Troubleshooting Twitter: how to find answers to common questions

Screenshot 2018-06-28 00.18.42

I see a lot of the same queries about Twitter crop up frequently on the #TwitterHelp hashtag, most of which have already been answered on Twitter’s own help site.

For example how to change your city for Twitter trends | uploading a video | finding out why your tweets are missing, or aren’t showing in search | how to unlock or recover a suspended account (where this is possible) … and so on

If you’re looking for an answer to a particular Twitter-related query or are trying to troubleshoot something then this post should point you in some helpful directions.

1. Searching on Google and other search engines
If I know a solution or have some suggestions I’ll try and answer. If I need to check something first I usually type in some relevant search terms, the word Twitter and occasionally site:help.twitter.com into my preferred search engine (it’s Google). That last one searches for mentions of whatever I’m trying to find in Twitter’s help files. If I omit that then the search will cover any website (including this one) as lots of people write ‘how to’ blog posts about Twitter.

2. Searching on Twitter itself
There’s a high chance that someone else will have asked / answered your query. If you can’t log in for any reason you can still search at https://twitter.com/search-home or https://twitter.com/search-advanced. The #TwitterHelp hashtag might help too.

3. Searching Quora
You can visit Quora itself and search there or just add Quora to search engine searches, for example https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=site:quora.com+twitter+video

4. For more technical stuff look at Twitter developers’ forums
https://developer.twitter.com/, https://developer.twitter.com/en/community and https://twittercommunity.com/

5. All the other pages you can play with on Twitter

Found by searching for site:*.twitter.com on Google

 

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How to add alt-text descriptions to pictures on Twitter for visually impaired people

I’ve seen a couple of tweets and Twitter threads in the last couple of days that have gone a bit viral, highlighting that everyone can set something up in their Twitter settings to make things easier for visually impaired users. If you switch ON the option to be able to caption your photos then, whenever you upload a pic to Twitter, you can click on the image and add a text description. This description doesn’t show up in your tweet (it doesn’t impinge on your character limit) but is useful for those using voice software.

  1. History
  2. How to set it up
  3. Write good descriptions

1. History: Twitter rolls out the ability to add alt text in 2016, initially just for phone apps I think, then later it rolls out to everything.

2. How to set it up

Full info in How to make images accessible for people but for desktop users (like me) the steps look like this, below.

a) Go to https://twitter.com/settings/account and scroll to the bottom of the panel on the left, click on Accessibility.

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.12.14

b) Make sure there’s a tick next to ‘Compose image descriptions’

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.14.00

Example of what it looks like when you upload a picture to desktop

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.41.22

Click anywhere on the image to Add description and write your text in the box that appears.

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.41.55

3. Write good descriptions: Lovely thread from RobotHugsComics (h/t ScottKeir) with suggestions of what to actually write in the description window.

 

• Twitter’s closed the loophole that let you reply to tweets of people who’ve blocked you

Screenshot 2017-09-08 23.11.07

Up until a few days ago it was possible to reply to the tweets of someone who’d blocked you on Twitter. While the blocker would (presumably) not see those tweets you could still add your reply and others would see your contribution. This has been under some considerable discussion by people wishing to comment on President Trump’s tweets (I have no idea if Twitter’s loophole has been in response to that).

As far as I can tell if you’re blocked you can no longer directly reply to a tweet sent by an account that’s blocked you. However you can send them a new at-message tweet (they probably won’t see it given that they’ve blocked you) and you can still contribute to their conversation thread by replying to an intermediary tweet (ie by sending a reply to someone who has (a) already replied to the tweet and (b) hasn’t blocked you). But do be polite or your account may be suspended 🙂

I’ve tested direct replies to an account thats blocked me using the following apps / platforms and received an error message on each – cannot send a direct reply from any of them. If you know of one that works please let me know.

  • Twitter on desktop and for iPhone
  • Tweetdeck
  • Echofon (iPhone)
  • Dabr.co.uk
  • Janetter (iPhone)

Twitter would do better to stop people from being able to send tweets to the at-name of anyone that’s blocked them, as this current loophole-closure doesn’t stop replies-to-replies or new conversations.

It does make it a bit harder for me to correct the misleading tweets that homeopathy supporters send out – a few of them have blocked me, and other “anti-homeopathy skeptics”, for pointing out that homeopathy is not valid medicine.

Thanks to Pippo for drawing my attention to this.

 

 

 

• Hate seeing other people’s likes on Twitter? Some options to try

Updated April 2018

Let’s get rid of other people’s likes on Twitter!

Options known about so far… the first five involve using website Twitter, the sixth is info sent to me about a phone app. Numbers 2-5 involve workarounds to improve the experience on Twitter.com

  1. Use 3rd party Twitter website eg Tweetdeck or Dabr
  2. AdBlock Plus with Element Hiding Helper (Firefox)
  3. UBlock Origin filter
    1. 3a. Chrome Extension: Make Twitter Great Again
    2. 3b. Chrome Extension: Get rid of trending topics
    3. 3c. Chrome Developer tools: Block all RTs (except manual or quote RTs)
  4. Dismiss every tweet with ‘I don’t like this tweet’
  5. Use a list of people you follow as main timeline
  6. App version (Nexus 6P)

1. Use 3rd party Twitter website eg Tweetdeck or Dabr
Log in to either https://tweetdeck.twitter.com/ or https://dabr.co.uk (or https://dabr.eu/) and enjoy a basic ad-free peaceful tweeting experience. Tweetdeck solution suggested by Alexandre in the comments.

2. AdBlock Plus with Element Hiding Helper (Firefox)
It’s the Element Hiding Helper that does the heavy lifting here, although AdBlock Plus by itself gets rid of the sponsored tweets. Generally I don’t really mind sponsored tweets (I’m happy for Twitter to advertise to me) but I’m not interested in who to follow or trends and the additional bolt-on lets me get rid of that.

When you see a tweet that’s been inserted into your timeline because someone’s liked it call up the Element Hiding Helper. It lets you select an area containing the offending tweet (be careful not to select too much, or too little) and remove it from view. It might take a few attempts to catch all the slightly different variants (oh there are variants!) but I’ve found it to be very successful. You can also wipe out Moments, Trends, Who To Follow panels from around the main timeline and you can eliminate things inside the timeline too.

Here’s what my page looks like. I’ve got rid of Moments and the Analytics panel. On other pages you’d see the lack of Trends and Who to follow…

Screenshot 2017-07-27 00.28.42

Here’s a clip of what I see on my mentions (for privacy I’ve not shown any tweets as some are from locked accounts). There’s a white panel containing tweets in the middle and two lovely clear grey panels on either side, with nothing in them at all 🙂

Screenshot 2017-07-27 00.32.07.png

3. UBlock Origin filter

Thanks to an update from gorhill in the comments below it looks likely that if this tweet doesn’t render correctly on your screen you’ll see mangled instructions. I’ve added a screenshot of the same tweet below the embed (some browsers will show both correctly)

Screenshot of Glytch's tweet explaining how to use UBlock Origin to get rid of other people's liked tweets

3a. Chrome Extension: Make Twitter Great Again
“Hide liked tweets by others in timeline, hide Live Video, promoted tweets and others improvements for Twitter” (link) – apparently Opera can also use the same apps as Chrome.

3b. Chrome Extension: Get rid of trending topics
Andy (@digitonal) also shared a tip for getting rid of trending topics on Chrome using the Stylish extension to run a custom rule for Twitter.

.Trends { 
   display: none; 
}

3c. Chrome Developer tools: Block all RTs (except manual or quote RTs)
Nick Douglas has written a helpful post on Lifehacker with instructions on how to do this for Chrome browser users: How to disable all retweets on Twitter (6 March 2018)

4. Dismiss every liked tweet with ‘I don’t like this tweet’
Every tweet has a small arrow to the top right with options in (highlighted in blue below). For these liked tweets one of the options is ‘I don’t like this tweet’ or ‘show me less of this’ (not seen in the example below because it’s a different type of tweet) – select that and after a few times apparently the annoyance will go away.

I don’t use this method myself in case it causes problems for the person who’s tweet has been liked but it seems to work, though takes longer (and one advantage is that it does actually tell Twitter you don’t like it whereas my preferred method gives no feedback).

Picture below is illustrative. Because it wasn’t promoted to me as a ‘someone liked this’ the “I don’t like this” option isn’t available from the drop-down menu, but that’s where you’d find it if you had one of these tweets in your timeline.

Screenshot 2017-07-27 00.36.02.png

5. Use a list of people you follow as main timeline

George in the comments below suggested this one and it’s got potential! Create a list (give it a nice name so no-one will be annoyed when they find they’ve been added) add the people whose tweets you would like to see and then view that list instead of your main timeline. You’ll see only the tweets of the people you’ve added and you won’t see any additionally inserted tweets that Twitter wants you to know about. Thanks George!

6. App version (Nexus 6P, official Twitter app)

If you know of other methods, let’s have ’em.

Background
I follow over 2,000 people on Twitter so obviously I don’t see every one of their tweets, but I can live with that. If I need to catch up with someone’s tweets I can look at their profile. Twitter went through a phase of showing me ‘things you’ve missed’ while I’d been away, which was annoying. There’s also an option where you can be shown the ‘best’ tweets rather than the straightforward reverse-order chronological timeline. Fiddling about unnecessarily.

More recently Twitter’s started sharing, in your main timeline, tweets that other people have liked. Ironically I don’t think anyone likes this, I hate it. Even though some of the tweets are pretty good it really annoys me. Liking or favouriting on Twitter has usually been a semi-public act, in that you can go and look at someone’s likes if you wish, but otherwise they’re not ‘surfaced’ to your timeline, and now they are. I vaguely remember Twitter having an Activity tab where it showed what your friends were liking but it was short-lived.

No-one’s found an option that lets you switch this off (which is odd given that you can select options for almost everything else that Twitter displays) but here [above] are a few suggestions.

This bit moved to the end for clarity after I spotted this tweet. Good point well made, I am quite chatty. See it’s 4 paragraphs now 😉

 

This post has been referenced in a Lifehacker post (How to block other people’s likes on Twitter) which has brought lots of new visitors so welcome to the new folk and thanks to Lifehacker 🙂

 

 

• President Trump is being sued for blocking people, but the lawsuit makes no sense (to me)

NB: I am not a lawyer.

Some people are suing President Trump because he’s blocked them on Twitter. They argue that doing this stops them from reading or replying to his tweets and, by extension, means that their opinion cannot be made available to others who are reading the thread.

This is not true.

While I am not a supporter of President Trump this lawsuit appears to be based on a misunderstanding of what Twitter’s block actually means (to be fair this misunderstanding is very widespread). Perhaps if I were a lawyer I’d see some merit in the lawsuit but it currently eludes me, it seems to me to be daft, incoherent and wrong.

A block from an otherwise unlocked / public account wouldn’t stop anyone from reading the tweets or even replying to them (though locking the account certainly would).

Reading tweets from someone who’s blocked you, while logged in
If a user has blocked you simply search for their tweets (eg from:realdonaldtrump). I’ve tested this using a work account that blocked my personal account and it works on desktop Twitter, Tweetdeck, several iPhone apps, Dabr.co.uk and probably most Twitter platforms and apps.

Enthusiasts could set up an account with IFTTT and have any public account’s tweets emailed to them, or they could use another account to create a website widget which relays the tweets there.

Replying to tweets from someone who’s blocked you, while logged in
On desktop Twitter you need to click on the speech bubble icon to bring up the reply window (see the pics below). If you click on the tweet itself you’ll be taken to the ‘you are blocked’ page. On all the other platforms I’ve tested, including Tweetdeck, you can click on the tweet and reply to it.

Everyone else clicking on the tweet you’re replying to can see your reply*.

Viewing a “this tweet is unavailable” tweet that’s quote-RTed by someone else
In this scenario I’d simply right-click, open in private browsing window where you can view the tweet while not logged in. You can reply to the person who quoted the tweet while logged in to the regular browser window.

If an account blocks you can they see your tweets? Yes they can, though as your tweets aren’t delivered to them they won’t see them unless they want to. So, practically speaking, this might be ‘no’.

If anyone wishes to ‘not see tweets from someone’ while ‘avoiding being sued for blocking them’ then I strongly suggest MUTE as the better choice. If you are not following an account then MUTING them stops any tweets they send you from arriving. They don’t know they’re muted and can read and reply to your tweets (which others can see, but you won’t).

On desktop and iPhone Twitter (I’ve not tested other apps) you can arrange your settings to that you’ll only see tweets from accounts that you follow, which is basically the equivalent of muting everyone except accounts you follow. Again, no-one else knows.

*Twitter doesn’t show all replies
I don’t know how Twitter determines which tweets it will or won’t show, it may be algorithmic or it may be based on other users flagging up tweets as offensive. Occasionally in a thread I see ‘view more tweets, including those that may contain offensive content’ and they’re rarely all that offensive. Even if Mr Trump hadn’t blocked your account your replies to him might not be shown to him.

Worked example, with pictures
I’ve just blocked myself (@jobrodie) using one of my old work accounts @chi_med. The pictures below show me what I see / don’t see, and how I can reply to the tweet of an account that’s blocked me.

chimedblock01
Fig 1. @chi_med has blocked @jobrodie. When I’m logged in as @jobrodie I see a ‘you are blocked’ page if I try and look at @chi_med’s profile

 

chimedblock02
Fig 2. While logged in as @jobrodie I’ve searched for tweets from @chi_med by typing from:chi_med into the search bar, the results are clearly visible. Note the small speech bubble at the bottom left of every tweet – that will let me reply to the tweet.

 

chimedblock03
Fig 3. This is what I see if I click on one of the tweets (instead of the speech bubble to reply) – I’m taken back to the ‘you are blocked’ page from Fig 1, this is its URL.

 

chimedblock04
Fig 4. Clicking the speech bubble brings up a reply window.

 

chimedblock05
Fig 5. I’m not logged in, but the tweet from @chi_med now displays my reply – visible to all.
chimedblock06
Fig 6. How the tweet looks when I’m logged in as @chi_med. I can see that there has been a reply (see the little ‘1’ next to the speech bubble) but I can’t see what the tweet says because I’ve blocked the account that sent it. Others would see the tweet though.

 

 

• How to do .@ replies on Twitter

How to open up a tweet or conversation thread to your public timeline without quote-tweeting it (which breaks any threading as that creates a new tweet).

Updated – whether or not your mobile phone app can or can’t do the .@ may depend on the version of your software (eg iOS) or whether or not you’ve updated the app.

Mobile phone users
Carry on as you were by clicking the start of the reply to position the cursor there and typing the . as normal (tested on Twitter for iPhone, Echofon for iPhone and Twitter for Android – I’m assuming other apps behave similarly but please let me know if not).

@Flatsquid tells me that he can’t do this on his version of Twitter for iPhone (whereas I can) so this may be a version issue. I don’t have an option to update my version so can’t confirm, though I am using an older iOS.

Tablet users
Twitter for iPad can’t do .@

Twitter on Safari doesn’t work either but it seems that using Dabr on a browser does (thanks @medtek for checking). Open browser app, go to http://dabr.co.uk/ and log in by authorising with Twitter credentials. Click reply and place the . at the front. Possibly Echofon for iPad would work too.

Web users
Twitter dot com and Tweetdeck can’t do .@

1a. On Twitter dot com or Tweetdeck reply within the confines of the new system
1b. Then retweet your own tweet – this makes it available to all your followers and maintains the thread so people can click and see the conversation.

OR

2. Dabr: Go to http://dabr.co.uk/ and log in by authorising with Twitter. Click reply and place the . at the front.


What’s this all about?
Twitter’s latest improvement meddling has removed the capacity to insert a . before the username of the person you’re replying to on the desktop / web browser version of Twitter (eg Twitter.com or Tweetdeck). The simple addition of the . before the @ did two things (a) it converted a reply (which has a more limited distribution to those involved in the conversation and people following both them and you) to a broadcast tweet (visible to anyone following you) so that more could see it while (b) maintaining the threading, letting people click and see the expanded tweet in context. [Note that any tweet sent is visible on your public timeline unless sent as a DM or you’ve locked your account.]

In the new format Twitter has removed the usernames from the text of the tweet (giving us more characters, a potential plus I suppose) but making all replies replies and not easily ‘surfaced’ to more people.

I think this ONLY affects people tweeting from Twitter dot com and Tweetdeck, phone apps appear to be unaffected (may depend on OS version or app version).

I have no idea why Twitter has done this. I’m assuming they want to make desktop Twitter as difficult as possible to use to force everyone onto mobile apps, though that doesn’t make sense since there are so many things you can’t do (in terms of settings) on mobile apps. People have suggested that it reduces the risk of people piling on in response to a more publicised tweet – that would only be true if .@ was also removed from mobile apps or you couldn’t retweet your own tweet (which serves the same purpose, but perhaps doesn’t cue people in the same way that seeing .@ does). Possibly this will change in future.

Removing / adding people in the conversation
The other annoyance with Twitter’s new replies is that it adds an extra hassle barrier in untagging people from the conversation. They have now added a ‘remove everyone other than the person I’m replying to from this conversation’ one-click option.

Clicking ‘reply’ has always meant ‘reply all’ but the previous system made it easy to select the usernames as a chunk of text and delete, now you have to go and look for them. To do this click reply, then click on the line above saying ‘Replying to @name, @name etc’ and choose the options to delete people. You can write the names of new additions within the tweet – so there’s one way to remove people but a different way to add them, which seems confusing.

Threads are now a mess and it’s not clear who’s replying to whom.

Further reading
The New Twitter @-Replies Are Giving Me an Ulcer (30 March 2017) by Sarah Jeong