Listing your Twitter followers by popularity (using 50 lines of ColdFusion)

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Earlier this morning Joshua Cyr and I had a discussion about a Twitter feature we would both like to see - the ability to list your followers by their popularity - ie, by their number of followers. Once you get over a certain number of followers there is no real easy way to do this. Turns out this is rather simple if you use Twitter's API. What follows is an ugly - but effective - script that will get all of your followers and then sort them by their followers. I banged this out in about 15 minutes at lunch so pardon the lack of proper error handling or a decent UI. (But let's be honest - if I had all week to work on it I'd just make it uglier!)

To begin - I suggest looking over the followers API at Twitter. As always, Twitter goes out of it's way to create a simple and powerful API. Unfortunately they don't support sorting but they make paging quite easy. So based on the documentation, I determined that I could get my first page of followers using this url:

This works without authentication as I've not blocked anyone from accessing my data. The result is a nice JSON packet containing my first 100 followers as well as a cursor value I can use to fetch the next "page" of followers. Note that the data set may not be exactly 100. Either way - I can loop through them, add them to a cache, and then continue to fetch more data. The script is short enough that I'll paste in the entire thing:

<cfset user = "cfjedimaster"> <cfset baseurl = ""> <cfset theurl = baseurl & "?cursor=-1">

<cfset needMore = true>

<cfset data = queryNew("name,followers", "varchar,integer")>

<cfset sanity = 0> <cfloop condition="needMore"> <cfhttp url="#theUrl#"> <cfoutput>#theURL#<p></cfoutput> <cfflush> <cfset res = deserializeJSON(cfhttp.filecontent)> <cfif structKeyExists(res, "error")> <cfdump var="#res#"> <cfabort> </cfif> <cfif structKeyExists(res, "next_cursor_str")> <cfset nextCursor = res.next_cursor_str> <cfelse> <cfset nextCursor = ""> </cfif>

&lt;cfloop index="user" array="#res.users#"&gt;
	&lt;cfset queryAddRow(data)&gt;
	&lt;cfset querySetCell(data, "name", user.screen_name)&gt;
	&lt;cfset querySetCell(data, "followers", user.followers_count)&gt;

&lt;cfif len(nextCursor) and nextCursor neq 0&gt;
	&lt;cfset theurl = baseurl & "?cursor=#nextCursor#"&gt;
	&lt;cfset needMore = false&gt;

&lt;cfset sanity++&gt;
&lt;cfif sanity gt 50&gt;
	&lt;cfset needMore = false&gt;


<cfquery name="sorted" dbtype="query"> select * from data order by followers desc </cfquery>

<cfdump var="#sorted#">

As you see - I begin by creating a variable for the user I want to report on. You can change this to your own ID or anyone else's ID that is not protected. I then create a base URL I'll use to begin fetching my data. I'm going to use a manual ColdFusion query to store the data so I create the initial query with two columns - name and followers. I could store more information if I wanted to but that is all I care about.

Next I begin my loop. Note the condition loop. The idea is to keep fetching data as long as I have more pages of data. I did add a bit of error checking in case I hit my rate limit. Twitter will limit you to 150 requests per hour from your IP. Unless you have over 22,500 followers, this won't be a big deal. After fetching my nextCursor value (used to make paging easy - again - thank you Twitter!) - I loop over the array of users and add them to my query. I added a quick sanity check at that bottom that will abort the process after 50 runs. Technically you would want to remove that, but I always use sanity checks like that when I have condition loops.

Finally - all I have to do is sort the query and dump it to screen. Here's mine:

Personally I was a bit surprised by how many of my top followers were unknown to me. I was even more surprised to see one of my favorite authors (JohnBirmingham) as one of my followers. Unfortunately, Paris Hilton does not yet follow me - despite my following of her for many months.

So how hard would it be to turn this into a "real" Twitter application with OAuth? I plan on finding out this weekend. This will give me the ability to get 350 "pages" or 35000 followers, which should be more than enough for most folks.

Raymond Camden's Picture

About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

Lafayette, LA

Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Aaron DeRenard posted on 9/26/2011 at 6:39 PM

WHAT? derenard didn't make the list? Pfft... I have 24 followers!

lol That's ok, because somehow bennadel didn't make the list either and he has 4500+ followers.

I really can't believe Twitter doesn't offer this functionality. Good idea!

Comment 2 by Raymond Camden posted on 9/26/2011 at 6:47 PM

I'm considering setting this up as a 'real' service. I'd need to use OAuth so the requests are done via your account and therefore won't be impacted by the usage limit.

Comment 3 by Aaron DeRenard posted on 9/26/2011 at 9:55 PM

I assume you'll put it out on github when you get around to it? I wouldn't mind messing around with that.

Comment 4 by Raymond Camden posted on 9/26/2011 at 10:11 PM

Maybe. If I built a "site" it wouldn't necessarily be something I'd OS. Like CFLib for example.

Comment 5 by Aaron DeRenard posted on 9/26/2011 at 10:48 PM

Fair enough. I just like tinkering with other people's code; it's always fun. I'll keep on following and see what happens! :-D