Mason Tweets Up a Storm

Posted: December 23, 2009 at 1:01 am, Last Updated: December 23, 2009 at 9:05 am

By Robin Herron

Wally Grotophorst. Photo by Rashad Mulla

Wally Grotophorst. Photo by Rashad Mulla

Wally Grotophorst, associate university librarian, has built an aggregator for official (“or near-official”) Mason tweets, which he calls, appropriately, “Mason Tweets.”

Grotophorst, who says he found a similar service at North Carolina State University, thought the aggregator might be useful to get a sense of “what’s happening right now” at Mason and would be a nice add-on to the MyMason portal (find it under the Life@Mason tab).

He also admits to setting up the aggregator for “one really big, really selfish reason: I wanted a way to quickly take the ‘Mason pulse’ without filling up my personal Twitter account.”

He also saw it as a challenge from an archivist’s standpoint.

“I thought it might be interesting to see if I could archive this content in some way as raw material for future university historians,” he says.  “I’ve not yet thought out the proper archiving process, although I do have the content going to Google Reader via the Mason Tweets RSS feed, so it’s being collected until I decide whether I want to pursue that angle.”

To create the aggregator, Grotophorst created a new Twitter account called MasonTweeter and began “following” the various Twitter streams he could identify as originating with a particular office at Mason (e.g., University Life, Patriot Computers, Mason Athletics, Mason Spirit, etc.).

Then, working from code developed by the NC State team, he developed a series of server-based programs that interface with the Twitter software to build a web page and RSS feed of the various “tweets” subscribed to by the MasonTweeter account.

He adds, “After pulling the content from Twitter for display on the local page, I cache the results for a few hours so we can offer something even during those times when Twitter is ‘too busy to respond.’”

And how does he decide what Twitter accounts to include? He applies criteria such as whether the site clearly identifies a Mason connection and whether the content focuses on Mason-specific information.

The list of Mason-related Twitter feeds is growing nearly daily, but a quick scan of recent tweets finds the following entities sharing informational tidbits about their areas:

University Life
Mason Parking
Mason Shuttles
Mason Athletics
School of Law
Patriot Computers
Mason Spirit
University Libraries
Student Media
Student Centers
Human Resources (GMUJobs)

Mason Tweets officially is a service of the Digital Programs and Systems Division of University Libraries. You can always find Mason Tweets in the Mason Gazette “Connections” drop-down menu above.

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