Interview with Matt Daines of Twellow

Written on December 23, 2008 – 6:47 pm | by Brian Wallace |

With us today is Matt Daines, lead developer of the popular Twitter directory, Twellow.  Twellow just released Twellowhood, so we thought now might be a good time to check in with him and see how things were going.

1.  Give us a bit of background about yourself.

Originally from Utah, I’ve been in the IT industry for over 13 years, having worked as a programmer/designer in various family-owned businesses ranging from medical transcription to e-commerce retail and distribution. I left the family business to return to school a few years ago, and I received my Bachelors in MIS from Utah State University in 2007. Upon completion of the degree I worked briefly for a large printing company, which I did not enjoy (it took over a month to get my computer). I looked around, found iEntry, Inc., and felt the company fit nicely with my skill set. It’s been good to be back in a smaller company where everything is not red tape. For the last several months I have been working as the lead developer for Twellow, along with various other duties at iEntry.

2. Where does the name Twellow come from? What made you go forth with this idea, considering the sheer number of Twitter related sites out in the space?

The name Twellow was something Rich Ord (CEO and Founder of iEntry) and I came up with together. We were discussing the whole concept in it’s early stages, and the connection was made to the yellow pages. While I was looking at the various “tw” apps associated with Twitter, the combination of Twitter and Yellow came together, as in “yellow pages”. The first name that came up was twellowpages.com, and we were going to go with that, but as I started looking more into it I thought a shorter name would be better. Twellow.com was available, so Rich jumped on it.

We went forward with the idea since there really weren’t any useful Twitter directories at the time. Twellow has been around since May and there have been a lot of Twitter apps that have come online since then, but I feel Twellow remains the premier directory service for Twitter. And Rich’s vision for where we want to take Twellow is fairly significant.

3. How do you plan to allow developers to hook into your system?

We are looking at various ways that our system could be opened up to outside developers, and have a limited API in operation currently to allow the grabbing of the categorizations for certain users. With the recent deployment of TwellowHood we have more options for providing demographic data that could be used by others.

4. Tell us what inspired you to come up with Twellowhood.

TwellowHood was Rich’s idea. He’s always recognized the power of location-based search, and we’ve been talking since the beginning about ways to make Twellow more geo-targeted. It’s just been the last month that we’ve really focused on it and found the tools to make it happen.

5. What are the advantages of claiming your profile?

The main advantage is that users can control their own listing. Once logged in a user can adjust which categories he or she belong to, as well as change bio, name, location, and other aspects of the listing. Users can also add an extended bio which allows up to 2,000 characters, including limited HTML formatting, so it provides a good tool to enhance your existing social-media presence. Twellow also offers several “Social Links” options for logged-in users to link to their other online profiles.

6. It would be cool to see overall state rankings, not just by city.

This is something that we’ll look into. Having the “heat-map” with the shading based on users in that state/region gives a good visual idea of where the big states are, but it’s always good to have the option to see text in a list.

7. How do you think that the electoral map would have looked if it were based on twitter followers? 🙂

That’s an interesting question. Twellow searches for people who identify themselves as either conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican give some hint as to how they might have voted in the election. We might look at applying the results of this data to the map in the future so people could see the red or blue level of their state on TwellowHood. Blue states generally tend to have higher populations, so there might be some correlation between the deeper green states on TwellowHood with blue states, and the lighter ones tending to be red. Population density would need to be taken into account, as with the very blue Northeast, but it’s an interesting question.

8. What should a user do if they want to be removed from the directory?

There have been very few people who have requested to be removed from Twellow, but we do make the option available in the profile editor. For those who are not comfortable claiming their profile in order to have it removed we also respond promptly to requests received through our contact page.

9. What about false positives? Example for judge, are you going to work to make it context based as well?

Twellow is a work in progress, and we will continue to work on making it more accurate as it evolves. We’ve been looking into methods for context-based matching and have discovered a few options that should work well for us. As they say, youth is wasted in the young, and that goes for computer programs as well. It’s only after you’ve tinkered with it for a while that you find out how you could have built it better to begin with. But in the future we will be able to implement the experience we’ve gained and make the system even better.

10.  Technorati is in many ways at least a partial equivalent to Twellow, and for years has had unique logins and various methods to claim a blog – posting a link, possibly a one-time login. Other services use unique files, placing code on a page, or changes in meta data.
Twellow, run not by a couple of programming geeks, but by a professional internet media company fully aware of possible issues, decided that it was quite ok to request the username and password belonging to a twitter account every time it is accessed.

Andy for one is highly negative of any Twitter service that asks for access to his Twitter account, and it is even worse if you have to repeatedly provide it. It is a security risk and shouldn’t be encouraged.

Can you provide a legitimate reason why Twellow is so poorly coded?

We are well aware of the security issues involved with Twitter passwords. A legitimate reason for us not dealing with it up to this point is that Twitter doesn’t offer an alternative method for authenticating users. We are following Twitter’s progress on their implementation of an OAuth system to address this issue and will be working with whatever solution they provide as soon as it becomes available.

You can read the discussion regarding the OAuth issue on the Twitter API developer forum at the following addresses:

http://groups.google.com/group/twitter-development-talk/browse_thread/thread/334099aade593e49/f80f9061a661a473

http://groups.google.com/group/twitter-development-talk/browse_thread/thread/7694f3857f2059d4/354eaef5a760a41d

As you can see from the discussion this is an issue many Twitter API developers are dealing with, and our “poorly coded” method for authenticating users is only a reflection of Twitter not providing a solution for their own API. However, iEntry, Inc. is a “professional internet media company” that is well respected among it’s users and clients. If people do not trust us to use their information in a responsible manner, they are entirely free not to participate in our service.

Thanks Matt!

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  1. 2 Responses to “Interview with Matt Daines of Twellow”

  2. By Nick Stamoulis on Dec 29, 2008 | Reply

    This gives people a whole new way for marketeers to geo target.

  1. 1 Trackback(s)

  2. Dec 24, 2008: Twellow the Twitter directory

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