Back On Line

Posted on 16th February 2009

After the last few weeks of trying to access Twitter from the command line, I set about writing something that I could expand to micro-blog to any social networking site that supports many of the Twitter API type commands. At the moment it only works with Twitter and, but my plan is to look at creating plugins, or more likely to allow others to create plugins, that can enable the tool to interact with other micro-blogging sites.

After trying to think of a decent name, I finally settled on Maisha. It's a Swahili word meaning "life". You can grab the code from CPAN as App-Maisha.

Currently you'll need to use the standard Perl install toolset to install the application, but ultimately I'd like to have something that you can install just about anywhere without having to go through all the headache of installing dependencies. I'll have a go at doing an .rpm and a .deb package release, and will also try using PAR. It would be nice to have this as a standalone application that just about anyone can use, but for now CPAN will have to do.

My next immediate step is to look at writing something that interfaces to Facebook without requiring a developer key or any such nonsense. It will probably have to involve a bit of screen scraping, unless there is some more official API, but as yet I haven't found it. Everything regards Facebook applications seems to centre around the developer application that can do all sorts of dubious things, but mine is purely for the user to control from their desktop, not a 3rd party website/server. Thus giving them a developer API key assigned to me is wholly inappropriate. It would be nice if they had a restricted User API, which allows you to update your status and look at your friends' statuses, but I think I'll be in the minority wanting it.

File Under: community / internet / opensource / perl / technology

You Know My Name

Posted on 9th February 2009

Having mentioned twitter in a recent post, I thought I would mention a project I decided to look at recently. The original project, twittershell, is not my own, but it appeared to be the closest to what I was after, a command line interface to Twitter, with the bonus of it being written in Perl. As a consequence of the latter, I was able to hack on the code and submit a patch to do a lot of what I wanted. I currently run the patched version, and it runs rather nicely for me. However, there is something missing.

Twitter is no longer the only micro-logging service and as such I've also signed up to With the APIs being pretty much the same, it should theorectically be simple to plugin an interface to twittershell. Except it isn't. Unfortunately twittershell is written with only the Twitter API in mind. To intergrate and other micro-blogging services, it requires a rewrite. So that's where I'm currently at. The original twittershell project hasn't been touched in over a year, so I'm hoping the orignial author won't be offended by me forking the code to a new project.

However, what do I call the new project? I would rather it not be something that identifies itself with any specific blogging service, as I would like it to have a broader appeal, that encourages others to add plugins should a new service come along. I realise this project will likely have limited appeal, as iPhone and GUI apps seem the in thing, but I want something that I can run via ssh/screen on my home box and not have to worry about watching some app running on the desktop.

One idea I had was to call it 'Mazungumzo' (Swahili for talk or conversation ... an idea stolen from Joomla!), then I thought of 'Maisha' (Swahili for life). I did look up some Welsh words, but doubt anyone would be able to pronounce them ;) I also thought of 'Rambler', but that might have too many connections to someone who goes walking across hill and dale of a weekend. So any good ideas for projects names?

File Under: internet / perl / technology

Guiding Light

Posted on 6th February 2009

In 2006 I, along with 3 others from Birmingham Perl Mongers, organised the 2006 YAPC::Europe Perl Conference. It was thankfully a great success and invigorated several with ideas of things that they could do to join or create communities. Whether that was forming a local Perl Monger user group or starting a code project that would eventually be submitted to the CPAN. However, one person was inspired to go to another YAPC the following year and then submit a talk and speak at the 2008 YAPC::Europe Perl Conference. Had the 2006 conference not been in Birmingham, UK in 2006, Edmund would likely never have gone to a YAPC, and never realised how valuable they are. Not just in terms of the presentations and speakers, but of the communities and projects that are discussed, that he might not otherwise be aware of. And perhaps most importantly, realise just how easy it is to be included into the community and how easy it is for everyone to make a difference.

At the conference dinner in 2008, Edmund was struck by the lack of younger members of the communty in attendance, and started to think about why. For some time I have been trying to understand what we as a community can do to bring new people into the community, and although my perspective has focused on YAPCs, it equally applies to projects and local user groups. However, there is one aspect that I had neglected, that was obvious to Edmund. Funding. Most of those we are trying to encourage to come along to a YAPC are likely to be unwaged or on low wages, and cannot afford the costs of travel and accommodation for 4-6 days.

Last week Edmund launched the Send-A-Newbie website, with the support of the organisers for the 2009 YAPC::Europe Perl Conference to be held in Lisbon, Portugal, together with several members of the Perl community who have voiced approval. It is a great idea, and is a great way to enable students in particular a chance to attend the biggest Perl developer conferences in Europe.

The initaive aims to send at least 6 people, although even if only 1 person is selcted to attend this year, I would consider it a success. As it happens some grant applications have already been received, so it is likely that at least 1 person will attend thanks to the programme. Hopefully more will be approved for grants providing the funding can be obtained.

So how can you help? Well if you have the ability to do so, please consider donating. Mentioned the programme to anyone who you think might be a worthy recipient of a grant, and get them to apply. Mention it at your local user group, and see whether anyone can help with a donation. In order to keep YAPCs and the Perl community healthy we need to encourage potential future stars that attending the conference is a worthwhile oppotunity. If they could benefit from a grant to cover their travel and accommodation costs, then it really is in yours and their interest to do something about it. Applications will be accepted until 1 June 2009, so there is plenty of time yet to promote and apply for grants.

File Under: community / conference / education / opensource / people / perl / yapc

Set the Fire to the Third Bar

Posted on 5th February 2009

The snow has been thick everyday of the week so far, and this morning looked particular uninviting for travelling the 45 miles to work. We had a new blanket overnight and while the kids are currently enjoying the snowball fights, I'd rather be here in the warm. If it stays like this at the weekend, I might have to take Dan up to the Waseley Hills for some sledging. I can't see Dan's football match being on, even though they managed to play in a blizzard on Sunday.

File Under: birmingham / weather

It's Oh So Quiet!

Posted on 5th February 2009

Something that has bugged me recently is my lack of regular posts to my personal blog. I rarely write about the projects I work on, as most are featured in some form or another on the various Perl sites that I work on. But I feel I ought to make a note of snippets of ideas and thoughts about some here too. Not that I want this to become a technical blog, but there are random thoughts that would fit better here than over there. So expect a few more project related posts in the future.

I also have a considerable backlog of gig photos as well as the family type photos that I want to go through, and at least put a few photos online. So that might help make my postings a little more regular :)

File Under: opensource / technology

It's My Life

Posted on 4th February 2009

The twitter phenomenon has grown rather well over the past few months. I have started to use it more in the last month, and I note that a number of people I'm friends and acquaintences with have also been using it quite a lot. Which is nice, as although some use it to just tell everyone what they are doing now, others use it as a blogging tool to have a quick rant, or ask followers a question. Occasional conversations and idle banter make it quite a fun way to keep in touch with firends and people you like to talk to, plus there are the useful links to news items, etc. that people post.

Every one of my followers I either know personally, or have had contact with them online several times prior to twitter. Of the people I follow (discounting project/news feeds), only Stephen Fry and Henry Rollins I don't know personally. Seeing as they are well known personalities they expect to have a lot of followers, Stephen has recently reached over 100,000 followers. But I'm not a celebrity or well known personality, yet I'm starting to get twitter requests from people who I have never met, or know anything about. That's not to say that they are random people, as those are usually easy to spot and can be ignored, but are followers of and/or followed by other people I know. I have my twitterings protected as I really don't like the idea of people I don't know, randomly trying to follow everything I say. Not that I have anything necessarily personal to say, but to me I feel my whitterings have a limited personal appeal and are really only of interest to those that actually know me.

With that said, you could argue that I am well known in the Perl community, and indeed I am. But from that perspective people are really only interested in my projects, most specifically CPAN Testers. However, those projects I blog about elsewhere, and are not a regular part of my tweets. It feels awkward to actively block people from my twitter feed, so I usually leave them in the queue, hoping that I eventually meet them, or have someone else mention them, so I can get a reference as to who they are.

I wonder how others feel about random people listening in on their musings? Does it feel like an intrusion or do you feel you are reaching people with what's going on in your life. Do you use it as a way for others to keep tabs on what project you're working on, or do you like the idea of people being interested in you?

Twitter has certainly been a strange success. It's kind of like a global IRC, with a channel that you create. It's reached outside of the geeks that started to use it, and with the success of Facebook and the status updates, people who would never have thought to put their lives on the internet are now doing so. At the moment, outside of Japan, they have no revenue model, so it will be intriguing to see how long that can last, and whether any future changes turn off the new adopters of the service. I'm sure we'll hear a tweet or two about it when it does.

File Under: internet / life / people / web

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