What’s in a Tweet?

If you have been following the news, I’m sure that you’ve been at least mildly interested in the story coming from the Bronx Zoo about a missing cobra.  WPIX has the story on their website.  Someone with a great sense of humour has created a Twitter account for the snake.  You can "follow" the snake at @BronxZoosCobra.  The tweets coming from this account are hilarious.

So funny, in fact, that I sent out a Twitter message indicating that this account was one of the best follows on Twitter right now.

He/She has one of the great avatars and a really good sense of humour.  Even if you decide not to be one of the thousands who are following the account, at least click this link and see what the snake has been saying.  At least one person read my Twitter message and replied.

In other news, I was in the Google Chrome store today and noticed a "new to me" Twitter client called Streamie.  One of Streamie’s claims to fame, other than running in the Chrome browser is that it updates in real time, very much like the Twitter plugin that I use with Seesmic Desktop or from the web through the Twitter website.

In fact, the first time I read the message from @jaxbeachteach, it was through Streamie.  It didn’t look like the above; it looked like this.


You’ll notice that the layout of the message and colouring is completely different but the content is exactly the same.

I’ve always maintained that all students should take at least one course in Computer Science.  There are the nay-sayers who feel that it’s not necessary.  "Programming is all gobbly-gook.  What’s important is being an end user and using the stuff"  Really?  You need to read or ponder Douglas Rushkoff’s book "Program or Be Programmed".  An excerpt from the book appears here.

Back to Streamie.

Another claim to fame of Streamie is that you can configure it to see the JSON code behind a Twitter message.  All that you have to do is enable it in the configuration and double click to see it.  For the message above, here’s the code.

"data": {
  "entities": {
   "hashtags": [],
   "urls": [],
   "user_mentions": [
     "indices": [
     "screen_name": "dougpete",
     "id_str": "8381832",
     "name": "Doug Peterson",
     "id": 8381832
     "indices": [
     "screen_name": "BronxZoosCobra",
     "id_str": "273531261",
     "name": "Bronx Zoo’s Cobra",
     "id": 273531261
  "text": "@dougpete @BronxZoosCobra I agree. The cobra has been the best entertainment. I hope he starts trending!",
  "place": null,
  "in_reply_to_user_id": 8381832,
  "favorited": false,
  "created_at": "Tue Mar 29 18:47:17 +0000 2011",
  "coordinates": null,
  "in_reply_to_screen_name": "dougpete",
  "in_reply_to_status_id_str": "52800615931314176",
  "source": "web",
  "contributors": null,
  "geo": null,
  "retweeted": false,
  "in_reply_to_status_id": "52800615931314176",
  "in_reply_to_user_id_str": "8381832",
  "id_str": "52804034662375425",
  "retweet_count": 0,
  "user": {
   "lang": "en",
   "profile_use_background_image": true,
   "created_at": "Mon Jan 19 20:42:22 +0000 2009",
   "profile_background_color": "C0DEED",
   "description": "Instructional coach and a member of the NSDC Learning School Alliance. Outside of work I cycle and try to keep very physically active to balance out my cooking.",
   "default_profile_image": false,
   "profile_background_image_url": "http://a3.twimg.com/a/1299876209/images/themes/theme1/bg.png",
   "show_all_inline_media": false,
   "geo_enabled": true,
   "time_zone": "Eastern Time (US & Canada)",
   "profile_text_color": "333333",
   "profile_image_url": "http://a2.twimg.com/profile_images/369193071/Jillk_normal.PNG",
   "follow_request_sent": false,
   "following": true,
   "profile_sidebar_fill_color": "DDEEF6",
   "followers_count": 188,
   "id_str": "19200920",
   "verified": false,
   "notifications": false,
   "profile_background_tile": false,
   "favourites_count": 6,
   "friends_count": 237,
   "url": "http://coachbydesign.blogspot.com",
   "screen_name": "jaxbeachteach",
   "statuses_count": 2077,
   "protected": false,
   "is_translator": false,
   "contributors_enabled": false,
   "profile_link_color": "0084B4",
   "location": "Jacksonville Beach, Florida",
   "name": "Jill Kolb",
   "listed_count": 10,
   "profile_sidebar_border_color": "C0DEED",
   "id": 19200920,
   "default_profile": true,
   "utc_offset": -18000
  "id": "52804034662375425",
  "truncated": false
"prefill": true,
"created_at": "2011-03-29T18:47:17.000Z",
"conversation": {
  "index": 131,
  "tweets": 1
"mentions": [
"mentioned": true,
"textHTML": "<a href=\"http://twitter.com/dougpete\" class=\"user-href\">@dougpete</a> <a href=\"http://twitter.com/BronxZoosCobra\" class=\"user-href\">@BronxZoosCobra</a> I agree. The cobra has been the best entertainment. I hope he starts trending!",
"hashTags": [],
"html": "\n<li class=\"tweet mention conversation131 \">\n\t<a href=\"http://twitter.com/jaxbeachteach\" class=\"user-href\"><img src=\"http://a2.twimg.com/profile_images/369193071/Jillk_normal.PNG\" alt=\"Jill Kolb\" width=\"48\" height=\"48\" class=\"profile_image_url\" /></a>\n\t\n\t<div class=\"status\">\n\t\t<p class=\"text\"><a href=\"http://twitter.com/dougpete\" class=\"user-href\">@dougpete</a> <a href=\"http://twitter.com/BronxZoosCobra\" class=\"user-href\">@BronxZoosCobra</a> I agree. The cobra has been the best entertainment. I hope he starts trending!</p>\n\t\t<ul class=\"actions\">\n\t\t  \n\t\t\t\n\t\t  <li title=\"Retweet\" class=\"retweet\" tabindex=\"0\"></li>\n\t\t\t\n\t\t  <li title=\"Reply\" class=\"reply\" tabindex=\"0\"></li>\n\t\t  \n\t\t  <li title=\"Quote\" class=\"quote\" tabindex=\"0\"></li>\n\t\t  <li title=\"Star\" class=\"favorite\" tabindex=\"0\"></li>\n\t\t\t\n\t\t  \n\t\t</ul>\n\t\t<div class=\"header\">\n\t\t\t<h3 class=\"h user-name\"><a href=\"http://twitter.com/jaxbeachteach\" class=\"user-href\">Jill Kolb</a>\n\t\t  </h3>\n\t\t\t<div class=\"time created_at\"><a href=\"http://twitter.com/jaxbeachteach/status/52804034662375425\"></a></div>\n\t\t\t\n\t\t\t<div class=\"in_reply_to_screen_nam\"><a href=\"http://twitter.com/dougpete/status/52800615931314176\" class=\"conversation\" title=\"Show conversation\">in a conversation with dougpete</a></div>\n\t\t\t\n\t\t</div>\n    \n\t</div>\n</li>\n\n\n",
"height": 103,
"age": 131089

Students of Computer Science would be able to read and decipher a great deal of the above code.  They would be able to understand what’s in a message.  They would understand how threads are built.  They would know how images are attached to messages.  They would understand the twitpocalypse and how Twitter had to scramble for indexing of messages because of its own popularity.  They would get a deeper understanding of how privacy and geo-locating issues are transferred in a seemingly innocuous message.

The best of Computer Science students could pull the content apart and write the code that would give a custom look to a Twitter message.  Some of the very best could actually write their own Twitter client!

Those that don’t understand could point out that one is blue and the other is green.  <tongue in cheek>

There really is a deeper understanding to what is happening in the device that you’re reading from at the moment.  Now, not everyone who studies Computer Science is going to write the next great Twitter client.  But, I would maintain that they do have a deeper understanding of what’s happening in their digital world.  Do we want students to be happy with being programmed?  Do we want them to grow up not being able to articulate what they’re trying to achieve or to explain when something goes wrong?  I don’t think so.

Even something as simple as a Twitter message about a cobra on the loose does reveal that there’s more going on with your computer and behind the scenes than what would appear on the surface.  It does make sense that we have the skills to be able to pull back the covers and have a sense of what’s happening inside.

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1 thought on “What’s in a Tweet?

  1. That’s pretty cool. I’ll be the first to admit I have only a very basic understanding of code but it’s very revealing to see what’s behind a simple tweet.


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