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28 August 2008

Search for thousands of email addresses on Twitter? [More:]

In my work email this morning:
We are interested in implementing two technical items:

1) Include a feed of our Twitter posts on the [redacted] web site

2) Import all [redacted] users into our Twitter account so we can "follow" them, which may then result in them deciding to "follow" us.

Item #1 seems dead easy...I can just use our Twitter RSS feed right? But after a quick skim through the REST API docs and a couple of tutorials, I still haven't the foggiest of how to implement #2.

I've never used twitter before, though I think I understand the concept. I see this search by email page, but is there a way to programmaticly check tens of thousands of email addresses and get their correspondng twitter id (if any) in return?

Any advice or even silliness appreciated. I'll be doing this in php (with curl) if that matters.
Would "why?" be considered silliness?
posted by dg 28 August | 08:19
I guess a hacky way would be to create a gmail account and import our users into it as contacts and then use the search page I linked. Anybody have experience using that form when you have thousands of contacts? Man, there must be a cleaner way.

Heh, on preview, I just work here.
posted by danostuporstar 28 August | 08:25
I know almost nothing about web services, but I see twitter has an api, so you may be able to write an application that uses their api to do automated searches.
posted by DarkForest 28 August | 08:27
Oh, I see now you've already been through the API documents. Sorry.
posted by DarkForest 28 August | 08:49
Ah, it looks like will work.

Regarding dg's comment ... are we likrly to piss off our users if we follow them? Thanks, bunnies. (No problem, DarkForest. Thanks for the input.)
posted by danostuporstar 28 August | 08:52
I get ticked off if anyone other than a person who wants to read my Tweets (Twits?) follows me, and I block all follows that are business related. I think if enough people block your feed, Twitter will recognize your account as spam, though I'm not sure. Why would your company need to follow the Twitter feeds of all their users? In hopes that they will follow yours? I think a better thing to do would be to set up a Twitter and then e-mail all your users to announce you have started one. I would get ticked off if a company that I did business with used my e-mail address to start following me around on any of the social networking sites, including Twitter.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 28 August | 09:25
In hopes that they will follow yours?

Yes, I think that is the goal. I'll suggest the "send an announcement email" idea. Thanks. I'll also look into the spam thing.
posted by danostuporstar 28 August | 09:36
ThePinkSuperhero wins! Thats the way to do it.
posted by dabitch 28 August | 09:38
If your boss makes you do this, to mitigate TPS's issue, how bout your company creating a cute personalised type character to follow you? Like, say, when you buy shit from it, the email daemon that emails you is called Little Moo.

If you sell Anus Ease hemorrhoid cream, your little twitter-avatar could be called Dingleberry, for instance. Communicating with whimsical hipness about what the office cat is doing and occasional sale notices.
posted by By the Grace of God 28 August | 09:52
Yeah, TPS is spot on. As usual.

"follow spam" is something Twitter is trying to take care of. See this.
posted by birdherder 28 August | 09:57
dano: TPS is absolutely right, and fwiw if I used Twitter I'd do the same.

Honestly, I'd take her stance, or quote her to your marketing department or whatever suit came up with that (imo bad) concept of (what sounds like) market-stalking. On preview, yes, "follow spam" indeed.

I think this is a poorly understood social concept in the world of web marketing that I believe more businesses would be well-advised to grok sooner than later. The internet does not play by the rules of traditional marketing. You can't just inundate the neighbourhood anymore with junk mail / junk feeds / junk whatever like you maybe could in meatspace. Unsolicited ANYTHING in the interwebs, I think, is generally considered spam and consequently viewed in a negative light.

Best case scenario: you tick off users and they boycott widgets. Worst case scenario, you piss off some bored script kiddie that hacks the site. It usually does not pay to aggravate web-savvy clientele, especially if they're of a demographic that could potentially design some form of creative retaliation.

Now Grace definitely has a point there tho: if you build something trendy / cool / cute that people dig and/or wins an audience, that's different. Hence "viral marketing".
posted by lonefrontranger 28 August | 10:03
Great thoughts, everyone. I'll be sure to share them with my bosses. That follow spam link will help a lot.

I wish we were selling Anus Ease, btgog. I could use an employee discount.
posted by danostuporstar 28 August | 10:19
So I just responded to their email with the following:
Item will number 1 will be very easy to implement. Item number 2 will be more difficult. I think I've figured out how to use the twitter API to get the twitter ID for a given email address, but unfortunately the API has a throttle on it that only allows 70 queries per hour. To get through our entire member database at only 70/hour will take over month to do.

I also wonder if it's a good idea, generally, to follow thousands of our users. I think they've put the request throttle in place, in part, precisely to avoid this sort mass communication. See the stuff about "follow spam" here: . Also, when I was trying to figure out how implement #2, I asked to a web community I am active in how it might be implemented technically. The response among the twitter users there was that they would not appreciate being "followed" in that way at all, and would likely block the SCI twitter user completely.

Just some thoughts.

We'll see what happens.
posted by danostuporstar 28 August | 10:34
I also would stop doing business with your company if it engaged in follow spam.
posted by grouse 28 August | 11:18
As a follow-up: we're not going to follow people automatically, but we're still going to start the process of collecting twitter IDs, for use in emails we already send to them.

Thanks again. Big help.
posted by danostuporstar 29 August | 08:34
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