Friday, 28 March 2008

Send your links in Direct Messages!

It's now possible to post new kula using Direct Messages on Twitter. The first 70 characters can be used as an introduction, after which you add the link. Or you can just post through the form above (although we may have to get rid of that at some point).

I've also reworked the copy on the project site. I want to try and keep it as simple as possible.

One confession - in the course of debugging stuff earlier I truncated a link posted by @geoffsays, and it ended up linking to amateur porn. Sorry Geoff. There was another tedious bug as well, which I've hacked my way around. Overall I'm loving the coding, especially working with Tommy's overall framework.

Got some WaterKula moo cards through today. They look pretty cool. I'll try and make it along to the Social Media Cafe next week if only to hand a few out and witter on about our hydro-powered (not-for-profit) cool stuff aggregator.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Even better Monday

Ok, so, I've been tinkering with Tommy's code all weekend. I bought Lola a big old box of Duplo on Saturday, so she's been getting busy with her 'bricks and blocks'. I'm sat here beside her knee-deep in someone else's PHP objects trying to build my way out of trouble. Nice parallels.

The upshot is it's running pretty sweetly. You can now post links and descriptions through a form on the project homepage. Each time a new WaterKula moment is generated we check to see if there's anything in the table of user-submitted links we can use. If it's empty we take from an imported list of the top stories on DIGG, updated at regular intervals.

At the moment it's being beta tested by just six of us, and for the foreseeable future we're going to keep the updates protected. The hope is to grow the beta test into a proud elite of wide-eyed link-pimps scouring the internet in search of the little known places where coolness grows wild. If you are such a being, or know of one, anyone can request to follow WaterKula at

All that's left in thisphase of the build is to set it up so that followers can post links using Direct Messages. There are loads of nice-to-have features I can think of now that I've looked through the Twitter API properly, but I know how easy it is to miss the boat when you distract yourself tying elegant knots in the mooring line. The priority now is to get this in front of some serious tweeters and see if it holds water.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Good Friday

First day of the 4-day weekend. Tommy started playing around with the Twitter API this morning. By 3pm I was being tweeted on the hour every hour with one of DIGG's top links, shortened using our newly-registered domain.

I've just made the WaterKula updates private. Anybody wanting to try them out can request to do so by going to The plan is to use a testbed of known followers initially, just to check that it's working properly, and to build up a backlog of cool stuff.

I've also set up a project homepage at I've tried to describe WaterKula, and what we hope to do with it, as simply and pragmatically as possible. I've also built in a feed from this, the Waterkula blog.

The next step for Tommy is to start parsing in any Direct Messages we receive, and to strip out the linky goodness. We're stipulating that you can use up to the first eighty characters for the description, following which the link is displayed. We have to split each DM into two parts and wkurl the link, before adding details of the sender to the outgoing tweet.

My last job for today was to order up a box of WaterKula MOO minicards. I think £10 is an acceptable investment, beyond a couple of days time, to see if we can get this off the ground. Since deciding to go not-for-profit on this I've been looking at it differently, and now I'm even more eager to make it work.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Introducing... WaterKula

So, two things occurred to me this morning.

Firstly, a name change. No brainer really. Funnily enough, the idea to set this up occurred to me just before i went into a SXSWi panel in which Hugh Macleod discussed 'kula', and its relevance to social objects.

In this context kula is derived from 'kula ring', described on wikipedia as 'a ceremonial exchange system conducted in the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea.' Just to cherry-pick and condense:

The Kula ring spans 18 island communities of the Massim archipelago, including the Trobriand Islands and involves thousands of individuals. Participants travel at times hundreds of miles by canoe in order to exchange Kula valuables which consist of shell-disc necklaces (veigun or soulava) that are traded to the north (circling the ring in clockwise direction) and shell armbands (mwali) that are traded in the southern direction (circling anti-clockwise).

All Kula valuables are non-use items traded purely for purposes of enhancing one's social status and prestige. The system is based on trust as obligations are not legally enforceable. However, strong social obligations and the cultural value system, in which liberality is exalted as highest virtue while meanness is condemned as shameful, create powerful pressures to "play by the rules".

Hugh sees kula as being powerfully representative of an alternative value system at work in the world - and 'marketplace' - of web 2.0, grounded in the exchange of ideas as a form of social currency.

So what does this have to do with WaterKula? Well, this brings me to the second thing that occurred to me.

Rather than simple mash up Twitter, DIGG and the basic human need to rehydrate, I'm thinking this would work a whole lot better if any WaterKula followers are the ones posting the links that are sent out with each outgoing tweet.

I really like the idea that people could post a link to @waterkula as a DM, and that this would subsequently be posted - crediting them - to all followers. It might be good to mash in DIGG until there are enough daily submissions not to need it any more.

I guess each outgoing tweet would use something like this format:

waterkula moment: Get on board The Pineapple Express - - by @danlight

I've got some sort of model in mind for tracking the popularity of tweeted links, creating a similar hierarchy as that existing within an authentic kula ring:

the better (i.e. more popular) the links you post (your 'kula') = the better your reputation = the more click-throughs you will generate = the more of your links will be featured in future

This will need to work in such a way that it doesn't lead to self-perpetuated popularity. I guess that would mean measuring the per-link clickthrough rate, rather than tracking any kind of overall total. That said, the more you're featured, the greater your capacpity to become popular. It will need some sort of balancing factor to ensure that new followers can still break through. Could turn out to be quite a tasty little algorithm.

Lots of food (and drink) for thought.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Ok. So that worked.

So. What's on the to-do list?

1. Spec out the work Tommy needs to do to get the Twitter API giving me the heads up every time I ought to drink a glass of water. What's the user experience I'm after? Well, I want Twitter to give me the heads up every time I ought to drink a glass of water. So I guess the first question is: how often is that?

Well, according to the British Dietetic Association (via the BBC) - as good a source as any I guess - "the average adult should consume 2.5 litres of water per day. Of this, 1.8 litres - the equivalent of six to seven glasses of water per day - must be obtained directly from beverages. This should be increased during periods of hot weather or during and after periods of physical activity."

So, say I want eight reminders through the course of a typical twenty four hour period. Figure I might as well schedule most of them through the working day. I read recently that regular intake of water improves your concentration, which is part of the reason I want to get mine sorted out. So, say, a reminder every hour from 10.30am to 5.30pm GMT.

(I think we can leave parsing in the local weather conditions and varying the freqency of the reminders until we have proof of concept.)

2. Look into whether we can enable anyone to send through their timezone in order to make their reminders correspond to their working day, or whether we need to set up an account for each time zone.

3. Set up a database table full of links that can be scheduled to accompany your 'Coolerwater Moment'. And figure out how to format the accompanying message. And figure out how to create tinyurls (or similar) automatically, if at all possible. (Dan sleeps, and has an idea.) OR - could we mash in DIGG???

I think this ought to be enough to get proof of concept. I'll keep you posted.

Introducing Cooler Water

Trying to get this to FTP across to my server automatically. Maybe it will help if I have a first post in here. This is it.