But those complaints aside, the thing that bugged me most this week was how much harder they’ve made it to programatically get access to things that are publicly accessible via web pages. Like avatars, for example!
If you’re a computer and you want to get the avatar image, it used to be just as easy; just go to twitter.com/api/users/profile_image/that-username and you’d get the image. This was great if you wanted to e.g. show a Facebook-style facepile of images of people who’d retweeted your content.
But then Twitter removed that endpoint and required that computers log in to Twitter, so a clever developer made a service that fetched avatars for you if you went to e.g. twivatar.glitch.com/that-username.
Recently, I needed a one-off program to get the avatars associated with a few dozen Twitter usernames.
First, I tried the easy way: find a service that does the work for me. I’d used avatars.io before but it’s died, presumably because (as I soon discovered) Twitter had made things unnecessarily hard for them.
Second, I started looking at the Twitter API documentation but it took me in the region of 30-60 seconds before I said “fuck that noise” and decided that the set-up overhead in doing things the official way simply wasn’t justified for my simple use case.
So I decided to just screen-scrape around the problem. If a human can just go to the web page and see the image, a computer pretending to be a human can do exactly the same. Let’s do this:
Given that I only needed to run it once, on a finite list of accounts, I maintain that my approach was probably kinder on their servers than just manually going to every page and saving the avatar from it. But if you set up a service that uses this approach then you’ll certainly piss off somebody at Twitter and history shows that they’ll take their displeasure out on you without warning.
But it works. It was fast and easy and I got what I was looking for.
And the moral of the story is: if you make an API and it’s terrible, don’t be surprised if people screen-scape your service instead. (You can’t spell “scraping” without “API”, amirite?)
Other cars have parked and left on either side of it, every day, but this car remains.
I pass by it, as I find parking, on my way in to work.
I know what it means.
Short story by a nephrologist (kidney specialist). I haven’t a clue why people try to use Twitter to write long-form content – by the time you’re bending the medium so far out of shape, perhaps you chose the wrong medium? – but I still enjoyed this piece.
JUST LEARNED THERE ARE 16 OUNCES IN A POUND AND I AM FUCKING LIVID
WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF NUMBER IS THAT
i have had no reason to actually look into imperial measurements until now and frankly i immediately regret it finding this out it makes some sense though because a pound is defined as being 7000 grains so that makes each ounce a nice round…
and then, oh my word, oh my fucking actual god
GUESS HOW MANY POUNDS THERE ARE IN A STONE
you’ll never get it, it would be fucking impossible to guess this
THERE ARE FOURTEEN POUNDS IN A STONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
THAT’S A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FUCKING NUMBER! FYI!!!!
THERE’S LITERALLY NO WAY TO KNOW HOW MANY OUNCES ARE IN A STONE!! NO-ONE CAN KNOW THIS “but innes you can just multiply up the fourteen by sixteen and you’ll g-“
MATHS HAS CLEARLY ABANDONED US. NUMBERS MEAN NOTHING AT THIS POINT
WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF ANTIQUATED JOKE SYSTEM ARE PEOPLE WORKING WITH
my mum: wow count yourself lucky you only need to learn your 10 times tables, when i was a kid we had to go up to 12
me, a child: oh, for weights and stuff?
mum, a liar: sure
TURNS OUT NO-ONE ON THE PLANET IS TRAINED TO WORK WITH THESE FUCKED UP NUMBERS. THEY JUST MAKE STUFF UP. NO-ONE KNOWS HOW MUCH A POUND IS BECAUSE IF THEY’D EVER USED THIS BULLSHIT SYSTEM THERE WOULD BE RIOTS
and then how many ounces go in a cup?
WHICH FUCKING CUP, AMERICA
HOW DO YOU ALL OWN THE SAME SIZE OF CUP
WHO HAS A MONOPOLY ON THE ONE GOOD CUP SIZE
PRESUMABLY THIS IS JUST STRAIGHT UP BULLSHIT TOO TO COVER FOR THE FACT THAT NO-ONE KNOWS HOW MANY ANY QUANTITY OF ANYTHING IS
me: so, the recipe calls for 2 lbs 3 oz of flour, you got that?
you: uhhhh, sure. yeah. that’s like… 3 cups, probably. this is a great system.
THEN WE HIT THE BIG NUMBERS
PRESUMABLY. I ASSUME THAT’S THE ORDER WE’RE GOING IN
though judging from american dates IT IS KINDA HARD TO TELL
so what’s heavier, a ton of feathers or a ton of gold?
IT’S THE TON OF GOLD BECAUSE UNDER IMPERIAL MEASUREMENTS THESE ARE COMPLETELY FUCKING DIFFERENT SCALES
SEE ALSO: WOOL, COINS, MYSTERY ENGLISH ILLEGAL POUND, MISCELLANEOUS
THE ONE JOKE WHICH MAKES IT CLEAR THAT MASS IS A UNIVERSAL METHOD OF COMPARISON REGARDLESS OF MATERIAL HAS NO BEARING ON THE FUCKED UP BIZARRO WORLD OF YESTERDAY THAT IS THE IMPERIAL SYSTEM
I AM 30 YEARS OLD
I’VE GONE MY WHOLE FUCKING LIFE BELIEVING THE IMPERIAL SYSTEM WAS DIFFERENT, SURE, BUT I THOUGHT IT HAD AT LEAST SOME GROUNDING IN REALITY
I AM SO ANGRY RIGHT NOW
I CANT UNDERSTAND WHY YOU’VE DONE THIS TO ME
but if anyone tells me anything other than one hundred here I am tearing this entire fucking place to the ground
Have you ever wondered how many pounds are in a hundredweight? That’s an actual name of an actual measure. Go on, guess.
oh my sweet jesus
OF FUCKING COURSE IT DOES
WHY WOULD WORDS MEAN ANYTHING ANY MORE
I HATE ALL OF THIS, AND I HATE ALL OF YOU FOR MAKING ME KNOW IT
THIS IS WHY IM NOT TAKING ANY OF YOUR SHIT WHEN YOU TRY AND TELL ME FAHRENHEIT IS A MORE LOGICAL SYSTEM
HOW MANY FAHRENHEIT ARE IN A CUP
i cant take this right now im going for a fucking walk
everyone is just saying terrible number conversions at me i hate this
no-one has even mentioned oxgangs though so you’re all fired
trying to get to sleep but all i can hear is your voices chanting “pints a pound the world around” over and over in my brain
Pints A Pound The World Around
i still don’t entirely know what it means but I am 100% fucking sure it’s not even true
In the brutal, self-centered bash-fest that social media often becomes, a moment of simple kindness and connection stands out.
American comedian Sarah Silverman is unapologetically blunt in her fight against misogyny. But Silverman has also made a point of exploring the depths of her own empathy.
“I just keep asking myself, can you love someone who did bad things?” she said, after her dear friend and fellow comedian, Louis CK, was accused of sexual harassment. “I can mull that over later, certainly, because the only people that matter right now are the victims.”
Last week, Silverman demonstrated similar level-headed compassion when subjected to sexism and harassment herself. After tweeting about an article describing her honest attempts to understand Trump supporters, Silverman received a crude response from a Twitter follower:
1997 was the year my family got torn up when my dad was killed. Which became the reason I joined @NightlineAssoc. And @samaritans. And @BritishRedCross, and @3RingsCIC. The reason, basically, I discovered how important it was to be there for people that can't go through it alone.
Despite being only a short journey away (made even shorter by the new railway station that appeared near by house last year), I rarely find myself in London. But once in a while a week comes along when I feel like I’m there all the time.
On Friday of last week, Ruth, JTA and I took one of the London Transport Museum‘s Hidden London tours. Back in 2011 we took a tour of Aldwych Tube Station, probably the most well-known of the London Underground’s disused stations, and it was fantastic, so we were very excited to be returning for another of their events. This time around, we were visiting Euston Station.
But wait, you might-well say: Euston station isn’t hidden nor disused! And you’d be right. But Euston’s got a long and convoluted history, and it used to consist of not one but three stations: the mainline station and two independent underground stations run by competing operators. The stations all gradually got connected with tunnels, and then with a whole different set of tunnels as part of the redevelopment in advance of the station’s reopening in 1968. But to this day, there’s still a whole network of tunnels underneath Euston station, inaccessible to the public, that are either disused or else used only as storage, air vents, or cable runs.
A particular highlight was getting to walk through the ventilation shaft that draws all of the hot air out of the Victoria Line platforms. When you stand and wait for your train you don’t tend to think about the network of tunnels that snake around the one you’re in, hidden just beyond the grills in the ceiling or through the doors at the end of the platforms. I shot a video (below) from the shaft, periodically looking down on the trains pulling in and out below us.
Our host tried to win me over on the merits of working for Twitter (they’re recruiting heavily in the UK, right now), and you know what – if I were inclined towards a commute as far as London (and I didn’t love the work I do so much) – I’d totally give that a go. And not just because I enjoyed telling an iPad what I wanted to drink and then having it dispensed minutes later by a magical automated hot-and-cold-running-drinks tap nearby.
And that’s not even all of it. This coming Thursday, I’m back in London again, this time to meet representatives from a couple of charities who’re looking at rolling out Three Rings. In short: having a direct line to London on my doorstep turns out to be pretty useful.
After my blog post a few days ago about the imminent death of the oft-neglected Abnib, I received a surge of complaints by IM, email, and comments. It turns out that a higher-than-expected number of you are actually using the site on a daily basis.
So I’ve extended its life by a further two years, at least. I’ve also done some quick hacking to put together a new, more-maintainable framework for it. I give to you all: Abnib 7.0!
Features not in 6.0 but now present include:
Easier to maintain; so when new blogs appear or old ones disappear, there’s a chance that it’ll be kept up-to-date.
Really ugly new skin thrown together in a few minutes.
Combined RSS and OPML feeds, to make it easy for you to switch to a better aggregator, as I assumed you all already had.
It’s a little faster to update itself and a lot faster to use.
Abnib Tweets, for those of you who are of the twittering persuasion. I’m not, so if there’s anybody I’ve missed you’ll have to let me know.
Abnib Chat, the return of the abandoned chat room. Hey; if people still want Abnib, maybe they still want this, too… but I shan’t hold my breath! And no, the old Rockmokney bot, Iggy, isn’t there, so there’ll be no random cries of “Surfboard!” unless you bring them yourself.
Update: Wow. So far the chat room’s seen Matt R, Ruth, Bryn, Claire and me. Just not at the same time. It’s just like old times (although Iggy, who I just reinstated, is yet to say “surfboard” even once…)
(rambling, ranty; I saw something on Facebook that pissed me off, and ended up ranting about the whole social media scene – no offence meant, and I’ve deliberately picked no examples from anybody I know or care about)
It’s not as bad as setting up a Facebook group to recover your friends’ mobile numbers after losing your phone, which I’ve complained about previously, but there’s a particular bit of behaviour that I’ve seen a few times on Facebook that really pisses me off.
Yes, in a world of geeks complaining about Facebook, I’m the geek who complains about Facebook users.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
Let’s have a look what’s happened here. Person 1 wants Person 2 to do them a favour: a little household chore: putting something in the post for them. So they went to Facebook, logged in, went to Person 2’s wall, and wrote about it there. What?
I’ve put together a quick list of other possible ways that Person 1 could have passed on this message:
Facebook Message – If you really were logged in to Facebook already, and even you were already on the page of the person you wanted to send a message to, it would only have been one more click to send a Facebook Message. This would have given you more options, in case you needed them, and would have meant that you didn’t have to tell every single one of Person 2’s friends about the mindless dull minutiae of an event that matters to (at most) only two people.
E-mail – Remember that? It’s fast, it’s simple, and it doesn’t involve filling your friend’s friends’ news feed with crap that has no relevance to them (or, in fact, to anybody).
Text message – There’s almost nobody left without a mobile phone, and I’d hope that you had your (presumably) housemate’s number: why not drop them a text. It’s typically even faster than the previous two suggestions, and you don’t even have to open a web browser. Hell; if you’re going to go that far, why not make a phone call (we can still do that, you know, even on modern mobiles).
I suppose that this mini-rant is actually a roundabout way of answering a question I get asked from time to time: Why can’t I post to your Facebook wall? I get asked this question about once every three or for months, and the answer is related to my complaints about the poster, above. Not being able to write on my wall isn’t part of the half-dozen or so layers of privilege I group my Facebook contacts into: writing on my “wall” is deliberately something that only I can do, no matter who you are.
And that’s because I don’t see the point. Why do I want a medium to which my friends can post messages specifically to me in full view of the rest of the world? I can fully understand why you’d want to write on your own wall – hey, it’s not that dissimilar to blogging – but what possible motive can you have to want to say something to me “in front of everyone”, except if perhaps it’s more important to you to be seen to be saying something than it is for me to hear your message?
If you have something to tell me, then tell me: call me, text me, instant message me (I’m on basically all of the networks), e-mail me (encrypted, if you prefer), or even fill in the form on my web site: I’m a really easy to get in contact with. If you have something to tell the world, or all of your friends, then put it on a blog, Tweet it, put it on your Facebook wall, or something. I can’t see any legitimate use case that I care about where you’d want to leave a message specifically for all of my friends.
I suppose while I’m full of rantyness I ought to explain my stance on Twitter, too. I had a Twitter account, once. I get it; I see the point. Microblogging; yeah, that’s a clever idea: sharing clever snippets of information, URLs, and whatnot without the hassle of having to type in your blog address and put it there. It’s not much hassle, but you sometimes feel a little like a cheater when you write a blog post of only a couple of sentences (but that hasn’t stopped me doing it from time to time). So I signed up for Twitter, found my friends and followed them, and gave it a go.
I read what my friends wrote, and I wrote about what was of interest to me.
Maybe it’s just my friends, or maybe it’s just that blogging works because it takes effort, but most of the tweets I would see fell into only a couple of categories. The first category are those tweets which are actually interesting, and are incredibly rare. The next category is those tweets which are half of a conversation about which I don’t care – a friend of mine talking to somebody I don’t know about something that doesn’t matter to me: you know, the thing I really hate about the way that people use their friends’ Facebook walls. The third category, and the most numerous for some of the people I followed, is tweets that surely have no value or interest to anybody at all. I don’t care that your bus is running late or that your boss has a new haircut. Why are you telling me this!
Perhaps I’m being a little unfair. Some of my friends produce consistently clever and interesting stuff on their Twitter feeds. Although these also tend to be the same people who write interesting things on their blogs, or who talk to me regularly, or who share fun stuff with me on Google Reader, and who generally otherwise keep me posted with what’s cool and interesting in their lives.
I’ve heard people say to me that my complaints about Twitter are invalid because I use Facebook (thereby carrying the implication that it’s just as bad). And it is just as bad – about 50% of the folks I know on Facebook type such drivel into their “walls” that I just don’t read them. But the difference is that I don’t have to. I can still use the useful Facebook features (contact details sharing, photo sharing, stalking) without having to get into the shitty “what my cat ate for dinner” stuff that seems to be the entirety of what the Twitter experience is about.
Me; I like blogs. A well-written blog post (with a sensible title: I’m looking at you, LiveJournalers) is something that I can read now, or later, or skip. Skipping tweets isn’t the same experience at all, because you’ll soon find yourself at “Oh no! That made the cat throw up!” and wonder what you missed (hint: fuck all). So I think I’ll stick to reading folks’ blog posts, logging into Facebook every couple of weeks, and checking a handful of my friends’ Twitter feeds once in a blue moon. Is that how it’s supposed to be done? I’m not sure, but it’s the only way that I’ve found that works for me.