Eight oddball Twitter utilities

If you want to do more than just talk to friends on Twitter, here are some fun tools to extend Twitter's capability.

Twitter is a great personal and social communications platform. But that's not all you can use it for.

I've dug through countless services to find some interesting, loopy, and just plain cool tools that allow you to do more than talk to friends. From receiving tweets when your clothes are clean to tracking packages, Twitter is a great place to solve many of the day's tasks.

PIMPY3WASH
OK, so maybe you can't use this and it's only designed for one person, but PIMPY3WASH is the neatest washing machine hack I've seen, so I had to include it.

Ryan Rose, a programmer for TiVo, had trouble remembering when his clothes were ready to come out of the washing machine. To fix that problem, he hacked it to alert him via text message on Twitter when his clothes were ready for the dryer.

So far, his hack isn't available for other users, although you can subscribe to the feed to learn more about Rose's washing schedule than you probably wanted to know. But I hope it's just a matter of time until Whirlpool finds a way to let you use Twitter to track when your load of laundry is ready to be taken out.

Trackthis
TrackThis is a neat Twitter tool that tracks shipments to you from FedEx, UPS, USPS, or DHL, and tweets you back whenever there's an update from the courier.

To use TrackThis, all you need to do is surf to the site and input the courier and tracking number. After you've started following TrackThis on Twitter, it will send you a tweet each time there's an update. I've used it three times in the past week and within just a few minutes, it informed me that my package was getting closer. This tool is a keeper. ( Previous review .)

Botanicalls
Botanicalls is probably one of the most outrageous products I've ever heard of. I want it.

Botanicalls is a gadget that you assemble (soldering irons and knowledge of electronics is required) and place into the soil a plant is in. It measures moisture in the soil and connects to an Ethernet port on your router to transmit data to Twitter or your mobile phone. In order to use the tool's Twitter feature, you'll need to create a new Twitter account with the name of your Botanicalls unit and follow that account. Once complete, Botanicalls will send you tweets each time the plant needs watering.

It costs $99.99, though, and as we said, assembly is required.

London's Tubes

I've seen London's tubes. They're not pretty during rush hour and sometimes, they get clogged. That's why developer Tom Morris, has created a series of Twitter accounts that users can follow to get updates on London's metropolitan transit system.

Twitter accounts like @Tubebakerloo and @tubecircle update at different times throughout the day to give Londoners all the information they need to find out if where they're going is crowded.

Update: Rafe just tried this, and the first update he saw was frightening.

Twitddict
Twitddict provides a useful service when Twitter cannot. It lets you continue tweeting when Twitter is down.

If you're the kind of person who just can't get enough of Twitter, and the Fail Whale throws you into fits of rage, Twitddict allows you to keep tweeting. Once the service is back up, Twitddict places all the tweets you made during the downtime in your timeline almost immediately. Neat.

Twitsay
Text is so 2008. Why not update your Twitter stream with some audio?

Twitsay allows you to do just that. After signing up for the service and providing it with your Twitter username and password, you can call the designated Twitsay number for your country and place a voice message. Once complete, that voice message will be placed in your Twitter stream for all your followers to enjoy.

Can you say, audio RickRoll?

FuelFrog
FuelFrog lets you use Twitter to track your car's fuel use.

After signing up with FuelFrog, it asks you to input your Twitter username, type of car, miles driven, price of gas, and amount of gas you put into your car to fill it up. Once complete, FuelFrog will begin tracking what kind of mileage your car gets.

You can input all that information on the FuelFrog site, but it's much easier to do it through Twitter. After following FuelFrog, you only need to send a tweet to the service with all the aforementioned information about your car. From there, FuelFrog will calculate your real miles per gallon and provide you with trend information on its site.

Remember The Milk
Remember The Milk helps you keep track of things you need to do.

Once you sign up for the service, you can send a direct message to @RTM on Twitter. Once received, the service will compare your username to what it has on file and send your request to your in-box. For example, if you want to remember to pick up dog food on the way home, you can log on to your Twitter account and send a direct message to @RTM, saying "remember the dog food." It will then send a message to your in-box reminding you of your responsibility.

It works well, it's free, and it's worth trying out.

About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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