For the last eight years, since I started writing this blog, each article that appears here has been auto-shared on Twitter. If you follow me there, you’ll be aware that changed as of last Thursday. Let me explain.
This blog is one of around 800 million websites that use WordPress, and is hosted by Automattic, primary developers of WordPress. Like 5 million other WordPress sites, it uses Jetpack for additional features such as security and performance. Over the last week or so, Jetpack’s ability to filter spam comments has spared you from seeing several hundred comments that a commercial spammer has tried to post to my articles here.
One of Jetpack Social’s most important features is the auto-sharing of freshly posted articles to social media, Twitter in particular. This works by WordPress with Jetpack connecting through my Twitter account; whenever WordPress posts a new article, either manually or automatically, that’s announced in a tweet. For the nearly 3,500 of you who follow me on Twitter, that delivers you news of every post on this blog, and a link to each article as soon as it’s available here.
I don’t know how many of the 5 million sites using Jetpack, or the 800 million using WordPress, do the same, but I suspect the total must be in the millions.
The benefit to Twitter is that all those millions of websites automatically provide free content to Twitter, giving it a uniquely rich stream of content from writers around the world, covering a vast range of topics. For many on Twitter, this is one of its main attractions, and one that makes it a platform worth using. If Twitter wanted to buy in similar content, the cost would be huge.
As I’m sure you’re aware, for the last seven months, Twitter has been owned and operated by X Holdings I, Inc. and latterly X Corp., private companies wholly owned by Elon Musk. Those months have been turbulent for everyone involved, and many decisions have been made that have proved unpopular, to say the least.
Twitter’s new owner has been looking at ways it can generate more income, among them its controversial Twitter Blue subscription service. It has also changed the terms under which third-party developers like Jetpack can have access to its API, with the intention of charging eye-watering sums of money for them. Jetpack and Twitter have been in negotiation over those charges, but have been unable to reach an agreement that would ensure Twitter continued to allow auto-sharing of WordPress articles. Last Thursday, Twitter therefore disconnected millions of blogs, including mine, without informing Jetpack let alone the authors of those blogs.
Twitter therefore is no longer prepared to allow this and millions of other blogs to provide free content automatically. If I want to post each of my published articles manually, then I can continue to do so, for the time being at least.
As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, it’s very tempting to simply cancel my Twitter account and leave the service to continue in its current death-spiral. On reflection, though, I have decided not to do that for the time being. Instead I’ll continue posting each article manually to Twitter as soon as I can after publication, and will maintain my presence on Twitter. To do otherwise would be wrong for those still following this blog on Twitter. So long as there are some of you still out there, I’ll try to provide the best service that I can.
I wish I could offer an alternative. I have looked carefully at Mastodon, and, while it has much going for it, there are some fundamental problems, not least of which is the fact that Jetpack can’t auto-share to Mastodon yet. Even when it can, there are practical issues that need to be addressed: currently this blog posts articles in two separate subjects, Macs and painting; while that works fine on Twitter, there doesn’t appear to be an easy way of getting good coverage on Mastodon without dividing the blog into two, and ceasing to be as eclectic. When Jetpack’s Mastodon auto-share features becomes available, I will look for a good solution.
Whether you’re staying with Twitter or just looking for an easy way to keep track of articles as they’re posted here, I do recommend considering using a newsreader with RSS. I have explained this, with example feed links, in this article. If you want a thoroughly professional newsreader, I can recommend Reeder from the App Store, and the free NetNewsWire is excellent and widely used. As mine isn’t the only blog now struggling with Twitter, you may well discover other news feeds that make this a good choice for the future.
In the meantime, I will try to keep as normal a service running here, and hope that you’ll continue to support me in that. But I won’t yet be reaching for my own personal parachute from Twitter’s dive to self-destruction, at least not until everyone else has bailed out safely.