Users’ names and usernames

A few years ago my friend Jack built a cute little application. It was a text message multiplexer. You could send it a text message and it would send that message to all of your friends. You signed up using your phone number and gave it your name. It was somewhere between addictive and annoying […]

Twitter Translation

My friend Britt mentioned today that he was about to launch twitter.jp. How exciting! But I don’t understand Japanese. If only I could easily translate all those tweets in languages I don’t understand. I played around with Google’s new AJAX Translation API before and I wondered how hard it would be to use that from […]

The Making Of LOL Feeds

Last week I wrote and released my LOL Feeds site. It takes RSS or Atom feeds from the web and makes a series of lolcat-style images on a web page. It’s really way funnier than it sounds.

Initially I wanted to be able to auto-generate Jerk City comic strips based on my friends’ twitters, but when that seemed hard I opted for lolcats style images. After all we’d been seeing a lot of the lolcats on twitter – they’re displayed when the site is undergoing maintenance.

The original version of the script was very very clever. It used the Google AJAX Feed API and the Flickr API to pull in feeds and random images of cats from Flickr, combine them together with a PHP script I wrote to generate transparent PNGs of text live onto the page. It used the browser’s own text-flowing algorithms to lay out the text. It was however amazingly slow.

Browsers only allow a low number of concurrent connections to one site – four or eight I think – and this made the text crawl in. Also while the Google AJAX Feed API and Flickr API are pretty snappy they’re way slower than doing it server side. I was sad about this because I’m kind of in love with fully dynamic client-side applications (just look at my home page) but I actually wanted this to see the light of day.