Tools of the Tech Tweet Trade

TechTweetBird I get a lot of questions about how I go about finding and distributing my Tech Tweets on a day to day basis. Some people even have the notion that I just sit at my computer and tweet all day.

I thought I’d put together some of these questions and answer them for you. The process is ongoing and regular changes, but the following will capture what I am doing today.

Before we start going into the logistics of what I use and how I use it, I thought I’d first give you a quick overview of why I started tech tweets and why I continue to provide them.

So, without further ado, here are the questions…

1. Why did you start doing Tech Tweets?

I’ve always been a sucker for the latest and greatest technologies. Not only do I enjoy finding out about the latest news and tools, but I also enjoy learning more about my current craft and becoming a better programmer. For these reasons, I regularly sorted through a wide variety of RSS feeds looking for what’s new.

At first, I just kept those links to myself and tried to build my craft. As time progressed I thought my teammates at work might benefit from the links I’ve found as well.

Shortly after, I became aware of Twitter where I was able to take a peak into the minds of those that I admire (in the programming world). Then I figured maybe someone outside of my team might benefit from the links, so I started tweeting them. At first I thought it would also be helpful for me to search for my old tweets, but I later found out that the Twitter search doesn’t go back all that far (in my case like 3 weeks).

2. How do you find all the information for you Tech Tweets?

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I use a variety of tools to help round up the latest Tech Tweets. One of my main tools happens to by my iPhone. While I am out, I often get on Tweetie and search Twitter for jQuery and ASP.NET MVC related information. When I find an interesting article, I will post the tweet to Instapaper. A long time ago I used to favorite tweets, but I like the concept of marking Instapaper entries as read (kind of like you do in e-mail). So, Tweetie is one of the iPhone Twitter apps that has integration with Instapaper.

Once I get access to my main computer, then I move on to Google Reader to check my daily RSS feeds (of which I currently have 227 subscriptions even after removing quite a few of them last week). If you don’t have it already, there is an awesome extension for Google Reader (Google Reader Plus for Google Chrome or Google Reader Filter for Firefox’s GreaseMonkey) that will allow you to filter your feeds via Regular Expressions. You can list RegEx patterns that you like and RegEx patterns that you don’t like. The one you like will be highlighted in yellow and the ones you don’t like will be grayed out. You can also set some other options like remove duplicates!

3. What tools do you use to distribute your Tech Tweets?

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I would say that this area is the one that I change most frequently, but as of now I start by using a bookmarklet called BigTweet to capture my Tech Tweets. The bookmarklet overlays an inline modal onto the webpage you are on and captures the title of the page, auto shortens the URL using j.mp (formerly bit.ly), and it even can auto post to delicious if you want. There are many other features as well so I recommend you check it out.

So, instead of posting directly from BigTweet to Twitter, I copy/paste the results into HootSuite where I schedule the tech tweet to send out at a future time. I have used many scheduling Twitter clients in the past such as Twuffer, TwitterMatic!, FutureTweets, TwtMstr, Social Oomph (formerly known as Tweet Later), but I’ve found that HootSuite has given me the nicest UI, the richest features, with consistent results. And now recently they have released an iPhone version that uses the same settings you have in the browser version! The one thing that I resist from HootSuite is their URL shortener. I used it for a little while, but soon found out that people didn’t like the digg like bar at the top of each tech tweet I sent out ;)

After the tech tweets have gone out for the day, I use Window Live Writer (WLW) to post a daily Tech Tweet round-up. I wrote a plug-in for WLW to gather my Tweets from today, group them into categories, parse them with a Regular Expression, expand the URLs, submit the Tech Tweets to my delicious account for future searching, and then generate the HTML for the Tech Tweet blog post.

Conclusion

You might have noticed that I have slightly changed my approval process over the last week or two. I am trying to refine my process to keep the highest quality links as possible and cut out the noise. I plan to do a separate post on my thoughts about this later.

I hope you have enjoyed the Tech Tweets and I plan to continue to provide helpful, timely, and high quality links on a day to day basis.

If you have any suggestions on how I can better contribute to the community through Tech Tweets please let me know. I value your input!