Public Domain Books – TweeterBot

A while ago I was talking with my sister about twitter and social media in general, and the question came up whether tweeting a book would be something people would like/subscribe to/even consider. And since then I’ve been thinking about it both technically and socially. Btw, the twitter is: PubDomBooks.

Technical Aspects

Technically, I thought it wouldn’t take that much. Boy did I underestimate how little I know (it was rather easy in retrospect). The experience of creating TweeterBot was long and great. I actually originally created this bot in Java, using twitter4j which is a nice little library that worked well for what I needed. That I was actually able to write in an afternoon. Although a good portion of that afternoon was creating a twitter dev account. So that was nice, I had a semi working bot, but it felt a little to easy and would’ve been annoying to get onto an ec2 instance. So I opted to remake the bot in Node.js.

Node is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. It’s simple, has a lot of documentation and plenty of libraries for everything you could possibly need. The first thing that I did was choose a twitter utility, twit, so that authentication and the act of sending requests to twitter would be really simple. (As easy as twit.post([…])). And here npm is great, I could download it easy to my own computer and on my ec2 instance, without having to send a bunch of files through github (but more on that later). One of the things that really excited me about this project was using the parts of node that weren’t used for web servers. I feel as though lots of people think of node as a straight web server software, but it has a lot of functionality beyond that. I read a lot about the filesystem, readline, streams, and more just because those were what I needed for this project. It was cool to see that side of the language. I also learned a bunch about javascript in general. Specifically the accuracy/utility of setInterval. Finally, I also got a bunch of experience in using amazon ec2 and github to move around and share files, which was nice to be doing just for fun.

Social (Media) Aspects

The social aspect of this project is a bit of a gray area, like first off, why has no one else done this yet? No interest? Maybe it just hasn’t occurred to people? Since my talk with my sister, I’ve talked a lot with friends about this idea and gotten various responses. Some were actually quite interested (and wanted to know what kinds of books it’d be tweeting). Others were doubtful, saying ‘mehhh’ essentially, which isn’t exactly thrilling, but it shows that either they don’t like twitter in general or haven’t really thought of it that much (the other option is that they don’t like the idea, but hey, how could they know, they haven’t tried it 🙂 ). The responses that I’ve gotten make me feel like this feed will be more of a internet nicknack (which is actually a word haha) and I’m okay with that.

My own experiences in testing this is that it is quite hard to read. Think about how your reading this, kind of at your own pace. Now what if I broke these paragraphs up such that it cut off in random places and forced your eyes to find another spot, it’s disruptive and not true to the spirit of the books (no even being funny here). It’s a very controlled and disorienting way of reading that I think many will find annoying, but I guess we will see. Additionally, it is kind of funny to see random lines of some book just pop up – there is a lot of comedic potential here I think.

Anyway, it’s up for the public now, let me know what you think of it. Would you subscribe? Why or why not? Ah, the cool little moral questions of our day.

EDIT: I also need to mention my thanks to Project Gutenburg for doing what they do. The only way I could legally tweet a book was if it was on the public domain, and so P.G. really helped in that respect. Please let me know if I’m doing anything illegal though, I think I am within my bounds though.

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