Programming Has Begun on FOMOphobia

I’ve begun programming FOMOphobia. Oh dear.


[A quick note for the less technical: Many online services provide a way for outside programs to communicate with their services via an application programmer interface or API. This allows app writers and 3rd party folk to provide additional services, as well as allows the original service to get their data out into the world.]

Originally, I thought I would take advantage of various APIs for some of the social media I was mining. I knew, however, that this is painful not just once, but every time some service like Twitter or Facebook changes their API. Particularly Facebook whose staff I’ve heard pretty much wakes up each morning and thinks of new ways to suddenly tweak the API beyond recognition. For old skool things like email, there are long established protocols for fetching email that I could take advantage of.


I started looking into services whose whole deal is to serve as connectors to these social sites, services that aggregate content from many sources into one place. That way I could let this aggregator/connector service take the hit when Facebook throws a wrench in the API. I looked at HootSuite and TweetDeck and Alternion and Sprout Social and a dozen other services that have now gone belly up, such as Seesmic, Threadsy, Myweboo, and Digsby. Apparently, it is hard to make a buck in this space, so projects either got abandoned or sucked up by larger companies (often just to acquire the engineers).

Alternion - Settings

Of the social media dashboards I looked at, few of them have APIs, and those that do are either very limited or incomprehensible (yes, I’m talking to you HootSuite).

Then I started looking at connector services. These are not social media dashboard, but services that just help you transform data from this into that. Maybe you want to read all of your LinkedIn contact updates, blog updates, and Facebook notifications in your feed reader or something. These are the services you’d use to do it. Services like IFTTT, Yahoo Pipes, and Zapier. These three are interesting in that each has a very different flavor.

Pipes- editing 'Twitter Follower Notifications'

Yahoo Pipes is the grandfather of this kind of service. Launched way back in the ancient days of 2007, it was the darling of geeky web people for a while and pretty much too confusing for non-programmers. It is kind of like Max MSP for the web (if you are familiar with this non-programmer sound and video processing tool for artists). I’m still trying to figure out how to make it work. It seems like Yahoo pretty much abandoned it with the last Yahoo blog post about it in 2010. Unfortunately, with this service, if Facebook or some other social networking site changes their API tomorrow, you are on your own to figure it out.

Editor - Zapier

Zapier is pretty tight, but also is trying to make money. Huh. So it is a for-pay service with extreme limitations for the free service.

IFTTT - Create Recipe

IFTTT stands for “if this, than that” and is similar to Zapier, but freer. It is really cute, actually. You can read email or grab an RSS feed or a Twitter feed and do something else with them, pretty simply. People have created simple recipes that are quite clever. “If I update my Twitter profile photo, than update my Facebook photo as well.” And so on.

IFTTT - Recipe 6510385

In my case, I need to put all of my social media updates in a single place in a uniform format so that FOMOphobia can suck them up. I hit on the idea of using a POP mail account which can automatically delete messages as soon as they are processed. So I have all of my social everything being shuttled to a single email account.

Next I need to have the FOMOphobia server suck up and process the data and prep if for the individual modules in the sculpture to display. I’m thinking of keeping a behind-the-scenes database that serves data to the installation via something dead simple like https (the secure version of the web).

Also, I need to have something process the number of unhandled content. Perhaps for this, I’ll have to dig deeper into Yahoo Pipes or some of the APIs. Blech.

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