Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Behind the scenes -- Interview with's Thomas Ummels

In my July 2009 Observations, "Twitter Printing -- Print those tweets!", I included the web site (btw get you to the same site.) This interview, of the creative source behind the site, is republished here and also accompanies the column in the Observer.

The Hard Copy Observer, July 2009

Behind the Scenes: Tom Ummels and

Jim Lyons, Observer columnist and blogger, recently sat down with Thomas Ummels, creator of to find out more about this exciting Web service.

Lyons: You mention in your blog post that you developed the program first for yourself. Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Ummels: I am a freelance Web developer and really love technology and my job. Two months ago, on our way back home from a visit to my parents, my wife wondered aloud whether it was possible to print tweets. We twitter with a group of close friends and our tweets are becoming a really nice journal of our current personal life. Especially since the iPhone is used to add pictures to part of the tweets. The same week some other developer I was working with on a project told me about the open and transparent character of the API of So when my wife asked me about printing tweets, ideas started to pop up in my head. When we came home, I quickly checked out the twitter API and looked if there already were tools available. I thought it was a nice challenge, and there were no other tools for printing tweets, so the next day I started coding, and the result can now be seen at We haven’t done much promoting yet other then through twitter. A couple of Dutch Web sites featured, and I was interviewed on Dutch national radio.

Lyons: You also mention the program has picked up a lot of interest, more than expected. Do you have an interesting story or two about users of Print Your Twitter? Who is using it and how?

I get a lot of enthusiastic responses. People mostly use the tool to backup their tweets. I heard from one user who had kept his friends and family up to date during his vacations through twitter. After coming back he printed his tweets and gave them to his grandparents who had no access to the Internet. And a friend of mine has a 7-year-old son who also twitters and his tweets are really funny. Every year, she makes a photo album for them at their birthday about their life in the past year. This year she printed his tweets and included them in his album.

Lyons: How about numbers? How many users? How fast is usage growing?

Ummels: The numbers go up and down depending on whether it gets mentioned on some Web site or in the media. Currently, we are around a 100 users a day. I think a lot more people could be interested in the tool, but it is still a side project for me and promoting a site like this is a lot of work. So although it was a lot of fun to build and it is nice to get positive feedback, promotion is currently not our highest priority.

Lyons: It is great that you added keyword (hash tag) search. I just used that too, and it is very handy. Any more upcoming features we should know about?

Ummels: I get a lot of questions, so I am planning to add some functionality in the next three weeks. I want to incorporate some filtering functions (only tweets with images, only tweets between two dates, or only tweets of a certain selection of your connections, so you can, for instance, subtract a conversation between two people from your tweets). We want to integrate more picture services (now only images on twitpic are included), and we want to offer some different print templates. If the number of visitors is high enough, we also want to include links to printing services so people can order a book of their own tweets.

Lyons: Any feel for how many users go all the way and actually print their results, rather than storing them as a PDF for searching or future reference?

Ummels: No, I have no idea. Due to the technology that is used, we can’t measure it. I would expect that more people save their tweets by saving the Internet page with the printer friendly version or by printing it to PDF than that people actually send them to their printer. Once in a while, we get remarks on what a waste of paper it is to print all your tweets. So I encourage people to use paper as sparsely as possible. But if your tweets truly have value to you why not print them and include them in your journal or diary for instance.

1 comment:

Thomas Ummels said... and also point to the same website.