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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The “from:user” search workaround for seeing a blocker’s tweets (while still logged in) has stopped working

Updated 11 July 2018: still seems to work OK on https://dabr.eu

There are a lot of people making misleading (and occasionally illegal) health claims on Twitter. When you challenge them they often block you. This has happened to me (and many other skeptic bloggers, scientists, healthcare professionals etc), and my early efforts at finding out how to monitor such accounts and tweets is a large part of why I now have this blog about how Twitter appears to work!

Of course being blocked has never stopped anyone from reading a blocker’s tweets as you can always just log out (or use a spare account, or an incognito window) to view anyone’s tweets, as long as the blocker’s account is public.

One disadvantage of being logged out, particularly if you use desktop Twitter, is that you can see only their broadcast tweets and not their ‘Tweets and replies‘ tab. To get around that the search string   »from:username«   had, until yesterday, been a simple workaround while logged in as the blocked account, on desktop or the official mobile app.

As of yesterday it no longer works while logged in as the blocked account – I don’t know if that’s a glitch or a permanent change to Twitter’s search function but for now it looks like your options for viewing tweets from someone who’s blocked you are as follows

  • Log out and use the  »from:username«  search style to view replies as well as broadcast tweets
  • As above in an incognito window (for Twitter searching purposes the two are logiclly the same)
  • Log into a spare account and you can either use the above search strategy or just visit their page (assuming they’ve not blocked your spare account)
  • Use Dabr.co.uk – you can even log in (for the time being, it might change) – as of early July the page seems to be down but https://dabr.eu is still up
  • Try other non-official phone apps too…

You can also search  »to:username«  to see tweets sent to that account if you like.

To see the tweets of someone whom you’ve blocked is as it always was – visit their profile and click on the ‘View tweets’ button.

Alternatives to Storify (which is closing): capture old stories, create new ones

by @JoBrodie – who hopes you’ll tell her about other alternatives you know of 🙂

This post is a work in progress as I am currently trying out the different tools available.

Storify is closing its doors on 16 May 2018 and all content will become unavailable. Any time before that point you can download your own (and other people’s stories). To avoid having to keep writing Storify stories I’m just going to call them Stories for now.

Table of contents

  1. Capturing Storify stories (aka Stories)
    1. … your own
    2. … or anyone else’s
    3. Other capturing options
  2. Re-publishing your Stories
  3. Alternative tools for future use
  4. The search continues…

1. Capturing Stories

Storify‘s cheerily named ‘End of Life’ FAQ can be found here: https://storify.com/faq-eol – follow the instructions in the section called “How do I export content from Storify?

1.1 Capturing your own Stories

You can save your Stories as .XML, .HTML or .JSON files. When I tried with the HTML I was expecting a page of code but ended up with something that wasn’t quite that, and which I couldn’t embed into a new post. However you can still use the Save As option to save it as a web page (or as a PDF). You’d need to do this for each of your Stories.

Screenshot 2018-03-19 20.11.34.png

Screenshot 2018-03-19 20.12.20.png

 

You can also save as a web page by sticking .html at the end of any Story URL, then saving the resulting page.

Example
a) Storify original URL:
https://storify.com/jobrodie/what-happens-when-a-tweet-used-in-storify-is-delet2
(this link will stop working after 18 May)
b) Adding HTML to the end:
https://storify.com/jobrodie/what-happens-when-a-tweet-used-in-storify-is-delet2.html (this link will stop working after 18 May)
c) That HTML file saved to my Dropbox…
https://www.dropbox.com/s/efmgvuaq8h4xfld/What%20happens%20when%20a%20tweet%20used%20in%20Storify%20is%20deleted%3F.html?dl=0
(this link should persist after 18 May)

Wakelet, a free tool, will very helpfully let you export all of your published Stories to its platform and it will automatically publish them for you once done. This works very well. I had 43 published Stories and I set it running last night and woke up to all of them being migrated (I think it probably didn’t take the whole of the night to happen!). So far it has the Jo seal of approval*.

To use it you need to sign up (free, I logged in through Google). You’ll be given a bit of text to add to your Storify profile (a sort of handshake) then you can start the process and select the published Stories you want to import.

Screenshot 2018-03-18 22.49.52.png
You need to insert the bit of text in Step ‘1’ into your Storify bio then complete Step ‘2’ and let it get on with it. There’s also an explanatory video.

For unpublished / draft Stories you can either publish them and do the above, or just get the draft on-screen and save it as a web page.

Sutori, also a free tool, that lets you export your Stories to them too. Here’s their blog post responding to the news of Storify closing. Once you’ve registered you can create a new Story and one of the options is to import from Storify.

Screenshot 2018-03-19 20.02.07.png
Click the ‘Create story’ button on the left, then choose ‘Import from Storify’ that pops up.

Comparison
Here’s the same content, imported from Storify, on Wakelet and Sutori. I think Wakelet wins this particular test because it shows the text of a deleted tweet. I created the Storify in 2011, included in it a tweet that I later deleted to see what happened (the tweet persisted) Storify original | Wakelet import | Sutori import

 

1.2 Capturing someone else’s Story

Sticking .html at the end of any Story URL, then saving the resulting page. I don’t think you can use Wakelet to capture other people’s Stories, but you can with Sutori (however if they receive a ‘please remove’ request from the person who originally wrote it they will delete it).

1.3 Other capturing options

With short Stories you could copy the link for each ‘atom’ that makes up your Story (tweets, YouTube video links etc) and insert them individually into a WordPress dot com blog, but this would be ridiculously labour-intensive for larger Stories. Screenshotting / screencapturing is also an option, or using tools like Freezepage etc.

2. Re-publishing your Stories

Wakelet will automatically take care of that, your Stories now have a new web address (which brings its own annoyance but at least they’re published).

For Stories saved as web pages (or as text, then perhaps as a PDF) you could either upload the PDF to your website (eg a free WordPress dot com blog, like this one) or put the file in something like free Dropbox and share the link wherever you like.

3. Alternative tools for future use

  • Wakelet – this seems to be the most similar to Storify so far (I have not tested it for creation of new Wakelets, only for importing old Stories)
  • Sutori – (how to create a Sutori story guide) I have created an example Sutori with four of my tweets. I think it looks nice but seems to be too labour-intensive for collecting larger volumes of tweets. Possibly I need to spend a bit more time with it.
  • Shorthand Social – I’ve not tried this yet but clearly it lets you embed tweets. I don’t know if it lets you add them at the same volume that Storify did though (several hundred at a time). Here’s their ‘guide to Shorthand Social‘ post.
  • Participate – I have not tested this but it a colleague mentioned that it can save old Storify posts.
  • Twitter threading – if you’re just interested in collecting together a bunch of tweets then create a thread, encouraging people to reply to that (you can use the Unroll tool to get all the participating tweets in one collection). Admittedly this doesn’t work as well if you have a bunch of conversations going on based around a hashtag.
  • Twitter Moments – I think this only works for tweets, don’t think you can add in YouTube links (but I haven’t tried so maybe you can).
  • WordPress dot com blogs – many things will embed into WordPress blogs. I use the free .com version so am a bit more restricted than the .org versions (where you have to download software and you’d have your own server) but you can easily add a tweet’s link and it will autoembed as the full tweet (it will remain if deleted too).

 

4. The search continues…

I wanted to find out what people on Twitter were recommending as an alternative and searching there for Storify alternatives brought up Wakelet as the clear winner, in part because they have been very proactive in contacting people tweeting that they’re seeking alternatives – a sensible use of targeted marketing! There are also lots of people recommending it.

To find additional options I ran the same search but added -wakelet to remove tweets mentioning that to let me see the other options more clearly, that highlighted Sutori and Shorthand Social. Chatting on Twitter let me hear about Participate.

*Re: Wakelet importing
Obviously some things are lost in the transfer – eg the view count, the date of publication and any embedded Stories within a Story will eventually be lost. I tried and failed to add a link to the Wakelet version of one of mine. The Wakelet URL for an imported story is alphanumeric rather than following the pattern of Storify which has its domain / the user name / the name of the Story – that would have been helpful but fairly minor compared to losing all the Stories and the effort involved in capturing them!

When your tweet shows that someone has replied (or you get notifications) but you can’t see the replies

Screenshot 2018-02-13 23.26.31Screenshot 2018-02-13 23.26.40Screenshot 2018-02-13 23.26.50
Above: a series of three ‘bits’ below three different tweets (screenshots from Firefox, desktop browser using Twitter.com) showing a tweet with no replies, a single reply and two replies respectively.

I’ve seen a few people wondering why their tweet says that it has some replies (as in the images above), but no tweeted replies show up. There are several reasons why this might be the case. I don’t know what the answer is, these are just best guesses. If you know more, please let us know!

In all cases it’s probably worth checking by logging out and viewing your tweet to see if the responses show up then.

  1. Twitter doesn’t actually show all tweets all the time anyway
    If you’re not seeing your reply below a Tweet, it may be because of an outstanding technical capacity limitation. When there are an overwhelming volume of replies to a Tweet, our platform is unable to show all of these replies.” [Twitter help pages]
  2. Your tweet has received replies from bots and Twitter’s deleted their account, or the tweet. As far as I know the fact that the tweet had X number of replies remains, I don’t think deleting the tweet reduces the response count (does anyone know?).
  3. The people replying have private / locked accounts and so you cannot see their tweet.
  4. You have muted those replying and so are less likely to see their tweets – you can try viewing them by searching from:yourname and they may show up there (or log out). Blocked people aren’t able to reply to your tweets now.
  5. The sender has deleted the tweet – though I’m not sure what this does to the tweet count.
  6. Your better answer goes here 🙂

Further reading
Help with missing tweets (more Twitter help pages)

 

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.

 

You can only delete Twitter DMs (Direct Messages) from your own mailbox

The screenshot in the tweet below comes from Twitter’s support pages on Direct Messages, in particular the section on ‘Things to know about Direct Messages‘. The text says “When you delete a Direct Message or conversation (sent or received), it is deleted from your account only. Others in the conversation will still be able to see Direct Messages or conversations that you have deleted. When you delete a group conversation, you will leave that group and will no longer be able to participate.

I spotted this yesterday and a friend helped me check to see if it was the case. It is. It seems to be a new thing but I don’t know when it was implemented, or why. I’m fairly certain that it used to be the case that if you deleted a direct message then it was deleted everywhere, but that is no longer what happens.

In the screenshot within the second embedded tweet (above) my friend has deleted the direct message saying “Let me know when you’ve seen this DM… and I’ll delete it“. After refreshing my page (and also checking on my phone) his DM was still there for me. I also deleted one of his and we tried all the permutations we could think of.

So… if you send a DM and delete it the other person will still have a copy.

Note that if the other party has email notifications switched on it’s possible that the email will contain a copy of the text of the DM*, or just inform them that a DM has been sent (possibly both – I switched off email notifications as soon as I could so no longer know what’s in them).

*the same email notification thing would happen with an at-mention too.

Supplemental
What happens to the DMs of someone blocks you? They’ll still be there.

I’m blocked by several #homeopathy fans though I’ve exchanged a few DM messages with one, who later blocked me again). Those messages are still there – I’ve no idea if the other party deleted them too (I didn’t delete mine, just forgot about them but went and checked). Until this moment I’d assumed that blocking someone wiped the DMs. I’m not sure if it did and Twitter’s restored them to my mailbox (literally not looked at them in two years) or if they were always there.

This also means that all of my Quora answers on the topic have turned out to be wrong 😉

I have been trying to find out when this change (I’m convinced it’s a change and that it hasn’t always been this way) and the earliest tweet(s) I can find about it are below.

This suggests the change happened between 2014 and 2015 – anyone know more?

Got it! July 2014! See point 5 in the list change from 7th to 19th July. There isn’t an archived snapshot of the page between 7-19th July but Lou and Sharon’s tweeted exchange above suggests deleting still affected both parties on 9 July 2014.

7 July 2014 – archived copy of Twitter’s support article from that date, screenshot below

Screenshot 2017-10-06 23.46.53

19 July 2014 – archived copy of Twitter’s support article from that date, screenshot below

Screenshot 2017-10-06 23.49.29.png

This refers to using Twitter on the web, the info also tells you how to delete DMs using a phone but doesn’t specify if they’re deleted for the other person too.