I am addicted to Twitter. I tweet a bit, but I am much more interested in hearing the conversations going on in the crowds I follow (librarians, media and content nerds, funny people) and the crowds of patrons talking about stuff at my library. Beyond people who need help with something that I can respond to officially as @nypl, I love to be able to monitor what parts of our collections people are sharing within their own networks. Thanks to the magic of Twitter, it is almost completely transparent, and possible to zero in on these conversations with simple search queries.

Here’s another thing I am addicted to: shoes. Okay, actually not really. But I like Zappos.com. And they sell more than just shoes. I like to shop with them because their site is fun to use and their customer service is amazing. Last summer they messed up an order pretty spectacularly, and I was sent the wrong thing twice in a row. But I did not even care because the experience was otherwise completely painless and hassle free. I get tons of customer service inspiration from Zappos — but this post is about something else.

One day I was shopping and I noticed Zappos’s stylish TweetWall. Any time someone tweets a link to an item on the website, they display it in a visually engaging way on this wall. This isn’t what MY friends are buying, but it’s a cross section of what EVERYBODY’S buying right now. Or — what they are thinking about buying and need an honest opinion on! These are customers that are willing to share their thoughts on an item in less than 140 characters. It’s a self-selected group that use Twitter and tweet about products they like (or don’t like — you might very well see critiques of overpriced monstrosities on this wall.) In that way it feels more natural and interesting to me than an automated feed of what people are buying or checking out, without any real context or conversation around it.

Todd is always pestering me for project ideas, as he has really strengthened his Ruby chops over the past few years. We needed an easy goal, something simple and well-defined. An app or a tool that solves a problem. Well, here I am, feeling like the only one who really gets to see the amazing items people are tweeting about in aggregate every day. I want to show the world! I want to show our staff and patrons what everyone (on Twitter) is talking about right now! And make it visually interesting, in the way that Pinterest can be (Billy’s board of blog posts was another inspiration.)

So that is how we created tweetwall.nypl.org. It uses the Twitter API to collect tweets that match a certain format, and pulls in content thumbnails using the NYPL and BiblioCommons APIs. We used Bootstrap, Masonry, and GLYPHICONS to make it even prettier. Source is available on GitHub.

Tweetwall Blog Posts

Blog posts from nypl.org

Tweetwall Books & Media

Books and media from BiblioCommons

In the finished product, the content item, whatever it may be (the equivalent of a product at Zappos) is at the center of the conversation. All of the tweets about that item, whether they are original statements or RTs (retweets) and replies containing the link appear underneath. You can click on any link — to the item, the user, or the tweet, to see more.

Now I am just trying to get people to use this thing! Somewhat disappointing, but not unexpected, is that a lot of what we send out daily as “suggested content” is what appears here. I want to encourage staff and patrons to take advantage of memes like #FridayReads to post to the wall, and to share interesting image finds, like the DPLA does with #DPLAFinds. I really DO want to know what you are reading, even if it’s not my thing. On the train and on Twitter too.

Today was a great day to write about this project. There is a general sentiment being shared along with our collections, maybe you can see what I mean. <3 [caption id="attachment_97" align="aligncenter" width="580"]Tweetwall Images Images from NYPL Digital Collections[/caption]

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