I’ve been playing around with Twitter, a neat little service from the people who brought you Odeo. You send it little text updates via SMS, the website, or Jabber. It’s intended as a piece of social software, but I think it has potential for more selfish uses.
Every time I ping Twitter, the message is time stamped. Every time I post a link to Del.icio.us, that’s time stamped. Every time I upload a picture to Flickr, a time stamp of when the picture was taken is also sent. Whenever I listen to a song on iTunes, the track information is sent to Last.fm with a time stamp. And of course whenever I blog, be it here, at the DOM Scripting blog or Principia Gastronomica, each entry has a permalink and a time stamp.
Just about every time somebody publishes something on the Web, it gets time stamped. Wouldn’t it be nice to pull in all these disparate bits of time stamped information and build up a timeline of online activity?
The technology is already in place. Most of the services I mention above have APIs. In this case, a fully-blown API isn’t even necessary. Each service already offers an easily parsable XML file of activity ordered by time: RSS.
At the recent Take Back The Web event here in Brighton, Rob Purdie talked about RSS being the vaseline that’s greasing the wheels of Web 2.0. He makes a good point.
Over the course of any particular day, I could be updating five or six RSS feeds, depending on how much I’m blogging, how many links I’m posting, or how much music I’m listening to. I’d like to take those individual feeds and mush ‘em all up together.
There are a couple of services out there for mashing up RSS. FeedBurner is probably the most well known, but you are limited to a pre-set choice of RSS feeds that you can mix in. RSS Mix offers a more open-ended splicing service but it seems a bit confused when it comes to date ordering. There’s some other service I was playing around with last week but for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of it. All I remember is that it had an extremely annoying interface full of gratuitous Ajax.
I’ve mocked up my own little life stream, tracking my Twitter, Flickr, Del.icio.us, Last.fm, and blog posts. It’s a quick’n’dirty script that isn’t doing any caching. The important thing is that it’s keeping the context of the permalinks (song, link, photo, or blog post) and displaying them ordered by date and time. What I’d really like to do is display the same information in a more time-based interface: a calendar, or timeline.
Annoyingly, the Last.fm feed of recently listened to tracks disappears if you don’t listen to anything for a while. Grrr…
Update: Here’s the PHP source code.