Twisst sending tweets again!

Dear Twisst followers,

As you may have noticed, Twisst stopped sending tweets last week. Twitter suspended the accounts I use for sending the ISS alerts and that was it. Thanks to your pleas, Twitter has contacted me and helped me to get back in business again. For now – we'll have to see how it works out.

What I'm doing with Twitter, the mass sending of tweets, is not really what Twitter is for.
Especially when the ISS is visible in areas where I have a lot of followers, Twisst sends out a lot of tweets (see graph below). Sometimes in excess of 27,000 tweets per day and 4,000 tweets per hour! When you tweet that much, some bells go off at Twitter HQ.

To prevent spam, Twitter has put limits on how many tweets you can send per account, per day and per hour. To be able to send space station alerts to all my followers, I created a lot of different accounts. I have put a lot of effort into getting better at avoiding the limits and fine-tuning accounts to have them look less like spam-accounts.

Graph: total number of tweets sent by Twisst per day.

Last couple of weeks however, Twitter started blocking those sender accounts. I thought it was because of another limit, on the number of tweets coming from one IP address. The emails I got said it had to do with sending a lot of mentions to people who are not following those accounts. Twitter doesn't disclose too much about their spam prevention algorithms, so we may never know what was the biggest problem.

Some people said: we're happy to follow the sender accounts to solve that. But if you would do that, you would see all tweets from that account to anyone you follow. If all your Twitter friends follow Twisst, your timeline could be cluttered with duplicate info.

Others thought I should create accounts for different areas, with one tweet per day for that area. This approach could work, and it has been done, but it does have it's disadavantages. The information gets less personal and you'd risk overlooking the tweets in your general timeline.

Also that approach takes a lot of different accounts. To publish information accurate enough to be useful for spotting the ISS, the areas should not be larger than 1x1 degrees on the map. Twisst has almost 50,000 followers in litterally all countries in the world. Dividing all of them into such a grid, I would still need more than 2,200 Twitter accounts!

There's a solution for everything of course, but besides the pros and cons of those mentioned, you will understand that all would take time to implement. The more time I have to spend on working around obstacles, the more the project starts to look like work. Twisst has been incredibly interesting for me to build and learn from. But it should remain a fun project. I want to spend time on more cool features and not too much worrying about Twitter limits.

Anyway, I won't complain. The response from Twisst followers has been overwhelming and heartwarming. You guys even spntaneously came up with a hashtag, #saveTwisst. That was awesome! It's really great to see what my little service means to people. Thank you very much for that!

Twitter contacted me and unsuspended all blocked sender accounts (about 200!). They promise to unsuspend them again the next time their automated spam algorithms put them out of order.

They also propose sending a portion of the alerts as DM's. I will start looking into changing my system to do that. If you have no problem with getting your alerts as DM, then this could be a way to keep Twisst up and running.

I will also try to create filters, so you won't get alerts for passes you don't want to know about anyway, like maybe early morning passes. That way, Twisst needs to send out a lot less tweets.

I don't know if these things will prove real solutions and I don't know if the sender accounts will remain active for a while, but we'll see. I am going to turn on the sending mechanism again later on. Thanks again for all your support, and clear skies to you!

@tjaap

 

Comments

Thank you for the wonderful service you provide.

Thanks for keeping us informed. I just love being able to see the ISS. I hope there is a permanent solution one day.

Courtsy you, I and kids spotted ISS from Gwalior, India. We are really greatful for your services.

what a great service you provide - the whole family just loves to go out and watch when we can and we would have missed it all without YOU!!

Thanks for sending the info out, I enjoy very much pointing out the ISS to my daughter, and discussing what it means (she's 4!). Missed your messages, so glad they are now back. DMs, filters, or whatever else makes it easier for you is just fine with me - keep it up please :)

Thanks for your comments! I am still amazed by how many nice responses I get.

Sharon, more info you will find on the About Us page and maybe the press release from back when I started Twisst in 2009 is of use to you.

Karen, thanks for the advice! Adding a tip jar to the website has been on my to do list for a long time, but I have always felt more like working on developing Twisst itself than finding out how to get donations :-) It would be great to have some funds for the project though... Let me know if you have an opinion on how to go about it!

Hi Chris, usually those blue bars tell me how many tweets are in line to be sent. As my sending capacity vanished, they are an indication (not accurate data) of how many tweets were left in the queue...

Delighted to read this. I'm planning to do a blog posting on it. Can you give me a little information, like who you are and who sponsors this project? I've enjoyed receiving it for a couple of years now, I think.

Fantastic, great to see sense has prevailed, If it helps im very happy to recieve DM's

First: Thanks for Twisst and congratulations for creating such a great service!

Second: If Twitter isn't for services like Twisst, what is it for? This is a strange case of an obviously needed service (Twisst) being shut down because it was too good at using the infrastructure, having become too popular.

That's wonderful. I'm happy to see that Twitter responded to you and #savetwisst.

Twisst is such a valuable service. Perhaps you could think of ways we can help. Whether in technical support/design, monetary help, whatever, I'd think you'd have lots of support from the community.

In fact, it would be AWESOME.

I think it's time you set up a donation page. If it's going to be "like work", then let's make it worth it.

DM is fine for me!

Keep up the great work. It's very much appreciated.

This is good news - and thank you for all the hard work. What's the difference between the orange and the blue in the graph; in other words, what changes have already been made to account for being able to send fewer tweets?

Thanks again.