Monday, November 14, 2011

Tool & Data: Quick Tutorial – Processing & Twitter

On accessing twitter with processing. 

UPDATED: Quick Tutorial – Processing & Twitter

** Since I first released this tutorial in 2009, it has received thousands of views and has hopefully helped some of you get started with building projects incorporating Twitter with Processing. In late 2010, Twitter changed the way that authorization works, so I’ve updated the tutorial to get it inline with the new Twitter API functionality.

Accessing information from the Twitter API with Processing is (reasonably) easy. A few people have sent me e-mails asking how it all works, so I thought I’d write a very quick tutorial to get everyone up on their feet.

We don’t need to know too much about how the Twitter API functions, because someone has put together a very useful Java library to do all of the dirty work for us. It’s called twitter4j, and you can download it here. We’ll be using this in the first step of the building section of this tutorial.

1. Authentication

Here’s the tricky part. In the olden days, Twitter used to be happy with us sending it a username and password pair for authentication. Now, all of the Twitter API functionality uses an oAuth system, which allows people to authenticate applications through a login at (so that developers never see the user’s login information).

That’s pretty good from a security standpoint, but it makes our job a little bit harder. Now, instead of just needing a short username and password, we need FOUR things to authenticate our sketch: A consumer key & secret, and an access token & secret. You can get all 4 of these things from the twitter developer page.

1. Visit and login with your twitter username and password

2. Click on the ‘Create an app’ button at the bottom right

3. Fill out the form that follows – you can use temporary values (like “Jer’s awesome test application”) for the first three fields.

4. Once you’ve agreed to the developer terms, you’ll arrive at a page which shows the first two of the four things that we need: the Consumer key and the Consumer secret. Copy and paste these somewhere so you have them ready to access.

5. To get the other two values that we need, click on the button that says ‘Recreate my access token’. Copy and paste those two values (Access token and Access token secret) so that we have all four in the same place.

2. Building

1. Open up a new Processing sketch.

2. Import the twitter4j library. In yo...