Oops – I Did it Again

I wrote another web app. I’m friends with a bunch of “branded” Twitter comedians. And they were complaining about people “meme-ing” their tweets. That is, making a picture with their words on it. More often than not, these nefarious people omit attribution (so it’s just plagiarism), put their own branding on it (fuckers), and put it on Facebook where it gets tens of thousands of thumbs-up. That sucks, and it makes my friends mad.

So we were talking about it, and I noted that Twitter isn’t helping matters. If you share a link to a tweet on Facebook, it looks awful. You’ll get a super-blown-up picture of the person’s AVI and only part of the tweet. Nobody is going to put that hot mess on their Facebook. And while it’s unlikely we can get Twitter or Facebook to improve that situation, it seemed to me that it would be pretty easy for an intermediary to improve things quite a bit.

So I wrote an app. twitter-me.me

It’s like Twitter Meme, get it? You put a tweet link into it, and it turns it into a nice picture. Originally, just white words on a dark blue background. Although I’ve since updated it to give you a choice of colors and fonts and layouts. And it gives you a new link, which is really just the link you started with, except you put “http://twitter-me.me” in place of “https://twitter.com”. (Supporting https is absurdly expensive for a free app, so I’m not doing that until there’s a robust way to do https for free.)

Tweet shared as a picture on Facebook

Tweet shared as a picture on Facebook

When you share a link on Facebook, it goes and looks at the web page to find the title and description and picture. I set up the app so that when Facebook looks at that link, it gets the @ of the person who tweeted it as a title, the tweet itself as the description, and the picture of your words as the picture. You don’t need to do anything special. Just share that link and it looks great.

If somebody uses a browser to view the link, though, it serves up a “redirect” that just takes you right to the tweet. So the result is that if someone clicks on that picture, they end up on the tweet and and can like it or retweet it or follow you or whatever.

Tweet shared as a picture on tumblr

Tweet shared as a picture on tumblr

That part was actually pretty easy. So then someone asked me if I could make the same thing happen with tumblr. Remember tumblr? It’s where the porn was until Yahoo! bought it. Anyway, some people still use it, and one of them was wondering if they could share these tweet-pictures there. Tumblr has a “share” button that makes it easy to share a picture, but there is no option on it to include a link. You can have a link attached to a picture. But you’d have to go manually set it up, which is a drag.

So I dug deeper and found that tumblr has an API, so other web applications can post to tumblr on behalf of a user. So after spending some time fighting with that, I managed to implement a tumblr share button that works just like Facebook. You share the tweet to your blog, and it looks nice and if the viewer clicks it, they end up at the tweet.

Tweet shared as a picture on Twitter

Tweet shared as a picture on Twitter

So the next thing that happened was someone asked if they could share the picture on Twitter. Why would you want to share a picture of a tweet on Twitter, instead of just RT’ing the tweet itself? Beats me. But it was super easy, so I did it anyway. Twitter works the same way Facebook does when you share a link. It goes to that URL and sees what kind of a preview it can generate. I just had to recognize that “twitterbot” was looking at the link, and in that case serve up some special tags that let it know to show a nice picture.

So now you can take your tweet, make it look nice as a picture, and share it on Facebook, tumblr, and Twitter. I don’t think there’s any way to get Instagram in on this, because they don’t let you attach a link to a picture. And making pictures that link back to the tweet is kind of the whole point. But I’m open to suggestions.

I also made a page where you can see the most popular (based on click-through counts) of these image: twitter-me.me/browse Each one has a button to let you share it to your Facebook or tumblr accounts. If this takes off and lots of people start making these, I’ll probably add more features to that, like viewing “trending” or “newest” or whatever. Right now, I just show the top 20, like a leader board.

I’m hosting this in Google App Engine, which has pretty decent free quotas. So it isn’t costing me anything (except a few bucks for the domain name). If it really takes off, and I can’t run it for free any more, I’ll figure out some painless way to monetize it. But in my experience, things usually don’t take off. So it’ll probably just remain a free service my friends can use to put their tweets on Facebook. And I’m perfectly happy with that.

Ironically, I can’t use it myself, because I don’t want Facebook people to know about my Twitter account.

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My Favorite Mistakes

The sequel to Entropy is in the hands of my beta readers, and the feedback is starting to trickle in. One of my most clever betas noticed that I wrote “a while” when I should have written “awhile.” I had to look that one up! She was absolutely right. I’m adding this to my list. I’m learning from my crowd of brilliant editors that there are a lot of grammar mistakes I’ve been making. Here’s the list, and rules I found on the web for how to know what’s right.

“on line” or “online”

It used to be two words and now it’s one. I hate change, and I resisted adopting this, but the world has decided that “online” is always one word. So deal with it.

“awhile” or “a while”

If you can substitute “for a while” then you mean “awhile.” Otherwise go with “a while.”

“into” or “in to”

If the word after “in to” answers the question “Where?” then you should be using “into.”

“someday” or “some day”

If you can substitute “a day” then use “some day.” Otherwise use the stuck together version.

“lying” or “laying”; “lay” or “laid”

Just fucking give up and choose a different word. You’ll never figure this fucker out.

“alright” and “anymore”

Those aren’t actually words at all. Don’t use them.

“just” “very” “pretty”

I use these adverbs too much. So do you. So does everyone. What I do is search my manuscript and if I see these in dialog, I leave them. Because that’s how people talk. But otherwise, they almost always get deleted. Sometimes if they are emphasizing a verb, I’ll tweak the verb’s power a little. “Very warm” becomes “hot” for example. But mostly I just delete them. I mean, mostly I simply delete them. (Sometimes I replace “just” with “simply” or something like that, if deleting it changes the meaning of the sentence too much.)

“we are” or “we’re” (and any other contractions)

Clearly this is just a judgement call. What I’ve determined is that whichever one I use, my proofreader thinks I should have used the other one. So do the opposite of your natural instinct and you’ll be fine. I mean you will be fine. I have no idea if you will or won’t or will not be fine.

commas

These are like contractions. Give up. You’ll never get them right. Find someone who really knows their comma rules, and beg them to fix them for you. And just blindly do whatever they say, because everything you think is wrong.

semicolons

Just. Don’t. Use two sentences, or use a long dash. If your editor puts one in, that’s okay, because I think they have to clear those with the Pope or something. But don’t put them in yourself, because you aren’t licensed to mess with that particular piece of punctuation.

dashes

Dashes are great because they let you avoid using a comma. Always use the super long dash (called an emdash) and do not put spaces around it.

I think that’s all of them. Disagree? I don’t fucking care. But feel free to gripe at me in the comments anyway.