Tinkering with Twitter's API

OpenNews brought all of us Knight-Mozilla fellows to Minneapolis a day early for a low-key, pre-SRCCON hack day. The theme of the event was "Quant Selfish," so the goal was to make something out of personal data related to whichever topic seemed interesting.

Kavya and I thought it might be fun to play with the Twitter API. The idea was to get a list of unrequited Twitter friendships – the accounts you follow that never returned the favor.

Drumroll, please...

Inspired by all those Twitterfolk who don't follow you back...now...without further ado...we present to you:  YUNOFOLLOW and its undocumented GitHub repo!

...and the crowd goes wild!

Here we have all 383 of my (that's @julia67's) unrequited friendships.

While this isn't anything special or ground-breaking in the least – I had never worked with the Twitter API before, so I figured I should document the steps that went into making this Twitter app.

Making a client-side app with Twitter data

Kavya and I only wanted to work on the front end for this, so we used oauth.io for OAuth integration and user management. The trickiest part was configuring the authentication piece; working with the Twitter API itself was pretty straight-forward.

Step 1: Create the Twitter Application

  1. Go to apps.twitter.com.
  2. Click Create New App.
  3. Fill in the application details.
  4. Make note of the Consumer Key and Consumer Secret under the Keys and Access Tokens tab.

Step 2: Configure OAuth.io

  1. Go to oauth.io.
  2. Sign up or Sign in.
  3. Click Create an app. This will generate the App Keys (the Public Key and Private Key necessary to initialize the SDK). Find them under the General screen.
  4. Add the domain where you will host the app to the Domains & URLs whitelist box on the General screen.
  5. Click Integrated APIs in the sidebar.
    • Click the Add API button.
    • Choose Twitter from the available options.
    • Add the Twitter Consumer Key and Secret Key from Step 1.4 to the client_id and client_secret fields.
    • Click Try Auth. If all goes well, you'll receive a success message containing the code you'll need to initialize OAuth from your app.
OAuth.popup('twitter').done(function(result) {  
    // do some stuff with result

Step 3: Write some code

  1. Include the oauth.io script on the page.
    <script src="scripts/dist/oauth.js"></script>
  2. Initialize OAuth.
  3. Authorize the app and save the result to a javascript object that will make HTTP calls to the Twitter API.
var provider = 'twitter';  
.done(function(result) { // OAuth worked as expected
    twitterObj= result; 
    .done(function (response) { // Twitter user exists
        console.log('You're on Twitter!');
        console.log('Name: ', response.name);
    .fail(function (err) { // Twitter user wasn't found
.fail(function (err) { // OAuth didn't work

    var friendsURL = 'https://api.twitter.com/1.1/friends/ids.json';
    twitterObj.get(friendsURL).done(function(data) {
        friendsIDs = data.ids;
    }).fail(function(err) {

That's about it. We've identified a handful of issues with our code (which we wrote rather hastily) – but as this was just for fun, we're probably not going to fix anything. The goal was to identify our unrequited friendships – and identify them we did!

If you're interested in trying something like this, definitely check out the oauth.io docs and Twitter API docs. Also, Linda found a cool command line tool that does essentially the same thing – it's pretty spiffy if you're into that.