Promoting Ice Cream Spy

While I did find some kinks in the system now that other people have begun to use the service, this week I mainly focused on just getting the word out & trying to get both ice cream lovers and ice cream truck owners alike aware of the website & Twitter account.


  • Flooding the System: As we discussed in class, I tried to get as many people just using #ictruck to raise awareness & interest. While the map looks a little more “full” now than it did last week, it still has a ways to go & could definitely use some tags above 20th Street, as well as in other boroughs.

Map as of 4/11/10

The tweets about @IceCreamSpy are helping to make the actual Twitter account look more robust, though. There have been a handful of people tweeting about @IceCreamSpy & its purpose (Elizabeth & Mushon being 2 of them- thank you!), helping me to gain attention & followers.

Most Recent Mentions of @IceCreamSpy as of 4/11/10

  • Getting the Word Out:
    • I’ve created an open event on Facebook, which I sent out to all people I’m “friends” with on the site (feel free to “invite” your friends!).
    • I made a group on a new social networking site I found that is specifically made for New Yorkers, called “RadiusNYC Mingling and Marketing.”
    • On Twitter, I am working towards searching and “following” users from the New York City area. I started out using services that find & follow users according to certain criteria, but am finding it easier to manually go through the followers of popular NYC Tweeters, such as Flavorpill, Thrillist, NY Mag, & Time Out New York.
  • Gaining Attention from Ice Cream Truck Owners & Operators: I also put into action Honieh’s & Ryan’s ideas of making stickers to display on ice cream trucks & talking to owners. This past weekend, created a bumper sticker for the ice cream trucks & talked to owners/operators about displaying it on their trucks. I focused on the lower half of Manhattan this weekend (the current map is a pretty good indicator of my travels), & will need to branch out to other areas in the future. While some were very open to the idea, others took some convincing, and still others refused to display one. All in all, I currently have 7 trucks displaying the sticker!

Sticker for Ice Cream Trucks

Sticker displayed on truck

Sticker displayed on truck

Kinks to be Worked Out

  • Mushon’s geotagged tweets using TweetDeck made me realize that Bing Maps is not compatible with all forms of geotagging. While Bing picks up embedded geotagged information, as displayed when using Twitter directly or when using Echofon, it doesn’t pick up links of geotagged information. I briefly tried to find a way to create a map in Yahoo Pipes that picks up both forms of geotagging, but have yet to find a solution. This will be something that I look into in the future.

TweetDeck displays geotags through a link, which you can click to bring you to a map


Twitter & the mobile app Echofon display geotagging by embedding it directly into the tweet

  • People seem excited about using the service & a couple have tweeted trucks they’ve found, but most aren’t tweeting this information with a geotag of the location. While right now I believe that it’s more important to just get people using #ictruck in general, for the website & idea to grow,  I have to find a way to properly educate users on the importance of geotagging.

No geotag in tweet

No geotag in tweet

Overall Stats as of 4/12/10 @ 10:30pm

@IceCreamSpy's Stats as of 4/12

@IceCreamSpy – Following: 413 | Followers: 82 | Listed: 6

7 ice cream trucks displaying sticker

24 geotagged ice cream trucks on map


Diving into Yahoo Pipes

Yahoo Pipes is a great way to aggregate and mash up content found throughout the web. It can take some playing around with and getting used to, but once you get a handle on it, the information you aggregate together can be used for a number of different things, such as for a Twitter bot, an RSS feed to display streaming information on a specific topic on your website, or even a map displaying geotags. In my case, I used it to create an RSS feed to retweet the hashtag #ictruck. (You can click on any of the pictures throughout the post for a larger view.) The Basics of Yahoo Pipes: There are 3 basic parts to the pipes editing interface: the Library, Canvas, and Debugger

(click image for larger picture)

My Process: 1. Searching for already made pipes 2. Trial & Error I encountered a number of errors while playing around with the pipes. Error 420 was a pretty common one, which, after doing some research, I found out that this doesn’t necessarily mean my pipe isn’t working. Rather, it’s just because the interaction between Twitter & Yahoo is just being temperamental for the time being. I also found out through discussion on the Yahoo Pipes forum that results are cached for 30 minutes, which is a good thing to keep in mind when editing. This may result in your pipe results being delayed for a period of time. *It’s important to note that if you ever have any questions about a specific module, you can always click the question mark that’s located in the upper right hand corner of each module in order to display a brief explanation. 3. My Pipe (as of now)

Original Pipe

This was the original pipe I finally decided to stick with and alter. I found it in the “browse” section of Yahoo Pipes, and it was called “geo Twitter.” My Final Altered Pipe

What I changed from the orignal on this pipe (I called mine “Geo Twitter – Ice Cream!”): (matches up to colors in pic)

  • Hashtag (Text) Module: This came from the “Text Input” module under User Inputs in the Library. I changed this from a Twitter ID input to a hashtag input. This module is used to define a certain type of text you want to filter into your pipe.
  • Filter Module: I added this for the purpose of blocking retweets. I did not want to have the same post potentially coming up twice. But, on the down side, if someone tweets the location of an ice cream truck & doesn’t use the proper hashtag, but then someone else decides to retweet this info with the correct hashtag, the info will not show up as a RT on @IceCreamSpy.
  • Loop Module: This was added as a way to make an exception to the Filter Module (where I blocked the retweets). It lets @IceCreamSpy retweet once, but doesn’t allow any other retweets, including duplicates.
  • 3rd Line in Regex Module: This is just for aesthetics. Rather than the information I’m retweeting coming through as “ User Name],” it should come through as “RT @[Twitter User Name]” (it’s replacing the Twitter address with whatever words I designate, followed by the user name of the person @IceCreamSpy is retweeting ).

The Basics to Creating a Twitter Bot

Step 1: Getting a Twitter Account

Step 2: Becoming Acquainted with Yahoo Pipes

I’ll go more in depth with the pipe I created in my next post. For now, here’s a video on the basics in building a pipe.

Step 3: Finding a Service that Sends your RSS Feed (from Yahoo Pipes) to Twitter

I chose Twitter Feed because it’s the only free feeding service I’ve found so far. It works well, but the most it will tweet your information is every 30 minutes. Ideally, I would like my feed to be tweeted every minute. I’m hoping to find (and am still searching for) alternatives.

Step 4: Watch the Tweets Come Through (& Make Changes Where Necessary)!

Step 5 (optional): Set Up a Website/Blog

Depending on what you want your site to involve, this could either be free or cost money. I chose Blogger because of its ease of being able to insert a map into the blog.

Step 6 (optional): Embed a Map That Shows the Geotagged Tweets

What map service you decide to use and how you gather the info will depend on your blog/website. This may involve creating another RSS feed through Yahoo Pipes that retweets geotagged info associated with a specific hashtag or user name. It will also involve some research on how to embed the map on your specific website/blog of choice.

Hello Ice Cream Loving World!

I am trying to develop a Twitter Bot that retweets when people spot an ice cream truck around NYC and tweet the location, followed by the hashtag #ICtruck (Ice Cream Truck/I see truck), and possibly a second hashtag designating a specific area around NYC (such as #downtown, #chelsea, #les).

My Twitter Bot is: @IceCreamSpy

You can follow my progress on this blog & on Twitter @Leslie4IceCream

If anyone reading this has any suggestions on how to improve/update/change my idea in any way, please feel free to leave comments.

More to come soon!

Peace, Love, & Ice Cream!