Lifestreaming the Open Source Way with Sweetcron
By Peter Prestipino
The single greatest challenge to pure and seamless lifestreaming (the real-time flow of activity across various websites) is the presence of multiple platforms. Twitter this, Digg that, post to Delicious, create a YouTube video, drop a link on Tumblr, write a blog post or two...and so goes your social day on the Web. But by fragmenting your social lifestream you may be missing out on a big opportunity. On a social Web, synergy in mission, objective and persona is of paramount importance. Your message should be identifiable across all networks. So how do you effectively manage your presence on social networks, bookmarking engines and other portals to your online persona? One possible solution to help you aggregate your social life online and help others track that activity is Sweetcron, an open source solution that is getting plenty attention of late.
Created by Tokyo-based freelance Web producer Yong Fook (yongfook.com) Sweetcron (sweetcron.com) is a lifestream application that automatically displays activity updates from your social websites. For example, if you Twitter about a new blog post, then submit it to Digg, then vote on a story on Delicious, viewers of your Sweetcron page will see your Twitter post, followed by your Digg submission, then see that you voted for a post on Delicious, all in real-time.
If all of this sounds familiar, FriendFeed has a similar service that also shows updates to social networks. But, unlike FriendFeed, Sweetcron is self-hosted and can be completely customized by editing its template. Thanks to a few simple controls users are able to customize the layout of the site easily to modify colors and the default text formatting — you can even paste in your own CSS. In other words, you can create a branded stream of your social activity so that users can see where you are “socializing” all on one page, all while you control the page’s (and your brand’s) image. And because it is selfhosted, you control another key component of branding, the domain name.
Perhaps the most important difference between Sweetcron and FriendFeed is that Sweetcron is 100 percent open source, meaning that developers can write their own PHP classes to extend the software. As the application is still new (launched in late June of 2008), few plugins have made their way into the community, but expect more to come as the appeal of both lifestreaming and the desire to control how that activity is perceived across multiple networks gains in attention and importance.
You may be asking yourself how this is different than just running PHP on your site and tapping into the FriendFeed API. The answer is simple - with Sweetcron, you store information in a database that offers more control for browsing, searching and tagging your individual stream. Sweetcron is not a solution to social overload in and of itself, as you will still need to update your social networks manually. Using a service like Ping.fm, however, makes the process much easier.
Secure Your Social Persona: How frustrated were you after discovering that the username you chose to represent yourself in the virtual world was already taken? If you’re prepping yourself or your company for total social Web domination, take a quick visit to UserNameCheck.com, a free service that informs you about the use of usernames on popular sites like Delicious, Digg, Ebay and even new sites like 12Seconds. If you worry about others using your username, finding out where your username is registered might lessen future social problems.
For those Web professionals that don’t actively engage in all things social, consider reverse engineering the purpose of Sweetcron to monitor both the reputation of a brand or even keyword mentions in the blogosphere and beyond. Remember, Sweetcron runs on RSS or Atom feeds, so if you can aggregate feeds you can establish one unique place to help you stay aware of what’s happening on the ’Net. Looking for all mentions of Google on Digg? Grab the RSS feed of that specific search term. Need to monitor Google news for mentions of your competition? Grab the Atom feed provided on the news results page and you’ll receive a constantly updated stream of information.
As you can see, lifestreaming and Sweetcron can give you deep insight into any number of topics without the need to spend precious time navigating multiple social networks.
WordPress and WP-O-Matic for the Reputation Conscious: For those hesitant to install a virtually unknown open source application, try using WordPress and the WP-O-Matic plugin. You can create the same lifestreaming effect as SweetCron in just about the same amount of time. A very useful way to create information hubs to track specific keyword mentions in the blogosphere, forum-sphere or even traditional media, this tactic is a quick and dirty way (far from elegant) to automatically import posts from RSS and Atom feeds that you provide.