What we built with Twitter that now won't fly
17 Aug 2012 - Joshua Lewis and Galen Wolfe-Pauly
tl;dr - Check out the demo. Faster, better-looking data from Twitter integrated with other services.
Early this year we set out to build for cloud data what Photoshop is for images: a general purpose tool for manipulation, filtering and publishing called Ost. We decided to build our MVP on a small set of services that we loved and felt ideologically connected to: Twitter, Instagram, Dropbox, and Instapaper.
At the time these four services felt more like protocols than platforms, a nice set of APIs for creating, consuming, and persisting text and images. Ost rests on top of these services and provides affordances for working with data both within and between them.
We are particularly proud of what we do with Twitter data and unfortunately we now run rampantly afoul of Twitter's impending display guidelines. Check out News, a page we've published using Ost that tracks our favorite news sources. You'll notice two things. First, our design is dense yet readable. We put more tweets on a page than twitter.com and TweetDeck, while letting the text breathe and removing visual distractions. Second, try clicking on a @username. The transition time between feeds (in place, or in a separate panel through the right-click menu) is much faster than Twitter's native web clients.
Public pages have a lot of tools removed, and with an account you can send a tweet and its associated image to Dropbox with one click, create and share pages like News, and filter the feeds in various ways. You can also create feeds showing Dropbox and Instagram data.
We think what we're building is unique, and could help people engage with Twitter data in new and interesting ways. We think Twitter becomes even more useful to people alongside other services.
As a startup we enjoy the privilege of being small. We can take risks that big companies can't take. We can explore design choices that our larger counterparts might not be comfortable even trying out. We can invent features and experiment with new technology quickly, exploring what might be possible in the immediate future. We see this work as good for the long-term health of the services we build on: we discover possibilities for innovation and we create goodwill on their behalf.
It's an inherent risk in building a product like Ost that the services we use change their terms. We may have to pull some or all of our Twitter integration, or modify it in a way that compromises our goals of readability and speed. That's OK. Our vision isn't about one service, but about the useful interplay between many.
So come fly with Ost before Twitter grounds us.
P.S. We grabbed an App.net dev account. Drop us a line if you'd like to see App.net in Ost.
Joshua Lewis is a cofounder of Ost with Galen Wolfe-Pauly. He received a PhD in Cognitive Science at UC San Diego in 2011. Both his academic and entrepreneurial pursuits help folks to better interact with their data.
Galen Wolfe-Pauly is a co-founder of Ost with Joshua Lewis. He is trained as an architect and spends his time building software and being outside.