I had to do some programming today because Adjix, the service we use for short urls on r2.ly is having some downtime. Joe Moreno, who is a good friend and fellow software laborer of love is having an amazing run of bad luck. And his server is one of very few other than Amazon and Rackspace that we depend on for all that is Blork.
The programming was against the Bit.ly API, a product I had a hand in founding. I preferred to use Joe's software because we have friendship and that means everything. But I also have links to publish and users of my own to serve, so today I wrote bitly code. Which was pretty easy. Wanted to say that. When an API is straightforward enough to implement in a couple of sessions in one day, that says something good about the product.
Next subject. I had really high hopes for Contagion. I don't often go to movies on the opening Friday, but this was one I didn't want to miss. What a cast, and what a topic, and what a director. I was hoping for another Traffic, but it's definitely not in that class. I don't get why it got such great reviews. I was so confused, maybe I remembered Traffic wrong. So I watched in several sessions, between programming work. It's a long movie, but incredibly rich and beautiful. Eclectic. Haunting. No music until the very end. Parts in Spanish. Soderbergh not only directed the movie but also ran the camera. And each thread has its own cinemagraphic style. It's something you don't realize until the story lines start intersecting, though most of the characters never actually meet each other. The movie packs so many punches, is so deep, so strong. In comparison -- Contagion has the cast, and from the promotion looks like it might be a Traffic. Well, at least it got me to see a great movie again!
Orian Marx asked me what I thought of his critique of the Twitter API and Rachel Sklar seconded the motion. Hey it's nice to have my opinion sought-out. I agree with everything in the critique that i understand, but I have distanced myself from Twitter's API. That happened as they started exterting more control over the market. I'm not saying they did something wrong or right, I just know what's right for me. I have spent a lot of years developing on top of corporate APIs and I know the pitfalls. I made an exception with Twitter in the early days because 1. It was so interesting. 2. They had a hands-off attitude. 3. I knew a couple of board members, and they liked to discuss what could be done with the API. I thought this in itself was interesting. But eventually I ran out of ideas, and was hitting familiar walls. And they started killing developers, and that was a sure sign it was time to plant a garden somewhere else.
For example, it's nuts that the URL is part of the 140-character payload. There's no good reason for it. I've had this discussion over and over, and don't care to have it again. This is one case where I will say Twitter is wrong. And URL-shortening is a really nasty thing to do to the web. It makes links twice as fragile as they should be. If you want to get an idea of how bad linkrot is, try clicking on some links from this blog in Sept 2001. It's going to be on average twice as bad in 2021 because of URL-shorteners.
I also thought it was a good idea to have open architecture metadata. They announced it, but didn't follow-through, and eventually cancelled it. That might have been something worth sticking around for.
On the whole, I think small independent developers only do well on truly open platforms and where we cooperate with each other to build systems that interoperate. It's not a dream, I've seen it happen, but it's a rarity.
Most of the things you can do with Twitter you can do with RSS and good blogging tools. I'd like to see us morph those tools to fit the new applications we like. In fact, I have been doing that myself. That's where I prefer to make an investment, at least then there is no big platform vendor that can cancel my ticket.
Anyway keep up the good work! It's a fine idea to keep an eye on Twitter, and publish what you learn. It helps everyone, and while they might not believe it, it helps Twitter the most. I used to say this about Microsoft when they were interefering with the web in the 90s. If they would just kick back and let it happen, they'd get the lion's share of the growth. Same with Twitter. But it's not the way corporations work. Someday mabye some company will get to where Twitter is and play the game the way I think it should be played. Until then, we'll just have to try to make-do with the open web.