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Scripting News, the weblog started in 1997 that bootstrapped the blogging revolution.

Payloads for Twitter Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named keet.jpgBack in 2001, I wrote a document called Payloads for RSS that explained how you could attach something to a RSS item. I didn't explain how a RSS app would display or play one of these things, that would come later.

Today, we may be at a similar place with Twitter.

Sometimes I want to answer Twitter's question, "What are you doing?" with a picture, or a bit of audio. Some people want to send videos. It's easy to imagine in the future that along with a Twit, I might also want to automatically send my location (obviously a preference), and maybe some other status information.

It seems that four bits of data are stored with each post: 1. the person who posted it, 2. the time it was posted, 3. how the post came to Twitter (web, Hahlo, Twiku, txt, twitterrific, twittergram are some examples) and 4. who it's in reply to (if it is).

Now suppose I wanted to allow for payloads, as RSS 2.0 does. The problem is a bit more complicated, because not only do we have to specify how the data is communicated, we also have to say how it's displayed.

Caveat: This is just a proposal, there are many ways to do it, this is just one way.

First, the "update" routine, as specified by the Twitter API, would add 2 optional parameters: 1. the url of a picture that's a thumb for the enclosed data and 2. the url of the data.

A couple of examples...

1. For Twittergrams, which are audible tweets, recorded on a cell phone, the image would be a small speaker, speaker. The second paramter would point to the MP3 file.

2. For a Flickr pic, the image would be a tiny thumbnail of the picture, and the second paramter would point to the Flickr page.

A picture named hebrewHunk.jpgDiscussion...

I thought the whole thing could be shrunk down to one paramter, a pointer to a bit of text that Twitter would trustingly display, but that's the problem, you have to trust the app not to break Twitter, and we all know that wouldn't last. Even a well-intentioned delveloper can forget to close a table properly, and that would leave the Twitter display in disarray.

I also thought we might register data types with Twitter, but that's a likely black hole. Apple went down that path, so did Microsoft and the IETF. It's a lot of work to make those systems work, and it's just a matter of time before they break down in chaos.

I think that Twitter should probably handle two or three types specially because they are so common and useful. Those are pictures, audio and possibly video. But that's potentially a lot of work, and can be done later.

Some will object that this only makes sense in the web, and that Twitter is designed for SMS. To that I say two things: 1. Degrade gracefully. 2. You already have features that make sense only in the web, e.g. the pictures next to posts that show iconically who's saying what. That's a nice thing to have in the environments that can display pictures, and its presence there does nothing to diminish the experience for the environments (e.g. SMS) that can't.

Today's links Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Ian Kennedy does a view-source on the NY Times and finds there's a lot of metadata in there. Cool!

Dustin Sacks has feature requests for Flickr, some very good ones, esp a Referrer log. Twitter needs this too.

Jeff Jarvis on newspaper blogs.


Last update: Friday, September 28, 2007 at 7:49 PM Pacific.

Dave Winer, 52, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.

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Scripting News

On This Day In: 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997.

September 2007
Aug   Oct

Things to revisit:

1.Microsoft patent acid test.
2.What is a weblog?
3.Advertising R.I.P.
4.How to embrace & extend.
5.Bubble Burst 2.0.
6.This I Believe.
7.Most RSS readers are wrong.
8.Who is Phil Jones?
9.Send them away.
10.Negotiate with users.
11.Preserving ideas.
12.Empire of the Air.
13.NPR speech.
14.Russo & Hale.
15.Trouble at the Chronicle.
15.RSS 2.0.
16.Checkbox News.
17.Spreadsheet calls over the Internet.
18.Twitter as coral reef.
19.Mobs of the blogosphere.
20.Advice for Campaigns.
21.Social Cameras.
22.The Next Big Thing.
23.It's time to open up networking, again.
24.Am I competing?
25.Time to shake up conferences?
26.Bloggers working with journalists.

Teller: "To discover is not merely to encounter, but to comprehend and reveal, to apprehend something new and true and deliver it to the world."

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