How to build a web service in 8 hours

I was a big fan of Jaiku (here I am) and didn’t “get” Twitter until about a year ago when a friend showed me Tweetdeck. Aha! So that’s how you’re supposed to use it! Not through the web page but by using a third party tool. I got so excited that I proclaimed Twitter the future of the web.

And I stopped using Jaiku.

One thing I did miss from the Jaiku-days, though, was the long discussion threads under each “jaik” (the Jaiku version of a “tweet”). Here’s an example. This provided Jaiku with depth, something you can hardly accuse Twitter of.

So an idea emerged: what if you could build a web service that made it possible to comment and discuss each tweet just like you did in the Jaiku-days.

Thus, Discuss a Tweet was born.

Or, well, at least the domain was registered. I did this April 17 2009. It then ended up in my pile of great-ideas-I-should-one-day-implement and nothing happened.

Until… last weekend.

I knew that it would be possible to put it all together quite fast. I had used Disqus when we built Rate My Pitch during 24 hour business camp – so I knew that the commenting system, the most difficult part, I would get for “free”. I wouldn’t even need a database. It was all about putting things together in a slightly new way. A classic mashup.

So, I started hacking away. A couple of hours later, the result is a mashup of the following services:

This is just a tiny little hack but I think it serves as a good example of how modern web development is done. You pick bits and pieces from all over the web, some open source components, some embedded web services. You put things together and something new emerges.

I used PHP and this is also worth noting. People complain about PHP but one of its biggest strengths is its user base and size. When you’re doing a mashup such as Discuss a Tweet you can be sure someone else has done about the same things you need and there is code out there ready to be used. You can’t say that about Scala or Erlang regardless of how powerful and beautiful the languages are. (Things are changing of course as the popularity of the language grows.)

Another thing happened while Discuss-a-Tweet was in my idea-pool: Google Buzz launched. According to Mr Jaiku himself, Jyri Engeström, Buzz is the continuation of Jaiku. And, yes, it allows you to comment and discuss tweets.

Maybe a usage pattern is emerging in how we use different social networks. Twitter for quick news updates and cool links, Facebook for our friends and Buzz for the discussions. Maybe the Opportunity Cloud for a service such as Discuss-a-Tweet is dispersing. We’ll see. It was fun building it anyway – and it only took a few hours after all. 🙂

(PS. Follow me on Twitter.)