Greasing the bird : enhancing Twitter with GreaseMonkey

GreaseMonkey is an add-on to (primarily, but not only) the Mozilla FireFox web browser that lets you run small (javascript) scripts to modify HTML pages on-the-fly, changing how they behave and look.  It was originally created by Aaron Boodman (aka youngpup) in 2005.

Twitter is a social networking and micro blogging service that enables its users to send and read other users’ updates, tweets, which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.

Although many people use alternate interfaces to Twitter (like TweetDeck, which uses Adobe Air desktop), the default interfaces on the web is the twitter home page, which is sufficient if a little bare bones.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way!  And that is where GreaseMonkey comes in.

If you want to create your own GM scripts than I highly recommend looking at Dive Into Greasemonkey – A free online book on Greasemonkey script writing by Mark Pilgrim.  Also worth looking into is the home of Grease Monkey : GreaseSpot and it’s wiki.

Another way to start is to go to UserScripts.org the central library of user contributed GreaseMonkey script to explore, use and learn from (after reading “dive Into” start reading and modifying other peoples scripts.  It’s easy!)

Search for scripts tagged with “Twitter” shows 134 scripts (as of now).  So, there is lots to choice from.  Here are the ones I use :

  • Twitter – Show # of unread replies + adds mentions : displays the number of unread @replies and adds a Mentions tab in the Twitter sidebar.
  • Twitter Sidebar Replies : Shows replies to a user is the sidebar of that user’s Twitter page.  Makes it less likely for me to miss replies to myself, and see replies to other people when I’m on their pages (trying to decides whether to follow?).
  • Nested Twitter Replies :  gets all replies to display the conversation thread as a nested block.
  • Twitter Show Followers : Places a small icon over the pictures of people who follow you on your Twitter home page, so that you can see at a glance who is following you back!
  • twitter Search v2 : Adds a search field to the Twitter interface Twitter – Follower : on users profile page adds a simple indication as to whether their following you or not.
  • UTF8Twitter : Adds menu at top of Twitter web interface so you can add cool UTF8 (Unicode ) characters.
  • Twitter upgrade : twitter keys, search (via @joshr’s script), lat/long conversion to real location, friend follows and adds offline conversation links, and now includes hashtags.    (twitter keys convert words like “love” to its uncode charater  “♥”)
  • Twitter Hash Tools : Turn  #hashtags into links to twitter search and link to hashTweeps to see who else used this tag.
  • Twitter Filter : enable regex whitelists and blacklists for filtering out tweets in your Twitter stream.  good for removing frequent talk of elections, memes and kitty-cats on Twitter, without un-following someone.
  • Twitter Search Results on Google : Shows real-time search results from Twitter on Google search pages.
  • Twitter and FriendFeed Short URL Expander : Expands snipr, tinyurl.com, is.gd, zz.gd and bit.ly urls on Twitter and FriendFeed to show you where they’re pointing.
  • Follow Rank and Follows in Common for Twitter User Profiles: add information on a users profile page Follows in Common is how many of the people you follow are followed by X, and FollowRank displays the percentage of people you follow are also following X

That should get you started!!

As you can tell overlapping functionality and conflicts could occur, but it all seems to work well.

two brief words about keeping track of your GM scripts :

GreaseMonkey scripts run on urls and domains specified in the script, and right clicking on the GreaseMonkey logo (the monkey in the bottom status bar) lets you see what can run and what is running on any current page / domain.  You can also deactivate any given script that way, or GreaseMonkey itself.

Also because sometime a web site changes it markup and the scripts that where working stop working (because they no longer have the hooks needed to insert their functionality – this happened on Twitter last January), or because UserScript.org authors update they srcipts (fixing bugs or adding functionality) it’s good to keep track of when your GM scripts get updated.  I do this by loging in to UserScripts.org and “Favorite” the scripts as I install them, then I can track when they get updated.  (Their is also a script to do this in a semi auto-magical way: Userscripts Updater).

And of course GreaseMonkey scripts exist for just about every web site out there!  Check it out for your frequently used sites; or if that site does something you don’t like or you want it to something more or different, they write your own GreaseMonkey script and post it for all of us! Because it’s your web!

update :Marjolein Hoekstra (aka CleverClogs) gave this post a twitter shout out (tweet out?) :

Greasemonkey 101 article that’s good to keep handy in case you need to explain it to someone: http://sn.im/greasemonkey_101 by @IanIrving

April 2009 Update :

a) Via Hilary Mason (author of the excellent Twitter Show Followers GreaseMonkey script) and her Twitter: A greasemonkey script to show who follows you post. I’ve discovered the greasemonkey/script-compiler “to create a Firefox extension (.xpi) from a greasemonkey script.” Wow!

b) also worth a mention is Troys Twitter Script, has replaced my use of a number of other gm scripts, which (currently) does “Nested Replies, Custom Search Tabs, Autocomplete, Pagination, RT button, Media Embed, URL Expansion, Hash Tag Search Links, Social Links” and more! I was reminded us this script because 1) it has auto-updating built-in; and 2) Read Write Web recently posted about it in .

December 2009 Update :
I’ve released a GM script Follow Rank and Follows in Common for Twitter User Profiles, which enhances a users Twitter profile page by displaying the “Follows in Common” and the “Follow Rank” (how many of the people you follow also follow “Bob”), to make it easy to discover how important they are in YOUR Twitter Social Network.

Feb 1 2010 Update :
Google Chrome 4 now natively supports Greasemonkey user scripts!!

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