Building a Better Twitter Feed Reader

Like many of you, I’m addicted to reading Twitter.  And not surprisingly, I’m also addicted to reading feeds.  So you’d think I’d love reading my Twitter feeds in FeedDemon, right?

Unfortunately, no.  The problem is that Twitter feeds are plain text – no hyperlinks, no images, no nothing.  As a result, reading Twitter feeds is a bland experience in any feed reader.  For example, here’s how an item in a Twitter feed looks in FeedDemon 2.x:

That’s a boring way to view a Twitter stream, so I’ve spruced things up in FeedDemon 3.0:

As you can see, there are a number of improvements.  First, URLs are automatically hyperlinked and benefit from the short URL preview feature I mentioned last week.  Author names and @replies are automatically hyperlinked as well so you can click to view that person’s Twitter stream.  I’ve also added hyperlinking of #hashtags – just click to go to a Twitter search page which shows all tweets with that same hashtag.  And since Twitter isn’t meant to be a read-only service, I’ve added a “Reply” icon to enable replying to a specific tweet.

Last but not least, I’ve also added profile pictures.  Unfortunately, you’ll only see them if the feed is in a folder that isn’t synchronized, and then only when you’re subscribed to the Atom version of the feed (they’re not included in the RSS version).  Hopefully the Twitter folks will make it possible to determine a user’s profile image from their username, since that would enable always showing the profile image.

17 thoughts on “Building a Better Twitter Feed Reader

  1. I am curious about one thing though: how the profile pictures display. I understand the need for an Atom feed, but what doesn’t make sense to me is the folder synchronization.
    I understand if it’s not possible for some reason… It just sparked my curiosity. :)

  2. @Master: NG uses RSS for synchronized feeds. Since the profile pictures rely on the Atom element, they’re not available (yet!) when the feed is converted to RSS.

  3. @Master Devwi – The issue with synchronization and profile pictures has to do with the NewsGator API. With synchronized feeds, FeedDemon pulls the post from the NewsGator API rather then the source. The issue is that the NewsGator API returns RSS. Though our platform consumes the Atom feed, when FeedDemon retrieves it its returned as RSS.
    I’m writing this without looking at the actual Atom feed from Twitter but my guess is that the profile picture is in an element that our API is not storing. We try to store as much arbitrary XML as we can to return in the synchronized RSS feed but some elements from some feeds are not stored.
    I’ll add a ticket (since I know NickB will ask for it anyway ;-) to investigate parsing and storing whatever element that is from the Twitter atom feed.

  4. @Nick Bradbury and Nick Harris: Ah, okay. That makes sense. Thanks for clearing that up!
    (I’m studying Computer Science, so I find this kind of stuff interesting.)

  5. @Hugh: Even if you use a Twitter client, having these features is still nice. For example, these features are available in Twitter search feeds, as well as in “link blog” and “shared item” feeds that contain tweets.

  6. Thanks, Robert. Over time I am expanding the browser functionality, but probably not to the exent that it turns into something like Flock.

  7. Hi Nick, that really is a slick new feature for all twitter-addicts. Thanx!
    One thing though – I noticed a minor glitch in FD: Since I have more than one twitter-account, I wanted to add all of those. But FD gives a warning, asking me if I really want to subscribe to the same feed twice. I think FD should only give such a warning if you supply the same username for protected feeds (currently it only checks the url).

  8. @Ganee: I just looked into, but unfortunately they can’t be supported in FeedDemon. Rather than redirect to the long URL, they wrap an advertisement frame around it, so FeedDemon can’t do a HEAD request to determine the long url.

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