Twitter Tips
“Make Twitter a bit less Twatter”

Just a couple of Twitter-enhancing tips for you today which, although not directly related, do allow you to have a bit more fun with the compulsive-blabbing website.

  1. Multiple Accounts from single email
  2. Get rid of Sponsored Tweets
  3. Get a Twitter API Key without giving away your Phone no.

1. Multiple Accounts –One Email Address.

It’s fairly easy to set up your first one or three Twitter accounts. Most of us have at least a couple of email accounts lying about we can use. But what do you do when you’ve used up your entire stash of email addresses and still feel the need to set up another Twitter account?

In the past I’ve availed of one of the myriad ‘disposable email account’ sites [my personal preference being Mailinator].

How it used to be done
How it used to be done

Unfortunately, Twitter have fairly recently cottoned onto this and now, if you try and sign up for a Twitter account using a disposable email, you’ll get an error message. Interestingly [or sneakily], the error message that pops up can vary. I’ve seen the following [I’m paraphrasing the first two a bit, as I didn’t think to screengrab them at the time]:

  1. It’s not possible to setup your account at the moment. Please try again later
  2. It’s not possible to setup any further accounts on this computer. Please use the Twitter App for iOS or Android

Now, what’s sneaky about these errors [and there may be others I haven’t seen yet], is that 1 and 3 suggest technical errors at Twitter HQ are to blame, whilst no.2 implies that Twitter have logged your IP or they set a cookie once you’ve set up an account, so they know you’ve ‘been here before’, if you try to do likewise again later.

None of the three even hint at the problem lying with the email address you’ve used.

I was able to prove that neither cookie setting nor IP logging was involved by:

  1. Going to Ireland and trying to set up a Twitter account from a different country [never mind a different IP!]
  2. Trying to set up an account using a ‘virgin’ copy of Opera Browser which I knew to be cookie free

[I should point out that, in the case of the first remedy above, I was in Ireland to visit The Mammy, at the time. I didn’t go all that way, just to try and set up a Twitter account!]

So, having established that Twitter weren’t actively tracking my account creation attempts, or blocking my IP, I eventually found [by a bit of trial and error] that it was the @mailinator.com email addresses that were the problem. What to do now?

Gmail to the rescue!

What a lot of people don’t realise is that you can ‘add bits’ [for want of a more scientific term] to a Gmail email address and it will still get through. Just put a + sign after the ‘name’ part of the address and add some more text. So, for example, if I had the email address: stio@gmail.com, I could make variations of it such as stio+twitter@gmail.com, stio+amazon@gmail.com, stio+365@gmail.com, etc. to give out to people –and they will all be delivered to stio@gmail.com

[Incidentally this practice is a good way of creating uniquely identifiable email addresses when signing up for sites and later being able to track down which of the bastards sold on your details to spammers!]

However, I digress:

Keep this to yourself but [so far!] Twitter are not wise to this Gmail-trickery-pokery. So it’s perfectly possible to use these customised Gmail addresses to sign up for as many accounts as you want:

Gmail. The variations game
Gmail. The variations game
Job's a good 'un!'
Job's a good 'un!'

And, in case you were wondering, Yes. The link in the ‘confirmation email’ you receive [at your unmodified Gmail address] will work to validate the account with the modified Gmail address:

Just need to click that confirmation link now and we're done.
Just need to click that confirmation link now and we're done.

[By the way, anyone out there unfortunate enough to be called Some Boring Twat or who, for whatever reason wishes to self-identify thus on Twitter will be pleased to know that I never confirmed the account setup so, theoretically the username of your dreams is still up for grabs!]

2. Get rid of Sponsored Tweets.

It’s amazing how many ways ad-slingers have come up with, over the years, to not say the words “Spam” or “Adverts”. From “Important messages” to “Affiliate Links”, to “Selected for You”, they all seem to think that ‘A dog-shit by any other name won’t smell just as bad’.

Twitter’s take on the spamvertising lark is to call their junk “Sponsored” or latterly “Promoted” Tweets. You’ll no doubt have seen them cropping up with increasing regularity [and increasing size] in amongst all those vital updates on what your Twit-mates had for breakfast this morning.

They look something like this [and obviously twice the size of a normal tweet because the best way to get people to listen to you is to shout in their face]:

Sponsory-spam
Sponsory-spam

If you’re using an Ad Blocker [and, if you’re not, why the Hell not?!] you can add a custom rule to block Twitter’s sponsored crap. My ad blocker of choice is uBlock Origin but I’m fairly certain that the rules syntax it uses is compatible with Adblock Plus as well. Whatever the case is, I’m not by any stretch of the imagination an expert on the syntax used by these ad blockers but this is what works for me. I’ve not seen a single one of those big spamverts on Twitter since I added this custom rule:

twitter.com###above-timeline-prompt > .js-prompt-layout-container > .js-prompt-layout-content > .PromptbirdPrompt--aboveTimeline.PromptbirdPrompt

On uBlock Origin, go to your browser’s Extensions [or Plug-ins] page and click on uBlock Origin’s ‘Options’ link:

Select 'Options' in uBlock Origin
Select 'Options' in uBlock Origin

Then select the ‘My Filters’ tab and paste the above line of code into the box on that screen.

Paste under 'My Filters' in uBlock Origin
Paste under 'My Filters' in uBlock Origin

As I say, it works for me, but YMMV:

Twitter without my custom uBlock Origin rule
Twitter without my custom uBlock Origin rule
Twitter with my custom uBlock Origin rule
Twitter with my custom uBlock Origin rule

3. Get a Twitter API Key without giving away your Phone no.

*BIG FAT DISCLAIMER: I’ve used this technique successfully before. But was not able to make it work today. This is probably due to the hit & miss nature of finding a working phone number –but it may be that Twitter have tightened things up so this no longer works. Try it if you want, but be prepared for failure!*

Another nasty thing Twitter have started doing of late is requiring you to give them your mobile phone number, before they will issue you with an API key. If you don’t know what that means, you probably don’t need one. But, if you’re planning on writing any Twitter apps [or just like tinkering with code which interacts with Twitter], the API key is needed.

When you try and register a new app to get your key, Twitter will tell you you need to add your mobile number to your profile first, which they will then verify. Naturally, you’ll be completely OK with that. I mean, what could there possibly be to worry about with regard to giving out your phone number to a company which makes all its income from advertising? What could possibly go wrong?

Trying to create an app
Trying to create an app
Do they think we're insane, or what?
Do they think we're insane, or what?

Twitter confirms the mobile number you’ve given them by sending a confirmation code via SMS. Luckily [if you can make it work] there are several websites out there which provide you with disposable phone numbers around the globe which can receive SMS. The one I’ve had most success with –in that it worked twice, as opposed to not at all for any of the others I tried– is the catchily named Receive SMS Online, which offers a rotating list of a few numbers which you can use to try get ‘phone-verified’ with Twitter.

Receive SMS Online site. Basic but works [sometimes!]
Receive SMS Online site. Basic but works [sometimes!]

Just pick a number and try your luck with using it on your new Twitter account. Actually, this is were the ‘luck of the draw’ element comes into play. Obviously you’ll want to pick a number that hasn’t already been used by someone else to verify their Twitter account and, as there are only a few to choose from, this can be a bit of a waiting game –best bet would seem to be to get one of the numbers as soon after it becomes available as possible. But, since I don’t know how regularly the site adds/changes numbers, I can’t give any advice on that.

Anyway, if you click on one of the numbers, you’ll be taken to a page where you can read the last 24 hours worth of SMS sent to that number. If you see a Twitter confirmation code, you’re out of luck. Even if you don’t see one, you may still be out of luck. Someone may have used that number, but more than 24 hours ago.

What's up with you people? Don't you want spam phonecalls?
What's up with you people? Don't you want spam phonecalls?

[Incidentally, since one of my nerdy ‘Pub Quiz’ specialisms is national flags, I quite like the way that site makes you work out which country the number is associated with by identifying the flag beside it. Makes it more of a challenge!]

Once you’ve got yourself a likely looking candidate phone number, it’s back to Twitter to see how you get on. Go to the [unnecessarily difficult to find] Mobile section of your profile and try your luck. Don’t forget to change the country code to the appropriate one for the number you’ve chosen. [Now you can see where the national flag identifying skills come to the fore!]

Roll that ol' telephone number dice...
Roll that ol' telephone number dice...

Now, last time I tried this trick, a few weeks ago, I got error messages saying helpful things like [paraphrasing again] “This number is already associated with a Twitter account” or “The phone number you provided was in the wrong format” [when I forgot to change the country pop-up]. Today, whenever I tried I always just got the ‘wrong format’ error. So, I suspect that [as with the problems related to using disposable email addresses that I mentioned above] Twitter may be being a bit sneaky here and just showing that ‘wrong format’ error in every case, to throw you off the scent and not let you know you’ve been rumbled.

If at first you don't succeed...
If at first you don't succeed...

With a bit of luck and patience though, eventually you’ll find a number that works. although, here again, there’s a bit of a random factor at play. I found that the number that eventually worked threw up the ‘wrong format’ error unless I kept the leading zero [which is theoretically NOT the way international dialling codes are supposed to work].

Try, try, try again...
Try, try, try again...

And, at this point I’ll refer you back to the ‘Big Fat Disclaimer’ at the top of this particular section: Although this number seemed to work, I never received the confirmation code at Receive SMS Online and, when I checked down the listings of previously received SMS for that number, I saw that it had already received a Twitter confirmation code several hours beforehand. So, again, it seems like Twitter are playing a pretty devious game all down the line here: throwing up misleading error messages and feigning ignorance of the fact that a number has been used before. Hence the reason this particular ‘tip’ most assuredly doesn’t come with my customary ‘One Nano-Second Money Back Guarantee©’.

Anyway, all disclaimers aside and just to prove that with a bit of perseverance, this trick will eventually work. And, in the finest traditions of Blue Peter, “Here’s one I prepared earlier” –the profile page from one of my other Twitter accounts, showing that it’s registered to a phone number in Poland and that I have been able to generate an API Key and create an ‘application’.

Polski-mob
Polski-mob
API Key generated and application created
API Key generated and application created

Let me know how you get on, in the comments.

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