Aaaaaah! The Twitter Jetpack for WordPress plugin doesn’t work anymore!

Earlier today, I got an email from a client. The twitter widget on their site wasn’t working anymore and was just showing ‘twitter does not respond’. At first blush, I thought it was just a standard twitter issue. It’s the Twitter Jetpack for WordPress (namely wordpress.com) plugin, it must work! But when I refreshed the site, I found that there was a message telling me that the widget was depreciated thanks to Twitter retiring its 1.0 API and to switch to the Twitter Timeline Widget.

Image of Depreciated Twitter Jetpack Widget

Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200.

OK. I remembered those messages about Twitter unrolling a new 1.1 API, and even that it was shutting down the 1.0 API. But I hadn’t thought of the effect it might have on the embeds in sites. Silly me.

So, I set about doing the upgrade….

All twitter embeds now require authorisation

I quickly realised that gone are the days of lackadaisically dropping a twitter feed on your site. As of the 1.1 API, every twitter feed—profile, list, or even search—requires an authorisation of some point, at the very least through an embed from your account, or more trickily through an app connection.

What this means is that if you’re working on a client’s site, you’ll probably require their password, or, if they’re the paranoid type, to at least do the authorisations from the WordPress backend for you.

Jetpack Twitter timeline: the old twitter embed you hated the look of, just as a shortcode

What I found when I attempted to use the Twitter timeline tool was that, rather than the fully customisable tool of past, it was basically a shortcode for a twitter embed. Which you have to create on your twitter account. I couldn’t even get the plugin to work for some reason, but it’s based on height and width rather than number of tweets, and is generally much more like having a Facebook box on your site. Admittedly, there are some styling options, but it’s certainly a lot more limited than it was in the past, particularly if you like to do a lot of CSS customisation.

Twitter Widget Pro: finicky to set up, but worth the effort

After doing some investigation, I came across Twitter Widget Pro. It’s much more like the previous Twitter Jetpack app in that it gives a lot of options for number of tweets, whether you see the follow button and so on. And is fully themable!

The process is a little more involved though. When you install the plugin, you have to create an application on dev.twitter.com (this will be familiar to people who have worked with APIs in the past), add the generated keys to your setting page, and then authorise your twitter account using OAuth.

Happily, I found that the theme naming system used by Twitter Widget Pro was so close to the old Twitter Jetpack widget (or was it the other way around?) that almost all of my custom CSS immediately worked on it, saving me a fair amount of time.

Twitter Widget Pro in use

Twitter Widget Pro in use

Is twitter turning into a walled garden?

I couldn’t help but remember the outcry a couple of years ago when Twitter announced it would stop actively supporting developers through its framework. While I can understand that they need to keep an eye on their database calls and security, it does certainly feel that the days of a freely hackable twitter are further and further away.

Update June 24 2013: I got another email alerting me to the twitter widget not updating. Unfortunately there’s no obvious fix, but the best hack is to show three updates and hide the older two with CSS.

Sparks North East Hackday

Last Saturday, a dozen developers and designers were crazy enough dedicated enough to ignore the blue Toon skies to spend the day in the Ignite Loft playing with transport data at the Sparks NE hack day. Graham Grant of Tyne and Wear transport was also on hand to give out the data and information.

I teamed up with Matt Glover, Alec Berry and Dave Husdon. Together we probably made up 90% of the noise in the room (sorry). We decided to use the parking data to show patterns relating to car parking and made CarToon (thanks Paul Smith for the name).

Having an Icon and Name by build #3 ... that's the awesomeness of 'Team CarToon' #sparksne #notProTip

Alec’s prezi is below:

A timelapse of a day is below:

carToon demo video

We were very happy to get third for our efforts!

In first place equal was Peter Nielsen and Sanjeev Pratinidhi who visualised the quality of segments of road so that residents could be compelled to get change as per Fix My Street; and Alistair McDonald who used the website and Twillio to create a mobile and SMS service for checking carparks.
Joanna Montgomery won an award for visualisation with her graphing of 2011 census data relating to transport use in the area.

All up, some interesting trends came up. Graham noted that a lot of people worked with the parking data—perhaps as it was the most easy to understand—and that for the purpose of a short hack day it’s important to have easy to understand data. Alistair and teams had stories of attempting to wrangle bus datasets only to realise they couldn’t find something! While it was nice to take part in a 12 hour hackday (10am to 10pm), which isn’t as gruelling as an all-weekend one, it does allow less time to mess around with data or make mistakes.

To check out what happened on the day, see the #sparksne twitterstream or the @sparksnortheast account.

And, if in doubt: *always* try the John Dobson carpark.