and would get someone thrown out of the Programmer’s Union, if there actually were such a thing.

But being who I am, I can’t possibly get totally serious without throwing a little humor at it. So when I write about Russo & Hale, I try to find some pictures of pairs of people or things that somehow communicate about the issues swirling around Jack and Tim.

Anyway, next time they file a frivolous action against me, if they ever do (knock wood, maybe they won’t) it’ll all be out in the open, and y’all will understand what’s up.

Yours in transparency,

Dave Winer

26 responses to this post.

  1. Open source Twitter is already here. It’s called Jabber / XMPP. It’s pretty darn easy to build something like this with XMPP — it’s XMPP plus an SMS gateway.

    Federation is built into XMPP, so that’s done, too.

    And of course, the publish-subscribe architecture is much more scalable than polling.

    XEP-60 is a good starting point:


  2. The new Twitter stuff will enable developers to write GroupWare too.

    I also use Twitter for server error alerts too – this will help ‘privatize’ them without needing an ‘alt’ account.

    Glad you finally picked up on the idea of a ‘service’ being provided by ‘@name blah’ – as I mentioned you when I came up with this idea here – then implemented it on the @dictionary account here

    I started out by asking my followers where I could find a decent search engine that can respond to a ‘human question’ – after not finding a good enough one with a decent API, I plumped for the Urban Dictionary, which can provide very amusing results πŸ˜‰

    One of the unique things about Twitter is the difference in push/pull with info than we are used to. Usually we ‘push’ a post, then ‘pull’ the website or feeds. Here, we have also have Twitter not only ‘pushing’ email, but also SMS – for ‘free’.

    That’s so incredibly useful. ESPECIALLY given all the places in the world where mobile phones work, but the internet does not. Third World etc. This should be exciting to people working in remote situations.

    Keep diggin! This is so worth it.


  3. Ahh.. you might have also seen me talk about an Open Source version of Twitter (and why they should do this) on my blog here –

    sigh. *waves from curve* πŸ˜‰


  4. “What if there were an open source implementation of Twitter?”

    Who would pay the SMS aggregators then?

    There is a widespread lack of understanding of the realities of the cellular carriers business going on.

    The cellular carriers want to get paid for every single message terminated onto SMS, in addition to charging the end user to receive messages.

    Is this foolish of them? You bet. They make a bloody fortune on SMS on the retail side. They SHOULD be paying application developers for SMS traffic.

    But the reality is the carriers want to get paid on both ends. Until that changes, not only is there is not only not a viable business here, but someone (Evan I suspect) is subsidizing our fun.


  5. @Boris Mann: Twitter is not equal to Jabber/XMPP – although you could use Jabber/XMPP to implement a lot of important Twitter bits.

    Twitter has a lot of important subtleties, such as the “ambient intimacy” of seeing the chatter amongst your contacts and the public display of your contacts. You *could* get that with a group chat room, but it’s a bit more involved than just dropping into in your browser.

    Twitter is not just a technological thing.


  6. central server would be the ‘Sun’ – all the other OS Twitter servers would connect like ‘Planets’ – Obvious could then handle and monetize all the SMS transactions (which the OS server might lack). ie: charge for this feature.

    These guys do SMS via an API. Big bundle pricing.


  7. Posted by George W Bush on March 28, 2007 at 11:48 am

    Next time — think before you trash someone, no matter how much you dislike them, especially because you dislike them.

    Does that go for me too…


  8. There is already free (as in freedom) twitter like software. It’s part of the software (pligg and supergu are fork of it) and is accesible via web ( ), jabber and sms.

    The license is Affero GPL, the subversion is available at the specific “twitter like” module is “nΓ³tame”:

    The jabber gatway is also in svn:


  9. @les : absolutely right : “Twitter is not just a technological thing”

    It’s ‘social software’ – which can also help developers (if you’re lucky) by having the members of your system ‘fix’ things that don’t work, or other users that abuse / try to break the system.

    All these nightmare things which we people who code spend so much time dealing with. Those ‘bugs’ with mice and keyboards :))


  10. Posted by elle on March 28, 2007 at 1:10 pm


    Regarding standing up to a mob mentality….

    The reason people are appalled by the way Kathy Sierra was treated was that the threatening behavior was accepted by the mobs that participated at the meankids and unclebobisms sites.

    It disgusts people that Chris Locke and others actively participated in conversations where such bizarre hate speech was accepted. It also disgusts people that the participants haven’t come out and clearly condemned the behavior.

    Doc Searls mentioned that he was invited to join the meankids conversation, took one look at it, and decided not to participate. This seems like a reasonable decision, given the sites’ histories of misogynistic content and hate speech.

    Alan Herrell appears to be admitting that his accounts were used to victimize Maryam Scoble and Kathy Sierra, but he is also claiming that he’s the victim, that his identity was stolen. Whether or not Herrell was responsible for the posts, the real concern is that hate speech was considered part of the conversation at these sites, and that the participants haven’t disavowed this.

    Locke’s failure to manage his site responsibly, letting it be used to promote hate speech, made it a blight on the blogosphere.

    I doubt that there is any context under which you’d want your site used to promote hate speech.


  11. Dave, speaking as somebody who didn’t “trash” people, and in fact defended Frank and Jeneane in my comments on Susan Mernit’s blog, I’d like to say that there’s a very diverse group of people out there who are upset by the ugliness aimed by MeanKids at Kathy and Tara and Maryam and others. I think Kathy did right in pushing back, loud and hard, against what was done to her.

    So now in addition to the anon calling himself Siftee who hopes someone slits Kathy’s throat–and the (different?) anon calling himself Joey who would like to see her in a noose–we have a (different?) anon who hacks into HeadLemur’s computer and posts a bunch of vile stuff signed “HeadLemur”, a scenario which apparently lets everybody including HeadLemur off the hook totally for the vile stuff posted on two different websites and the anonymous nutsos who took the fun one step further.

    Dave, I’m mostly on your side–and I agree that some in the pro-Kathy mob are as scary and bullying as what they deplore–but I don’t think the “mob” should be judged as if they were an undifferentiated mass of bullies, any more than one should assign equal blame to Frank Paynter and the anonymous Siftee.


  12. Posted by Terence on March 28, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    I don’t get it. Why Twitter is important? If everybody has a twitter, can we do something like this?

    * I subscribe to airline flight twitter as “SA02” and it will SMS me when it is boarding or when it actually landing so I can go to airport early to pick up my friend?
    * I can subscribe to AT&T service blog so it will SMS me when the service man is delayed or cannot come to my home?
    * or can I subscribe to the UPS tracking number so it will SMS me when it arrive to my home?


  13. Betsy, I don’t like web pile-ons in general, but when they’re about things, or global issues, what’s the harm. But when it’s aimed at people, and a by-product of it is hurting people, then I have a problem with it. Maybe the hurting part isn’t so accidental, and even so, at the other end of the rage there’s a human being hurting, and I don’t like that. What if the mob is wrong? What if the person at the other end of the hate is innocent? That’s one of the great things about our system here in the US, innocent until proven guilty, good idea.

    You know so well that I have good reason to want to get even with *all* the people who are being attacked by the people who are supporting Kathy Sierra, so that’s why you know this is well-reasoned and heart-felt.

    Yes, if there’s a mob, there’s a difference. I say kick back and let the justice take its course. If you feel the need to join the mob, take a look at why you do. If it’s out of concern for Ms Sierra, send her a note of concern, get on an airplane and sit with her, take care of her hurt, but don’t get anything done by inflicting hurt on others. That jsut doesn’t help.


  14. Posted by Wes Felter on March 28, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    The standard API for email is IMAP; too bad Yahoo isn’t supporting it.


  15. Twitter uses jabber, and for what it’s worth blaine has released the jabber library, jabber::simple they wrote for twitter as an open source library. They’ve also released some net caching and testing libraries. While sure they could release more, i think they’ve done a damned good job at releasing stuff. For me the tricky part about twitter is making it that simple. Making it work socially with just what you need and no more.

    Anyway, twitter should get credit for being a good open source citizen.


  16. Having spent a week in Twitter, I’m a little surprised it’s so transparent (as a user). Most of the newer social networks include the ability to create at least a couple of levels of access (Flickr’s “Friends” and “Family”, Vox adds “Neighbors”), but Twitter doesn’t really have that (I have occasionally seen “neighbors” by coincidence on Twittervision ). You can go friends-only, but every message either goes to everyone in the world, or to everyone in _your_ world.

    I would love to have a multi-tiered Twitter — as easy to post to and monitor as Twitter, with the ability to contextualize family, business associates, high school classmates, geographically dispersed teams, etc., and with appropriate privacy for each.

    I think a lot of the existing social software providers will be grafting Twitter clones onto their products in the next few months: has the registered users to pull off a high school classmates Twitter clone, for instance.


  17. Re: Trolls and Kathy Sierra etc. Isn’t it ironic that we used to deal with these people with ‘Kill Files’?


  18. Posted by Diego on March 28, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    “The cellular carriers want to get paid for every single message terminated onto SMS, in addition to charging the end user to receive messages.”

    I think the last part about the end user paying to receive messages only happens in the US. Certainly in a lot of Europe and in Australia you only pay for sending SMSes. Imagine if SMS spam started to get out of control like email spam? I’d be paying to get the crap if I lived in a place where I was charged to get an SMS. That’s crazy.


  19. I think Dave’s observation about reserved words is an excellent one and I don’t think the horse has left the barn, since all it would take is standardizing on some other prefix. It could as easily be %get berkeley weather or g berkeley weather even (analogous to the ‘d’ command). yubnub seems to do fine with a single letter to kick things off.

    personally, i find the @ convention a bit weird since i’m used to seeing it between userids and hosts, but that horse *has* left the barn.


  20. Is the goal to clone Twitter, or just have something “equivalent”?

    What are the key features that would define “equivalence”?

    Dave/Les, are you even using the SMS? To send/post, receive, or both?


  21. Bill, I don’t have any goal, I was just trying to find out what people’s thoughts are.

    I’m pretty happy with things as they are.


  22. Just to be clear, an @username and a direct twitter are not received by you unless you have that person as a friend.

    There are some great sms tools done by other companies, send a txt of fligt number and get a arrival time, get the weather. Twitter has just reached the tipping point and is so smple that we can do so many things if it had just a smidgen more of reliability and features.

    The fact that ev and Obvious are willing to foot the bill should not be taken lightly. Twitter as SMS is not sustainable, will not cashflow in my opinion. I think that they will partner or ride it out until we are always on a net connection. And at that time we are all used to it and find it the place to connect with our hive mind πŸ™‚


  23. let me rephrase that,
    the community of twitter addicts that use twitter via web mostly will be able to be monetized, but an SMS mostly crowd would be expensive indeed.


  24. I like the “mail person” pic I found better! Check it out.


  25. An open source , standalone Twitter would be pretty good for company intranets. I have companies approach me about Web 2.0 technologies pretty often that they want to have internal versions of. Big business is not into the whole ‘keep stuff on someone else’s server’ schtick yet.


  26. think a lot of the existing social software providers will be grafting Twitter clones onto their products in the next few months: has the registered users to pull off a high school classmates Twitter clone, for instance.


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