A little blue sky thinking, or borrowing some ideas from @davewiner & @mrkrndvs

I wonder if a WordPress plugin could ape pngWriter and create images for twitter cards with the text from the excerpt on the image used by twitter.
Like this, but with less fireworks.

I’ve been thinking about twitter again.

I think I’d have preferred twitter to be just text rather than being expanded to include all the media and ‘twitter cards’. I’d rather the reading flow would be twitter for short stuff and link to more visual or longer material out on your blog. That would perhaps make reading a little deeper and avoid the problem of folk just seeing the main point of an article and reacting to that 1.

But that cat left the bag a while ago. Now when I look at my twitter stream it is full of images. I occasionally use OneShot to grab and crop out interesting bits of text to share and surmount the 140 char limitation too.

I am not sure if this is a great idea

Recently I’ve watched Dave Winer experimenting with pngWriter (see the about page: About pngWriter). This creates images of blocks of text and sends them out in a tweet. It also creates an RSS feed of the text (pngWriter is not open for use at the moment).

This reminded me of how Aaron uses featured images in his blog: Creative Commons Starts with Making – A Reflection on Creating and Sharing – Read Write Respond

So I am kicking round a couple of ideas.

  1. If you used pngWriter you could pull the rss into your blog. You could do it in WordPress with the FeedWordPress plugin.
  2. A plugin could be made that would do the same sort of thing in WordPress, take the except text from a post and make an image for twitter from that.

Here is how I imagine that working

  1. Using an html5 canvas to automatically create an image of the post’s excerpt.
  2. Auto upload that to WordPress media library.
  3. Make it the featured image of the post

Alternatively (better?) make it the content of the twitter:image metatag for the post, that means that the featured image on the post would not have the text, visitors could read the post.

Or make a copy of the posts featured image, add the text and make that the twitter card image (I can imagine that might be different to get the text readable.).

For a couple of minutes I imagined that my babysteps php & JavaScript could put something like this together. Then reality kicked in. So I though I’d post it out here maybe someone else would think it would be a good idea.

Week Four: Twitter and Facebook – 23 Things

I’ve been on twitter for a while so I guess I would be an intermediate user. I’ve blogged enough about twitter for it to be fairly prominent on my tag cloud.

In response to the various questions I do use lists. My follow policy is if someone follows me, they look as if their interests are in the same ball park as mine, I follow back. Lists help keep up with specific topics or groups that might get lost in the flow.

I occasionally look at the analytics. But not too much. I enjoyed having a quick look at the links provided in this thing about using twitter to get a job or for professional advancement. I don’t think I’ll ever get a job through twitter, apart from a lack of discipline the gif that punctuate my stream are possible not the best professional face. I do try to be inoffensive, as a primary teacher I know. Pupils will have a look.

I’ve not used tweetdeck for a while but have recently signed up for tweepsmap. This provides a weekly list of new followers and unfollowers. I tend to unfollow folk who unfollow me, as I’d like to be in the position of having a conversation. I do of course follow various bots and interesting folk who don’t follow back and have a few accounts that I don’t follow in lists.

Some useful twitter stuff I’ve blogged about include:

There is a pile more posts here on my blog that I’ve found interesting to skim through tagged twitter. Twitter brings up a lot of interesting questions, around privacy, algorithms, software design and more. This think has been useful in helping me revisit a lot ideas about twitter that need a bit more thought.

I am looking forward to this weeks edutalk where I’ll be talking to Charlie Farley about 23 thinks. It will be broadcast live at 8pm.  Radio Edutalk 12-10-2016 Charlie Farley 23 Things for Digital Knowledge | EDUtalk

the feature images is a screen shot of my twitter archive showing my most interesting tweet.

There are probably 2 folk who have a slight interest in this rather geeky post. It does not have much to do with ICT in the classroom.

I’ve been using Martin Hawksey‘s twitter archiver for a while now. This archived my tweets to Google Drive and made them available online.

The other day I saw Martin tweet a change. Google Drive will drop the ability to serve webpages soon so Martin has updated the setup to use GitHub. He also took the time to make the setup a lot more user friendly (if you have a github account and a very little experience with git).

The set up involves downloading your twitter archive from twitter. You then set up your GitHub Pages – Website. To this you push your downloaded archive, connect to Martin’s script and away you go. The local git stuff is just used to kick off the pages site, which then is updated from the script. It works a treat: My Twitter archive. I am not trying to replicate the instructions here, the set up page has that covered.

What I did wonder was if you could pull the updates back down locally. Sort of PESOS, but to my hard drive rather than own site. I guess it could go truly PESOS if I knew how to push it out to johnjohnston.info (thinks, maybe I do 1).

This is how I pull the github stuff back down to my hard driver.

A very simple shell script:

cd /Users/john/Sites/troutcolor.github.io/;git pull > /Users/john/Desktop/loga.txt

saved in a file and the file made executable, (the loga.txt file was just for testing).

A launchd 2 configuration file, made with Lingon runs the script every day.

Featured Image: A Bird in the Hand by Julie Falk used under a CC-BY-NC license.

1. As I wrote this I realise that git-ftp could do this. After configuring it in my local folder I added git ftp push to the script. This will push to my website, so My Twitter archive on johnjohnston.info.

2. launchd seem to be thing to use instead of cron to run things periodically on a mac. Lingon simplifies creating and handling them. I’m using the old 2x version of Lingon, it seems to work.

A classroom, like any other social group will have popular pupils, the ones who get heard most by other pupils. I guess a teachers job is to encourage participation for all learners.

We have to think if software companies are the best people to curate our information.

A While back I turned off the setting in twitter to show me the ‘best tweets’ first. I noted that I hadn’t noticed this being turned on.

Yesterday I found a new setting, not sure when it happened, and tweeted turning it off with a gif:


I don’t want Twitter being a quality filter.

This got a couple of interesting replies and I put in a few more pence worth:


I don’t really do Facebook 1 but it is even further done the algorithmic path.

I presume the algorithms will be designed with the end goal of getting more ad views, not for what is ‘best’ for the user or community. They may also have negative effects on a learning community see: Participant association and emergent curriculum in a MOOC: can the community be the curriculum? | Bell | Research in Learning Technology, which I’ve read too quickly a couple of times now.

I don’t suppose there is much to do about this in the short term other than turning off settings when we can. Longer term it might be wise to think about the IndieWeb.

Featured Image: A screenshot…

PS. This post is mostly a few tweets, I’ve been thinking that interesting things often get lost in the stream, and pulling out a bunch might be useful.

  1. I did take part in a very useful mini-mooc and have heard of great educational examples but I tend to steer clear.


Another interesting idea from Alan. I read his post: Measurement or [indirect] Indicators of Reputation? A Twitter List / Docker / iPython Notebook Journey and then Amy’s List Lurking, As Inspired by Alan Levine.

The idea is that you can find out something about a person/yourself by the twitter lists they are listed in.

Alan went down a nice rabbit hole involving Docker & iPython. This seemed as if it might be a mite tricky. I think I’ve messed up my mac’s python setup by trying to get iPython Notebooks working before. Alan’s approach is a lot more sensible, I hope to re-visit it later. In the meantime I though I would try out something a little simpler. This approach is simple sorting and manipulating a text files. Mostly with, in my case, TextMate’s sorting and a bit of bash in the terminal.


  1. I went to the list on twitter and copied all of the text on the page.
  2. Pasted that into a text document
  3. Manually cleaned up the bits above and below the list (a couple of selections and backspace)This produced a list that repeated the following pattern:
    • Name of list by Name of lister
    • Subtitle/description of list, sometime not there
    • Number of Members
  4. I sorted the list. This grouped all of the lines with number Members together, a couple of lists that started with or a number above.
  5. Select all the member lines and delete
  6. there were a lot of lines Visit http://twibes.com/education/twitter-list to join the top education Twitter people as a description so easy to delete them too.
  7. I saved this file as a file list1.txt
  8. What I was looking for was the lines that were lists names not descriptions, and I wanted the lists rather than the names of the people who made the lists. So I made the lists into two columns by replacing by with a TAB and saved the file.
  9. We then sort the list by the second column using the terminal sort -k 2 -t $'\t' list1.txt > list2.txt 1 As the second column is empty those lines float to the top and can easily be deleted.
  10. Next we cut the first column out which gives me a list of the list names: cut -f 1 list2.txt | sort > list3.txt

So I now have a list of the the twitter lists I am a member of. I can use that in wordle.net to get a word cloud. I made a few, removing the most popular words to see the others in more relief. I’ve tied them together in a gif at the top of this post.

Amy’s approach was to look for interesting list name, here are some of my favourites (I’ve added descriptions when they are there):

  • awesome rasbperrypi peopl
  • audiophiles
  • Botmakers: Blessed are the #botALLIES
  • Digital cool cats: Digital humanities/learning tech/cool stuff peeps
  • People I met through DS106
  • not to be messed with
  • Coolest UK Podcasters
  • Very funky Ed Blogs

Of course these are not the most numerically but they are, to me, the most flattering;-)

On this 10th birthday of twitter you might enjoy a quick browse through the name of the lists you are a member of.

Sleeping on this post I’ve had a few more thought.

Of course after the step where I replaced the word by with a tab I could have pasted the text into excell or numbers and taken it from there rather than using the commandline.

I woke up this morning thinking about Alan’s post and using docker to run iPython notebooks and had a mini revelation. I’ve often ran into trouble and messed up, at least short term, my computer. Trying things that I don’t really understand. I remember one instance where I got into a right mess with iPython by blindly installing.

Running things in a virtual machine would have a great advantage here. Likewise I’ve had things break after a system update. I think, going forward, when doing things above my pay grade I’ll change my approach a bit. I am now wondering why I was trying to get the iPython thing running in the first place.

Overall I’d have learnt a bit more by following Alan’s recipe directly. There is also the json think he turned away from, could be an interesting rabbit hole…

1. sort -k 2 -t $'\t' list1.txt > list2.txt THis sorts by the second column, k, key and uses a tab, $’\t’ to separate the columns

One of my favourite blog post series, Tom Woodward‘s Weekly Web Harvest had a good haul this week including a link to this delightful twitter bot, moth generator (@mothgenerator). I took a few hours to get my moth but worth the wait.

The bot generates a moth image from the text you tweet it.

I’m not on holiday at the moment but taking the odd day off over the summer. Yesterday was one. I found a good set of amusing links, here are a few.

The New Devil’s Dictionary From The Verge updates Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary.


blogger (n.): An invasive species with no natural predators.

GIF (n.): Many prefer to pronounce this word “GIF,” instead of the more controversial-sounding “GIF.”

music (n.): An art form whose medium is copyright law.

And so on.

This reminded me to google for an english translation of Flaubert’s Dictionary of Received Ideas, hoping as usual for a creative commons version that could be played with. As usual I didn’t find that but got In Place of Thought – The New Yorker by Teju Cole which adapts the idea for modern times:

COFFEE. Declare that it is intolerable at Starbucks. Buy it at Starbucks. EVOLUTION. Only a theory. FASCISM. Always preceded by “creeping.” FEMINISTS. Wonderful, in theory. FISH. A vegetable.

Ouch, that last one stung!

Bonus Twitter mashup

Checking Teju Cole (@tejucole) on Twitter as his ideas started as tweets, I found:

  1. He seems to have abandoned twitter and
  2. The Time of the Game, a synchronized global view of the World Cup final. Just the sort of thing I like on the web, except for the football element.

Back in March I had a wee shot of periscope. Since then I’ve sen a few notifications pop up on my screen, but not often had the chance to watch. Often they are fairly trivial, folk at the zoo or watching traffic or just testing the app.

Today I saw this tweet:

And hit the link. Turned out it was a presentation at ‎UPEI Multidisciplinary Graduate Research Conference from a Workshop by Dr. Bonnie Stewart 1 on Becoming a Networked Scholar. Dr. Bonnie Stewart on Becoming a Networked Scholar. I watch the first 45 minutes of the broadcast from a couple of different rooms at home. A very engaging presentation on social media in Higher Education, much in my opinion directly transferable to PL in primary and secondary education. For a short while you can see the video at: Bonnie Stewart on Periscope, but I don’t think that will be around for long. After I tweeted out the fact I was watching some one asked me about the quality:

In the age of mobile we take for granted tons of things, but we now have amazing power to communicate in our pockets. For her tweets it appears Bonnie joined periscope just before she started broadcasting. It certainly didn’t take any technical expertise on my part to watch.

As I tweeted, the audio and indeed the video was very clear and synchronised. The Screenshot is slightly blurrier than average. The projector screen was not to clear, but the whole thing was very watchable. NB. bonnie’s slides are up here: Becoming a Networked Scholar.

I was supposed to be going to the post office but delayed as long as possible, I am pretty sure that the stream would hold up on 3 or 4g but unfortunately the audio is cut off when the lock screen is on. That might be an improvement for periscope or my audio bias showing.

This has certainly given me the idea that you can broadcast with periscope with a deal of confidence and make a good fist of it without a lot of prep. I guess if you wanted someone could screen capture the video. Looks like it might be a useful TeachMeet tool, classroom use would have to be though about carefully, but it could certainly be used to bring video into a classroom simply. With more and more primary classes using twitter it doesn’t seem much of a jump to use a teacher’s phone to project onto a screen or, network allowing, to watch on a desktop.

1. Bonnie and her students were central to one of my favourite Raido #EDUtalk broadcasts, Radio #EDUtalk 06-03-2014: #ed473 ‘Considering networked communications for educators’ | EDUtalk

@audreywatters :

Despite all the pushes to “bring Twitter to the classroom” and calls to have Twitter “replace traditional professional development,” I’m less and less convinced that’s a good idea — or at least, I’m more and more convinced that we should not rely solely on Twitter as the site for online PD or for online educator community. Both can and do exist online — PD and community — but I’d wager the best place to find both remain on educators’ blogs. I wonder if, in fact, “the future of professional development” might be a “return to blogging.”

via Is Twitter the Best Option for Online Professional Development? from the Hack Education blog.

That would be a nice development in 2015. I’ve blogged a lot about twitter and while it continues to be a good tool, I’d go along with the questioning of best. I suspect our professional standards are looking for a bit more depth too?

Bridgy lets you post to social networks – and comment, like, reshare, and
more – from your own web site. It also pulls other people’s comments, likes, and
reshares of your posts back to your site. In
IndieWeb lingo, Bridgy lets you
the silos easily and
backfeed the responses
out this example
, or see the docs for more details.

from: Bridgy

This looks like a really exciting development in social media. Recently most of the commentary on blog posts has moved to twitter, g+ or facebook. This looks like it could link that up and push out posts and then pull comments made on other sites back to your blog.