I’ve written a little app that shows the most recent tweets of 8 Twitter users, drawn sort-of randomly. I would like to make the selection of usernames actually random.
I don’t want the user of a random tweet, or a random followee or follower of any given user. Those techniques bias towards active, popular or highly networked users.
At the other extreme, I do not want to generate random 1-15 character strings, since the user namespace is highly clustered. There are many more usernames beginning with ‘mar’ (substrings of Marcela, Mark, Maryam, Martin, etc…) than there are user names that begin with ‘_w7’.
I want there to be equal likelihood of drawing @Tiana3, an egg who set up a spam account in 2008, tweeted once, and quit, as to get @katyperry.
Given the namespace combination of sparse and clustered, a really random (or even nearly random) username can only come from Twitter (and, I hope, from the REST API.)