Risk Assessment: Corporate Acquisitions Can Kill APIs

So it seems that my to-do list just got shorter as Twitter acquire BackType and as a result “will discontinue the BackType product and API services”.


On my roadmap (err, such as it is!;-), one thing I was hoping to do was start exploring in more detail the struture of communities around a shared link, with a view to exploring in more detail some of the actual dynamics of link sharing across Twitter networks. My early forays in to this have tended to use BackType, as for example in Visualising Ad Hoc Tweeted Link Communities, via BackType.

The simple recipe I’d started out with was based around the following steps:

– given the URL, look up who’s tweeted it via the BackType API;
– for each tweeter of the link, grab the list of people they follow (i.e. their friends);
– plot the “inner” network showing which of the people who tweeted the link the follow each other.

This gave an easy way in to identifying a set of folk who had expressed an interest in a link by virtue of sharing it, this set then acting as the starting point for a community analysis.

Another approach I started to explore (but never blogged?!) was looking at networks of folk who had shared one of the links recently shortened by a particular bit.ly user. So for example, this graph (captured some time ago) used the BackType API to find who had tweeted one of more of 15 or so links that @charlesarthur had shortened using bit.ly, and then plotted friend connections between them:

follower connections between folk tweeting one or more of 15 links also recently shortened on bitly by charlesarthur

Unfortunately, now that the BackType API has gone (when I try to call it I get a “Limit exceeded” error message), the key ingredient from those two original recipes is no longer available…:-(

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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