I decided to whip up an experiment called Roomatic to test out some ideas I had to give Twitter some more forum-like community functionality like I've been posting about lately. The end result ended up being a way of using Twitter like how you would use IRC, with the channels based on #hashtags that are included in messages and presented in a standard chatroom interface.

At first I was aiming towards making a sort of Twitter-based clone of FriendFeed's comment functionality (which I may still try to do) so you'll see that Roomatic's rooms don't just have to be hashtags, but also "hashurls" (I just made that up, can you tell?). In other words, you can pre-pend a URL with a hashmark like this: #, and it becomes a room based on that URL. (Try it to see what I'm talking about).

That was the base of the functionality I wanted to use to enable comments, but then as I started messing with the Twitter and Summize APIs, I realized I could make it a bit more "live" using the JSON API. It ended up working out really well and enabled me to make a service out-of-the-box so that I didn't have to have users add Roomatic as a friend to use it (like you do with, nor did I have to store any user data. The Twitter POST just gets passed through to the server, and the rest comes directly from the JSON query. The result is the same sort of functionality I was looking for, but with minimal resources needed on my server.

I'm *so* glad that Twitter bought Summize, as even though they encouraged people building stuff on their API, I was worried about hammering at their servers too much. Each page will poll the JSON Search API once every 3 seconds for updates - and even though you can set it so that it only asks for updates since a specific tweet ID (which I did), it still seemed like a lot to do to some third party. Twitter, however, is supposed to handle it. :-)

This isn't much different than the functionality that Summize/Twitter Search already has, truth be told, but I wanted to see how it would "feel" with a slightly tweaked UI and updates that are shown immediately. I'm not particularly adept at Javascript or JQuery, so it's a bit crufty at the moment, but it gets the general idea across. (If you know ways of improving the way the Javascript works, *please* feel free to ping me).

Anyways, because only the original room requests and posts go through the server and the rest is done via JSON, it's actually quite light to host, so I thought it would be fun to throw the site out there, even in its crufty state. Try it out and tell me what you think.

Oh, and I'll be in #roomatic if you want to chat.



Update: Tweaked the site a bit so that #hashtags aren't the default, just the room word itself. Hashtags can still be used to narrow the results with a %23 added to the room name.

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