World’s-most-famous-twitterer Stephen Fry has a system for handling follow requests: you tweet using the #followmestephen hashtag, and he wades diligently through them, manually following people.

This seems an odd sort of thing to do – most people choose whom to follow based on whether they know them or like what they say, rather than on request – but I suppose when you have over a quarter of a million followers things work a little differently. It also creates lots of work , and looks like an ideal candidate for automation.

I thought I’d have a quick play with the Twitter API this morning (no doubt I’m not the only one), and cobbled together the script below, which you can also download as follow_me_stephen.rb (although if you’re not Mr Fry I’m not sure why you would want to). Save the file, and run using ruby follow_me_stephen.rb.

I wanted to avoid having too many dependencies, so I didn’t use the twitter gem, or the excellent httparty, but I was too lazy to figure out all the XPaths to handle the Atom version of the API. This means you need to have the JSON gem installed, which is as simple as sudo gem install json (omit the sudo on Windows).

The script’s pretty dumb, in that it grabs the whole set of search results every time, and blindly requests to follow everyone, regardless of whether you’re already following them.

#!/usr/bin/env ruby

require 'net/http'

  require 'json'
rescue LoadError
  STDERR.puts <<EOF

No JSON parser found. Please run the following command to install:

  sudo gem install json


module FollowMeStephen
  def run
    auth_user, password = get_user_details
    requestors = fetch_requestors
    requestors.each do |user|
      follow user, auth_user, password
  def get_user_details
    print 'Please enter your Twitter username: '
    auth_user = gets.chomp
    print 'Please enter your Twitter password: '
    password = gets.chomp
    return auth_user, password
  def fetch_requestors
    requestors = []
    puts 'Searching for hashtag "followmestephen"...'
    query = '?q=%23followmestephen&rpp=150'
    while query do
      search = JSON.parse(get("/search.json#{query}"))
      puts "Received page #{search['page']}"
      requestors += search['results'].map {|r| r['from_user']}
      query = search['next_page']
  def follow user, auth_user, password
    print "Following #{user}... "
    result = post "/friendships/create/#{user}.json", auth_user, password
    puts result
  def get path
    Net::HTTP.get '', path
  def post path, auth_user, password
    request = path
    request.basic_auth auth_user, password
    response ='').start {|http| http.request(request)}
    (response.kind_of? Net::HTTPSuccess) ? 'OK' : 'Failed'

include FollowMeStephen

One reply on “API vs RSI”

Hello; I saw your comment on my blog and I couldn’t find an email for you. Here’s my reply:

Uncle Bob’s rules are for Developers; I’m speaking of acceptance testing here.

Having worked with UncleBob a little bit on his “Clean Code” book, I’m confident he doesn’t believe in BTUF.

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