Just typing the “t” word brings all the smelly fetid connotations. Still, twitter can be a swell place, Wally.
The writing on the wall is happening for a string of my web sites and some silly experiments that likely the world will not suffer to be without. And while this week we are hearing of the withering of the blue check marks (I am proud now of never seeking nor getting one), worse is ahead as the great business minds at the helm are just tossing the enterprise over the sides.
This is their “plan” to kill the capabilities (stated more watery buzzworded as “deprecating”) of the version 1.1 API (it’s more defecate than deprecate) in lieu of a new one… that they expect “hobbyists” to pony up $100 a month for a basic plan. It’s been looming a while but my indicators came in notices like:
The grand offer of the “Free” API is only useful for the first message, which is a twitter bot, because the only thing you can do for free is to publish tweets via the new regime’s API. Many of my other sites are ones like the DS106 Daily Create where the Daily Blank WordPress theme (one of the oldest SPLOTs!) uses the API to read replies to @ds106dc to post as responses. I also got one for an API key I used at the OEG Connect Discourse platform, which was used merely to generate embeds of tweets.
Over the past week, I have jumped through the hoops for about 4 twitter accounts to get them “unsuspended” (the twitter developer site is if anything a maze –not amazing) and my apps are again working… for maybe this month.
Supposedly this will crash to the ground April 29 when they turn off the version 1.1 API, meaning all of the old sites and scripts would need recoding to use different endpoints.
I will skip the explanation and leave it as-this is effing stupid, but if anything, it will spurn more people to just stop using their service, leaving it for the bots and billionaires.
Martin shared the origin story for Twitter TAGS that goes back to 2010:
Forget about the blue checkmarks- the knifing of the API is a serious and insidious blow. This is what is getting tossed into the bins.
So Long Twitter TAGS worksheet
Already gone is the brilliant TAGS script enabled Google worksheet created maybe 9 years ago by Martin Hawksey. It used the API to archive tweets based on a hashtag and or other search parameters, it summarized date, and most beautifully, it generated the valuable interactive visualization of everything it grabbed as the Conversation Explorer (see example).
I must have created 50-70 of these and put to use for almost every project, class course that used a hash tag. I found one from January 2013 for the first ETMOOC.
Martin’s creation was truly genious and it worked as recent as for Open Education Week in March 2023.
Alas, Twitter killed its API and thus Twitter TAGs.
So Long Google Spreadsheet Twitter Bots
In the 2017 and 2018 Networked Narratives course co-taught with Mia Zamora, we had our students exploring of all things the classic ELIZA generator, but also what was emerging as the phenomena of twitter bots.
As an activity students created their own bots using a clever Google spreadsheet created by Zach Whalen– students waded through steps of creating new twitter accounts, then getting API keys, but the creative part was using the spreadsheet to generate a sentence structure that could generate randomized statements, even to include the handles of others in the class to make them part of the class conversation.
I rather get a kick because until this week, I saw at least three of our students bots from maybe 2018 that where still chattering away. These may be some of their last utterances…
In the anguish of politics of 2016 I felt compelled (not inspired) to create @isamericagrate using this approach (I think this is where I learned it). This bot got one of the Twitter API suspension messages. I took the liberty to post a non-bot message:
I ventured into the Twitter Developer Dashboard to see if I could bend my way around, especially as the task this does through the API should be kosher under the new regime. It took a lot of clicking to finally get my Free status enabled. First of all, since I had already created an API key for this account, I had at least access to the “portal” (otherwise you have to request it) and only via the Products link I found I had to click a button to “Downgrade to Free”.
Then I created a new Project for the new API, and added my existing API app to it. After this, I generated new API Keys and API secret strings, popped this into my Spreadsheet, and I was back in business.
Did I beat the system? Hardly, @isamericagrate has resumed, but knowing that all the scripts in the spreadsheet are using API 1.1 endpoints, when the “
deprecate” defecate this version, it will die.
It really resonated with me that my previous students in Network Narratives, who long moved on to other things, were in a way still creating narratives in rhe network:
Alas, when Twitter defecates its own API and my bot and my students old bots will die.
So Long Daily Create et al Collecting Tweeted Responses
This is one I have known about and have been dragging my coding feet to address. Since September 2015 the DS106 Daily Create (which had been rolling daily creative challenges since early 2012) has been using the Twitter API to collect responses to @ds106dc and filing them under the appropriate post on the site (all done via the Daily Blank wordpress theme first hacked out by me in 2014).
The main DS106 Daily Create Account has not gotten the Twitter API Scarlet letter but a few variants I have made e.g. the NetNarr Daily Digital Alchemy and the UDG Agora Daily Try (both inactive) did get their API suspension slaps.
If the API gets defecated, the sites will keep publishing challenges and maybe even tweeting them, but what won’t work is the ability for them to collect and track responses. What I have been dragging on is making the template work to fetch responses from Mastodon. There is a Mastodon ds106 daily create account posting there via IFTTT and I got the basics of fetching replies via the Mastodon API.
But I have been slow at updating my theme.
I did want to see if they really did break things, so I ventured into witte developer land again for @netnarr, downgraded to the Free API tier, and noticed that my app was still listed as a standalone API 1.1 app.
So I renerated my tokens and keys, plugged them into my Daily try site, and zoom! I looked like I was back in business (sent some test tweets, yes twice) that were picked up– see https://daily.arganee.world/dda378/.
Maybe I beat the system? My suspended API was back in business and reading tweets, all that should be verboten under my Free account.
Not so fast, boss.
This is working because the Twitter API 1.1 is still working. At some point, and it’s never clear since the timing is operated by apparently an un-magic 8-ball, Twitter will defecate this API. Even if I was able to recoded the twitter API calls, under the new regime of the crippled Free account, I could not read tweets.
I just did this so I could keep the lights on a little longer and maybe get my butt into gear to recoded the WordPress theme to make use of Mastodon to access the responses — and you can find activity happening there by ds106ers who have made the jump.
Alas, when Twitter defecates its own API, all of the Daily _______ web sites will no longer harvest responses.
After the Great Defecation…
Life and work and things go on. Nothing on the web created by a third party lasts forever; the only things you can manage are the content you create and manage. And this gives me pause as so many colleagues have forsaken their own domains for publishing in MediumSubstackGoogleplexWhatever because it has been made easy.
Easy now rules. It’s why creativity is being subsumed by AI Promptism (another post in my head). my good friend Todd once smashed the Easy Button:
But that’s what we seek now. Click Like. Click Repost. Click Emoji. Click Write. Click Make. Click Think?
Thanks Twitter for defecating your own platform.
That’s the way it goes. All the bots and apps powered by the Twitter API are now headed for the digital landfill.
Post Defecation Notes
Have I gone too far with the “d” word?
Ishould have given shoutouts to long time users of the Daily Blank WordPress theme:
- Antonio Vantaggiato is still using it as a prompt for his media students at Universidad del Sagrado Corazón– see Una foto cada día
- Mariana Funes has been running the Daily Stillness too since July 2015
Those might be the last ones I know of.
Featured Image: Modification of my own photo 2021/365/229 Toss Your Bots Here flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0) where I superimposed Twitter logo from Pixabay image by kreatikar– all done by me, a human.