(Day 2) TwitLit: Classic Literature, 140 characters at a time

Hello and welcome to Day 2 of my NaBloPoMo! Yesterday I talked about the idea of writing a blog post a day all month as a bit of a writing challenge for me.

Today, I’m going to talk about an idea for a programming project that I’ve had, but it has not come to fruition yet. This will be the first of a few “idea dumps” in which I attempt to express my ideas about future projects or things that I find interesting.

In today’s world of ever-connectedness and instant gratification, many people feel that they don’t have time to just sit down and read anymore. But these same people you can see posting on facebook and twitter for a considerable amount of time each day. What if we could turn this around and use social networking and the culture of short and sweet bytes of information to our advantage? What if you could actually *gasp* learn something just from following a twitter account?

My idea for today is for what I’d call TwitLit: Classic Literature 140 Characters at a time. TwitLit is a bot that interacts with twitter to automatically post a 140 character selection from a work of classic literature each day (or possibly, every few hours or so). People who find they “can’t get around to reading” or who have trouble staying focused on long periods of reading can follow the account and although it may take a while, can eventually “read” a book, just by checking the twitter feed.

The implementation details of this are still a bit fuzzy to me, mostly because I literally just thought of this idea yesterday, but I think I’d like to work in Python for this. Some books are really long and it would be difficult to complete a “reading” 140 chars at a time for something like War and Peace, but perhaps shorter books or poetry would work better, as a proof of concept. A bit of preliminary research shows that “Twitterature” has been done before, but from what I can tell, they condense the works into just a few tweets. If I find some spare time in the next few days, maybe I’ll start working on this. What work should I start with?


NaBloPoMo: An Experiment in Blogging (Day 1)

So as my more creative readers may be aware, today is November 1st. This is important because it heralds the start of National Novel Writing Month, known colloquially as NaNoWriMo. A frenetic literary adventure, NaNoWriMo challenges its participants to hammer out a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days. No one said it had to be good, just that it had to be 50,000 words. Could you write the word “the” over and over and still count yourself as a “winner”? Sure, but the point of NaNoWriMo is to give people that say “I have an idea for a story I’ll write one day” the kick in the pants they need to get started. Ending the month with a sloppy first draft is definitely better than what you started with: a dreamy “one day” aspiration and a half-formed idea.

I have participated in NaNoWriMo three or four times over the past few years. Unfortunately, I have never reached the goal of 50,000 words in a month. Last year’s attempt was on track to reaching my goal. I had a good idea, some free time, and was writing my heart and soul into this admittedly haphazard piece of work. However, Nature decided to intervene and I injured my hand right as I passed the 36,000 word mark. Am I disappointed? A little. But looking back and seeing how much I accomplished over that short period is still inspiring to me today.

Therefore, in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to instate what I call NaBloPoMo, or “National Blog Posting Month”, in which I will write one blog post per day. The topics may vary across the fields of math and science, peppered in with a few anecdotes and opinions about technology and education. Completing a post each day will not only encourage me to write more, it will more than double the current number of posts I have on this blog and allow me to develop my ideas in a structured format. I’m in the process of applying to graduate school for computer science, and I need the practice writing about my interests and goals.

So here goes. This will be my first post of NaBloPoMo, November 1st. Follow along by signing up for email updates or accessing the RSS feed. Each update is also posted to my twitter account, which you can find at @musegarden. If you have ideas or questions for me, I’d be happy to hear them. Send me a message on twitter or leave an idea right in the comments here.