Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tutorial: Building a Twitter client with Appcelerator Titanium & jsOAuth - Part 2

Back in Part1 we started to build a alert based twitter client using jsOAuth, a Javascript OAuth library and Appcelerator Titanium, a platform for making applications using web technologies.

In this part, we’ll add better notifications, using Growl, libNotify or Snarl and add a timer to fetch new tweets every 1 minute.

Titanium Notifications

Using the Titanium Notification module we get better looking notifications that come from the system. On OSx Growl is used, On linux libNotify and on Windows Snarl. All will fall back to a basic built in notification system if you don’t have any of those notification systems installed.

To create a notification we need to call Titanium.Notification.createNotification() and then set each of the notification properties. With this we can update our code as follows.

timeline.forEach(function  (element){
  var notice = Titanium.Notification.createNotification();

The code is fairly straight forward, we set the title to the name of the person who made the tweet, the message body to the tweet status and then set the notification to display for 1 second (1000 milliseconds).

If you run this code now, your screen will be filled with 20 tweets which clear after a second. This looks much better but a one off hit of statuses isn’t exactly useful.

Timers and tidbits

Next we should implement a timer to check for statuses every 60 seconds. This is done using the setTimeout() function.

Firstly, we need to wrap the body of our API call in a function, that we can call from the setTimeout function.

function updateTimeline() {
    oauth.get('', success, failure);

At the top of our success() function, we add our timeout.

function success(data) {
    setTimeout(updateTimeline, 60000);
    /* ... */

Why do we do this? setTimeout executes a function after the specified delay meaning we could wrap the call in a conditional to prevent the next update. setInterval is a little harder to control because it calls the function every specified interval until we clearInterval.

If you ran this code, nothing would happen. That’s because we didnrsquo;t call updateTimeline() yet. Add the line after the updateTimeline decalration and then launch the app.

function updateTimeline() { /* ... */ }


I think you’ll agree, the app has just become far more uselful, but there is one think left. Every minute we get notifications of tweets we’ve already seen, which after a few minutes gets a little annoying. To solve this we can use the since_id parameter.

However, jsOAuth’s get method is a little limited in this version. Instead we’ll switch to the request method, which is far more flexible but more complicated to use.

 * Makes an authenticated http request
 * @param options {object}
 *      method {string} ['GET', 'POST', 'PUT', ...]
 *      url {string} A valid http(s) url
 *      data {object} A key value paired object of data
 *                      example: {'q':'foobar'}
 *                      for GET this will append a query string
 *      headers {object} A key value paired object of additional headers
 *      success {function} callback for a successful request
 *      failure {function} callback for a failed request

As you can see, instead of passing separate parameters, we pass an object of key value pairs to set up the request. All the key names however reflect the naming convention of the get and post methods.

var sinceId = '';
function updateTimeline() {
	var params = {};
	if (sinceId != '') {
		params.since_id = sinceId;

    	"method": "GET",
    	"url": "", 
    	"data": params,
    	"success": success, 
    	"failure": failure


The first 4 lines of the updateTimeline function check if we have a sinceId, and add it to the params object. This way we don’t get an invalid signature error from the Twitter API when it looks for the value.

However, at the moment we haven’t set the sinceId, we need to do this in the success() function. The Twitter API returns tweets with the latest at the top, by default. Using this knowledge, we can gleam off the first id and store it in the sinceId variable.

function success(data){
    setTimeout(updateTimeline, 3000);
    var timeline = JSON.parse(data.text);
    if (timeline.length > 0) {
    	if (sinceId == timeline[0].id) {
        sinceId = timeline[0].id;
    timeline.forEach(function (element){ /* ... */ });
Code completed

Launch the Titanium Developer tool and run your app. You’ll see the latest batch of 20 tweets but from then on you’ll only see new tweets until the next time you launch the app.

Growl notification

That’s all there is to it. In only a handful of extra lines of code, we’ve made the app more user friendly and useful.

To extend this app you could add a callback to the notification to allow replies or a menu item to allow posting of new statuses. The possibilities are great and Appcelerator Titanium makes it really easy to build applications quickly using technologies that most people are familiar with.

If you have any questions, comments or ideas on further expansion to this tutorial, please feel free to email or tweet me


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