Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Saturday 22 September 2012

IFTTT and Twitter - what alternatives will work?

Edit 12 June 2013 - Twitter has now stopped RSS feeds from working as far as I can tell.

There's a bit of preamble about IFTTT and then a question which you might be able to help with. If you already know about IFTTT please skip the preamble and jump to the question :)

1 October 2012
It seems that RSS feeds of Twitter will work on IFTTT where Twitter feeds alone won't (cos
they've had to switch them off as Triggers). That saying they'll only work until 5 March 2012 and
then Twitter will switch off support for RSS too...


Preambly bit about IFTTT
If I understand correctly, as of 27 September 2012, people will no longer be able to use Twitter's system to send or store tweets somewhere else(1). For example people have been able to use the If This Then That service to post their tweets to Google+archive their tweets in a text fileGoogle Calendar or Evernote.

These are all done with 'recipes', created by users, in which IFTTT drives information from Twitter to another service. Recipes involve channels, triggers and actions - eg you can create a recipe that says if a tweet is posted (trigger) to Twitter (channel) then post it (action) to Evernote (another channel). IFTTT's 'About us' explains this very well.

There's a list of recipes here that include Twitter as a trigger (the Twitter icon appears on the left of the recipe) or as an action (on the right), some example below.

See a whole bunch of recipes like this, sending tweets to Evernote

Examples of Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr etc triggers sent to Twitter
My understanding is that any recipe that has Twitter on the left will no longer work next week, because IFTTT has been asked / told / forced to remove Twitter triggers, but those with Twitter on the right hand side will continue to work (because Twitter's happy to have stuff sent to its service). Apparently IFTTT has been in violation of Twitter's terms of conditions regarding how third party applications can use its API and while this may be technically correct (Facebook and LinkedIn had to stop using this too I think) it's a bit annoying for end users who had set up systems to archive or do stuff with their tweets.

So... are there any alternatives, or will they all be blocked for misusing Twitter's API?

Is there anything that Nigel Paul can do to retain the ability to automatically retweet, 12 hours later on delay, the tweets he's tagged with #r12, and to forward tweets tagged with #gl to both Google+ and LinkedIn? He's currently using IFTTT to take a trigger from Twitter, and that's the functionality that's being disabled.

I wonder if the first one (#r12) might be OK. Although the trigger is a tweet the action is also a tweet and I don't know if Twitter will smile kindly on this as the end result is going back to Twitter. There are plenty of examples of IFTTT recipes in which one type of tweet triggers a different kind of tweet (eg auto-thanking people for following you).

The next bit is about using RSS feeds to bypass Twitter but it looks like Twitter's gone ahead and killed off RSS feed support already ;) Checked now and seems to be back again! (8.34am 28 Sep 2012)

Alternatively, it might be possible to solve by using RSS as the trigger, instead of Twitter. Although the relevant addresses to use are pretty hidden Twitter's various streams (user, mentions, search etc) do support RSS feeds as a way of reading the updates - however RSS support will apparently be switched off by Twitter on 5 March 2013.

Edit: 9.14am - RSS feeds do work (the only example I've looked at is saving tweets to Evernote but see further reading below for how to set up and customise an IFTTT recipe using RSS feeds)

Example RSS feeds, just swap the relevant search term with your own:
  • User: (opens fine in Firefox and Internet Explorer where I'm logged in to two different Twitter accounts. On Chrome, where I'm logged into a third account) it tries to launch an RSS reader app)
  • Mentions: (as above)
  • Favourites: (gives blank page in Firefox and Chrome, says there's a format error in Internet Explorer so perhaps the link has changed)- aha try instead but swap jamietr for your own (or presumably someone else's if you want) screen name. I heard about this format for the URL from this comment on this blog post.
  • Search (use %20 between words to fill in for the space and make the URL continuous): - all instances of fluffy bunnies :) (as for User and Mentions)
  • Hashtag search (use %23 for the # symbol):  (as above)
I've not tried it but I suspect that for the next six months Nigel might be able to reset his recipe and point the trigger at the RSS feed for his tweets tagged with #r12 and get IFTTT to send a delayed retweet twelve hours later, or those tagged with #gl to be posted to G+ and LinkeIn. The RSS feed's URL can only give you everything tagged with the #r12 or #gl hashtags and not just your own tweets (RSS doesn't let you log in to anything so it doesn't know you're you) so IFTTT would need to be able to fish out just the ones you send. No idea if it can do that.

But if it is possible to gather just your own hashtagged tweets and if Twitter doesn't compel IFTTT to block Twitter's RSS feeds as triggers then this might work (for six months!)

But what to do after six months, or if IFTTT isn't allowed to send Twitter's RSS feeds to Google+ or LinkedIn?

What are the alternatives, if any? Will let you post your tweets (what are they called there?) to other services? Or will etc?

(1) This statement needs a bit of qualification, and I need to learn more about what the terms of use for the API mean, hampered a bit by the fact that I'm not a developer and don't understand the jargon. Twitter doesn't seem to want stuff going to 'the cloud' and I think it's stopped tweets that are posted on Twitter from being sent to Facebook or LinkedIn. However I think it lets updates that are posted on Fb or Ln be sent to Twitter though, so it's a matter of directionality too. It has previously been possible for someone to link their Twitter, Facebook and / or Linkedin accounts together and automate the shuttling of tweets to other places. Google+ users found that there wasn't this automation in place and so used IFTTT to automate the process for themselves, as mentioned above.

Twitter has said that it's happy for services like Storify to continue to use tweets yet these are also stored outside of Twitter (presumably in a cloud?).

Further reading

Further posts in the Twitter tips series...

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