Announcing VeloTweets, Pulse of the Peloton

I'm pleased to announce VeloTweets, the pulse of the peloton, a curated collection of professional cycling Twitter activity. The idea and driving force came from Jamie Thingelstad. I did most of the development, and Norm Orstad designed the site. Chris Hatch helped a lot on the back end, providing a list of cyclists on Twitter, filling out profiles and affiliations, and doing research.

What's Different about VeloTweets?

We wanted to make VeloTweets different than the other subject matter aggregators out there. We wanted a hook that would combine the immediacy of Twitter with pro cycling in a compelling way.

Here's what we came up with.

First, we focused on who to include. Instead of everyone who's talking about cycling, this contains only pro cyclists (and a few others associated with the sport, like managers or team mechanics).

Second, we extended the data that is given to us by Twitter. We can enter every cyclist's real name, nationality, and team, as well as expanded biographical data (here's Lance Armstrong's profile for instance).

Third, we collected cycling events in a calendar that's displayed on the site, and added a Message of the Day that's tuned to what's happening in the racing world each day.

Forth, we brought in photos from the tweets (only TwitPic is supported right now). We store references to the photos in our DB so we can show the latest photos, along with photos that individuals have posted, and all of them. This turns out to be really cool because where else are you going to see photos like this one as they happen?

After all this we still weren't totally satisfied with what we'd come up with, because it still looked too much like Twitter (long list of messages in reverse chronological order). Then Jamie came up with the idea of only displaying each cyclist's most recent tweet in a grid. We really like how this works because people who tweet a lot (like Lance) don't dominate the page. It gives you an overview of what the whole peloton is talking about without letting a few people dominate it.

Developing for Twitter

I've been doing a number of Twitter-related projects lately. The first was Twistr, which combines Twitter and Flickr LOLcat style for occasionally amusing results. Then Barry Hess and I built Follow Cost, which tells you how much someone tweets before you follow them. I created a prototype for FanChatter's next product based on Twitter conversation aggregation. Now comes VeloTweets and another project that's not public yet.

I really enjoy working with the Twitter APIs. It's fun to develop applications that utilize the platform that the Twitter folks have built.

On that front, I recently received a copy of Twitter API: Up and Running (Follow Cost is mentioned on page 70!) which I will give a full review to soon. You don't need a book on the Twitter API to develop applications for it, but it does provide some ideas and a useful reference, as well as details on some interesting aspects of Twitter (for example, I did not know that direct messages disappear if they are deleted by either party.).