Monthly Archives: September 2010

How To Ask For Help Via Twitter

First, please just ask. Don’t ask if you can ask.

About half of our time helping people on Twitter is devoted to clarifying what they are asking about…and about 80% of that is due to people not trying very hard to be clear.

Yes, sometimes people try to be clear, but the very brief nature of tweets works against them. But if you’re at least trying, we can often guess correctly what you’re asking about. It’s the people that don’t try that waste so much of our time.

Here are some tips for getting help (also known as my list of pet peeves):

1. At least try to make sense

If we have to ask for clarification after every tweet you send, slow down and think before the next tweet you send. About once a month or so, someone babbles so incoherently and incessantly that it takes dozens of DMs to help them with something simple.

2. “What’s wrong with my Twitter?” or “Help me with my problem”

…is meaningless. You need to be more specific. Say WHAT do you want help with? Don’t use words that can mean multiple things.

3. Read your responses!

When you ask a question, particularly by DM, check for a response! Don’t send multiple tweets without looking to see if you are being responded to. You’re just talking to yourself.

4. Say what it is you need!

  1. Don’t say click this link to find out why I’m contacting you. Do your best to explain what you want IN the tweet or DM.
  2. Also, don’t jump right into arcane details before explaining what you’re trying to do and why. Without what and why, we won’t know what you’re talking about.
  3. Don’t tell me why I should help you unless it also explains what you need help with. I.e., don’t say “you have lots of followers so do this for me” or “I need help because this is very frustrating” etc. Use the limited space you have to say WHAT you want help with.

5. Respond to instructions

If you’re given instructions on what to do, in your next reply say either that you followed the instructions, ignored the instructions, have questions about the instructions, or saw the instructions but need to clarify something first. Don’t just keep talking as if you didn’t read the tweet. In particular, don’t tweet something like “Still not working”—that doesn’t even tell me if you received our tweet. At least say, “I tried everything you said, and it didn’t work.”

6. Read the recent tweets of the account you’re asking for help.

After posting a tweet about a Twitter problem, we typically get several tweets asking about the problem. When we point out that we just tweeted about it, they say “thanks, that’s what I needed to know.” Next time, read our recent tweets before asking.

7. Don’t say “Please fix this” or “What you should do to fix Twitter is” etc.

Twitter “bugs” come and go all the time. Sometimes because Twitter is turning things on and off. If you have a Twitter problem that went away after you tweeted someone about it, trust me, it had nothing to do with your tweet. We get credit all the time for problems that go away after someone tweets us. It has NOTHING to do with us. It’s random. Scroll down on this post to “How Twitter fixes problems” and read about “feature darkmode” if you want to learn more. Also, as Twitter works to fix problems, sometimes other features are temporarily broken. It’s frustrating, but it’s going on all the time at Twitter.

It’s very time-consuming for us when people think we can fix their Twitter problems. Please don’t tweet us thinking we can fix anything. You’re wasting our time and yours. Read the public resources or use the Twitter contact form. If you want to ask a question, fine, we’re happy to help. But I’m tired of taking hours and hours every month with people saying “please fix this.” It’s a  frustrating waste of everyone’s time. There are people we tell this to repeatedly and they still insist on tweeting us to “fix things” for them. Please, please stop doing that. You know who you are.

If you want to suggest or ask something of Twitter, use their contact form at In particular, we (@TweetSmarter) don’t work for Twitter or have any power of any kind to fix Twitter bugs. All we can do is give advice and point you to public resources. In most cases Twitter employees will tell you the same thing: Read the public resources and use the Twitter contact form.

8. Don’t send multiple tweets when one will do

Don’t say “Can I send you a tweet” (you just did). Don’t tweet “Did you get my tweet?” (When I do, I’ll respond to it…or not.) Don’t tweet to say “I sent you a DM.” JUST SEND YOUR INFO AND WAIT FOR A REPLY. IF you waited a few days for a non-critical question answer with no response, tweet it again. Same if you waited a couple hours for a response to a critical question. Sending multiple tweets clogs up the feed of whoever you’re tweeting to, and if they’re busy or popular, it’s very, very annoying.

Twitter’s many problems often seem avoidable

Twitter regularly introduces new features—or feature updates—that are badly broken. Why is that? Why are they always acting first, thinking later?
UPDATE: Other people have noticed the same thing: “From top to bottom Twitter has made product mistake after product mistake, fundamental and obvious mistakes that have significantly confused and detracted from the simplicity of the service, for little or no gain.”

Minor Twitter update reverses a key security patch

Nearly a half-million Twitter user accounts were afflicted before Twitter “re-fixed” the security hole it had “unfixed” in the update. The official explanation. In other words, Twitter itself caused the security hole. This is the second time an exploit of this kind has been taken advantage of at Twitter. Then, two days later, a similar XSS attack hit Twitter.

Twitter changes usernames without consulting

An organization wanted to work with a Twitter user who had a name they had internationally trademarked. Their first step was to contact Twitter, who, without consulting either party, simply forced a name change. Neither the original user nor the organization was happy with Twitter’s heavy-handed approach.

Twitter’s OAuth implementation: a study in bad decisions?

Recently developer Ryan Paul detailed how Twitter “seriously botched its OAuth implementation and demonstrated, yet again, that it lacks the engineering competence that is needed to reliably operate its service.” Paul went on to say specifically that “Twitter should review the OAuth standard and take a close look at how Google and Facebook are using OAuth for guidance about the proper approach.”

Paul says Twitter’s approach is “a textbook example of how to do [OAuth] wrong.” He “received no response from Twitter after writing several posts outlining [his] concerns.” He points out that “The OAuth specification … says explicitly that implementors should not do what Twitter is trying to do.”

Moreover, Facebook and Google both do NOT take Twitter’s approach to the same situation. What’s an example of a kind of problem Twitter’s approach could cause? Hackers could put application makers (TweetDeck, HootSuite, et al.) “in a situation where their users are locked out for weeks when a key is compromised.” Paul demonstrates the problem by easily hacking a Twitter application. He also notes that Twitter’s approach to free and open source (FOSS) client software clients is even worse, a “really bad idea … because of Twitter’s misguided requirement.”

Beyond the problem with hacked applications, Paul points out there are a number of OTHER “bugs, defects, and inconsistencies that pose challenges for users and developers.” And this isn’t the first time Twitter has demonstrated problems in introducing new features:

Official tweet button slows sites…

Twitter first implemented its official buttons in such a way as to prevent or slowdown sites from loading if using the new Twitter button when Twitter is having problems. As reported by TheNextWeb, user @tschellenbach shows how you can modify Twitter’s code to prevent your site from being affected by Twitter problems. I have implemented @tschellenbach‘s change on this site.

…and crashes browsers:

More dramatically, within 24 hours of being released, Twitter’s new tweet button for websites was briefly crashing browsers like Firefox, as widely reported:

A brief problem is not much of  a problem, but who wants to have to keep checking to make sure the Twitter button isn’t crashing visitors’ browsers? Twitter acknowledged the issue in this tweet:

Twitter for iPhone crashes for a month

Most recently, Twitter for iPhone was updated…and version 3.0.2 promptly began crashing, failing to open, and having various other types of total failure. It took Twitter three weeks to provide a fix, which Apple took several days to approve. (The updated version is now in the app store here.)

Twitter for Android released with lots of bugs

Even as of early September these issues still were not resolved by Twitter:

  1. Retweet works only from the home timeline and from nowhere else
  2. The app force closes when scrolling the timeline
  3. Cannot add @usernames in the Tweet. Says “cannot get users names at this time, please try again latter” (later is misspelled as “latter”).
  4. The “sync contacts” feature does not work.
  5. Viewing private lists returns an error message.
  6. Notifications don’t work and/or respect the notification volume.
  7. Re-tweets from Private accounts can not be re-tweeted even if the original tweet is public.
  8. Auto refresh does not work on Nexus ones and Droid with Froyo 2.1
  9. Cannot delete search results on TwiAndroid

Facebook Blocks Twitter’s Way To Look Up Friends

This Facebook app made by Twitter was a big announcement, but as soon as they announced it…it stopped working. When the problem occurred, Twitter wasn’t in touch with Facebook for a couple of days. Eventually, Twitter posted

“Facebook has notified us that they have blocked the update to our application, and we are working on a resolution with them.” as reported on TechCrunch.

Why didn’t Twitter check with Facebook first, rather than later? The app turned out to violate a Facebook policy…that Twitter could have easily learned about beforehand.

Does Twitter have its act together?

This isn’t the first (or the second or the third) time they’ve announced a feature just before it stops working or has to be rolled back because it broke other things. Heck, even the second ad run by @EarlyBird had a typo in the discount code. Part of Twitter’s issue is admittedly that they are in the midst of an endless infrastructure change. The old joke about jumping off a cliff and having to build wings on the way down applies to Twitter pretty aptly. I agree Twitter can’t stop developing features that benefit its user base just because it has other teams working on infrastructure upgrades and problem resolution. But even though they have rolled a number of features out in limited release betas, they still end up too frequently having to go backwards due to issues found once they go into a full rollout. Also, as ReadWriteWeb points out, tongue-in-cheek: “Twitter has made numerous changes to fix its API. Those experiences have taught providers what mistakes not to make when launching a service.”

Is there a culture of carelessness at Twitter?

This is the company that got hacked because they let employees use passwords like “password” and “happiness” on important infrastructure—and the FTC went after them for being so easily hacked. Hopefully there is a key hire that has just not been made yet that will provide better oversight. Because to date, Twitter has a poor record. Since Twitter is already widely untrusted because the service is unreliable, you would think they wouldn’t introduce new situations that cause users to lose trust. But they at least appear to be avoiding problems like this one now: “Twitter timelines stopped updating hours ago. Why no word from the mothership?

Twitter’s upgrade to “Suggestions for You”

UPDATE: Twitter has confirmed changes:

“We rolled out the first of many improvements, which is that we now take into account how many times a user views a certain recommendation without taking action. People are more likely to see new recommendations faster because we learn from what they don’t do.”

When I checked the feature in mid-August, it was still suggesting mostly only already well-known accounts with lots of followers. On August 27, Twitter took the service offline. When I checked the service again a week later (September 5) I saw average users, many with very small followings, being suggested. And then I noticed this change (chart, below) in the rate people were following @TweetSmarter. Each dot represents how many people are following us on that day. It (usually) goes up by a hundred or more each day.

The rate at which people follow our account had increased (green arrows)…and become steadier. I’ve never, ever seen that before in our years on Twitter. I realized we had probably been added to the new “Suggestions For You” feature (along with many, many other accounts). It looks like Twitter has finally implemented some kind of meritocracy by which they would let even users with very few followers become “suggested” followers…as they have long promised they would do.

This is great news for all accounts!

Since @TweetSmarter is rated highly by every Twitter rating system out there, I always figured if Twitter started doing a better job of recommending who to follow, one way to tell would be by seeing the rate at which people follow @TweetSmarter increase. It looks like that has happened.

All about keyboard shortcuts

Tip: Looking for an interface like #OldOldTwitter? Try Kanvaso. Also see “How to get your mentions view back after Twitter deletes it” UPDATE: Learn more about #NewNewTwitter here

The keyboard shortcuts at are now:


  • f : favorite
  • r : reply
  • t : retweet
  • m : direct message
  • n : new Tweet
  • enter : toggle details pane


  • s v Search videos
  • s p Search pictures
  • ? : this menu
  • j : next Tweet
  • k : previous Tweet
  • space : page down
  • / : search
  • . : refresh Tweets and back to top


  • g h : home
  • g r : replies / mentions
  • g p : profile
  • g f : favorites
  • g m : messages
  • g u : go to user / search for user

Overall layout

Click to enlarge:

Source: @jmacofearth •

Is this why they didn’t fix a lot of old Twitter issues?

Old Twitter has dozens of outstanding issues that have been lingering, many for months. Some they have made half-hearted, half fixes on—and now we might know why!

Product manager Josh Elman said that he expects Twitter will be more like Google than Facebook — a destination for quick visits rather than extended time-wasting and engagement sessions.

The New Architecture

This is an all-new architecture for the website, featuring:

  1. Greater responsiveness/faster;
  2. A more stable architecture;
  3. The new website is based on the API (what Twitter clients run off of) and API limits will be going away.
  4. Built on the @anywhere platform.

What’s NOT included

  1. Multiple accounts still NOT supported via web.
  2. Team features & analytics NOT available via website…yet.

The Official New Website Video

Twitter is a breaking news outlet, not a social network, says VP Kevin Thau. And the reason the Annotations feature was put on hold was because the infrastructure team was working on the launch, Ryan Sarver, Twitter’s platform team, said.