October 10, 2007

Hedging my bet on Twitter with RandomJaikus.com

A little over a week ago I announced my latest little fun site: RandomTweets.com. It was a nice little site to build and working with the Twitter API was fun.

Then along comes the news yesterday about Google acquiring Jaiku. The microblogging community made a huge turn on a dime in a matter of hours.  Everyone who didn't already have a long forgotten Jaiku account was asking for invitations (yes, I too got caught up in the madness). I saw tons of updates on Jaiku like "This is much better (or much worse) than Twitter". I saw tons of updates on Twitter like "Anyone have any more Jaiku invitations?" Some people have joined the mass exodus to Jaiku. Some people are cross-posting on both. People are scrambling to find a Jaiku desktop client they like as much as their chosen Twitter client (Twitterific, Twitteroo, TeleTwitter!) BTW, I like Jay-Q for Jaiku, in classic mode with the Gray color scheme. Setup like that it looks a lot like TeleTwitter and they look good sitting side by side on my secondary monitor.

Somewhere during the middle of the day yesterday I realized that with RandomTweets I might have bet the farm on the wrong horse, that I might be keeping all my eggs in the wrong basket. To be truthful it is not nearly as dramatic, I probably spent less than 10 hours total on the site(s) so I didn't literally or figuratively bet the farm. However, I decided to see if I could do something to hedge my small gamble a bit.

My first stop was GoDaddy and I was happy to see that RandomJaikus.com was available. A quick look at the Jaiku API confirmed my suspicion that it was very similar to Twitter's. How different can they be really? They're two applications doing the same thing (from the point of view for my sites) - they both have public timelines where users who have avatars with urls to their site's page post messages. Upon further review I found that besides one or two additional properties they are in fact nearly the same.

The only major difference for me was that I had chosen to use Twitter's XML interface rather than JSON. Jaiku does not offer an XML interface - only a JSON one (Jaiku also offers RSS and ATOM, but those didn't meet my needs). Since I had never done any work with reading and parsing JSON, the majority of my time was spent figuring it out.

My remaining time last night was spent updating the RandomTweets codebase to gather random Jaiku posts as well and I made a few minor changes to the admin interfaces to support both. Because the two are so similar I was actually able to use the exact same front-end site and have it show the top ten random Twitter quotes if the site is accessed via the RandomTweets.com domain name and show the Jaiku quotes if the site is accessed via the RandomJaikus.com domain name. I thought about actually combining the two into one site that showed both, which would be kind of cool and very easy since my domain objects share all the same property names and types and even my database fields are exactly the same between the two (minus the addition of one field for Jaiku), but I decided to keep them separate for now. I'll wait to see how this shift plays out before making any more changes. If both continue to peacefully co-exist then I may combine them.

Tonight (after having a day to gather random Jaikus) all I had to do was migrate the new data over to the site's production database server and push the new code. Then I drank another Goose Island Harvest Ale while I wrote this post (Note to self: I really need to get Goose Island or Sam Adams to sign on as a sponsor!). In all, I probably spent 4-6 hours making the necessary updates to support the new site (and 3 of that was learning to work with JSON). 

Anyway, I mentioned the site's name earlier; it is RandomJaikus.com. If you've seen RandomTweets then you know what RandomJaikus looks like. At least head over and subscribe to the RSS feed so that you can get the daily top 10 delivered to you (remember to do it for both sites!). You'll never know who will show up. Oh yeah, that reminds me: in case you missed it, Scott Cate made the RandomTweets.com Top 10 yesterday. I'm trying to keep an eye out for my homeys. If anyone I know shows up in the random aggregator I will do my best to try to convince the judge (me!) that they deserve a spot in the top ten.

Tonights thoughts: apparently I'm on this "random" kick now. How far can I push this? What else can I do random? I thought about blog posts (or even random .NET blog posts - or some other niche), but I almost feel like that has already been done. It would be easy enough to do by pulling from Technorati, BlogLines or Google's Blog Search. But between Digg, Slashdot, DotNetKicks, other sites and link bloggers the blogoshpere is covered pretty well. It would be difficult to find a hidden gem. It is quite the opposite from the Twitter/Jaiku world where there is just so much content. I haven't given up on the idea, but it needs a twist - not sure what that twist is yet. How about a daily top ten from Bash.org? Or is that too easy? What other interesting things can this approach be applied to?

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  1.  avatar Clark says:

    While you are on the random kick.. How about RandomLunch.com....

  2.  avatar says:

    Oh, I would love to. And I've thought about it a lot. Wayne currently owns that domain. I talked to him a couple of years ago and at the time he said that he wanted to restore it to its former glory.

    I loved that site. It's sad because in today's world of ad supported content (Adsense) it would work well. Back then there was just nothing like that around. They had to beat the bushes for sponsors and online advertising just hadn't started gaining momentum yet.

    Maybe I'll give Wayne a shout to see if he wants to make a deal. Would be cool to get Haus involved, too. He works at Yahoo now, by the way - a Human Factors engineer. I'd love to know what Yahoo things he has worked on.

  3.  avatar says:

    Within the last week I completed the trifecta by adding a similar site for Pownce public updates, randompownce.com.

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