Dougal Campbell's geek ramblings

WordPress, web development, and world domination.

Loopty-Loop

Herein is a cautionary tale about automated cross-posting between different social networking web services.

Earlier this morning, I was checking Facebook from my phone, and saw a notification of someone Liking one of my entries. I clicked through to see what it was, and it was a link to a post here on this blog. Facebook didn’t have an excerpt, just a link, so I followed the link to my blog to see what it was. It turned out to just contain another link, which was a shortened URL, so I clicked through to see where it led. It turned out that it linked to another entry here on my blog. And that entry contained another link. Which led to another entry on my blog, again, with a link. A couple more levels deep, I eventually got to an entry that was an automated cross-post to my blog, generated by a checkin on Foursquare.

About the time I was realizing what was happening, I got a notification from my phone that someone had mentioned me on Twitter. I switched over to TweetBot, and saw this:

And there were other tweets, mentioning that I was spamming links, and people were starting to wonder if my server had been hacked. But I was already pretty certain I knew what was going on. I just didn’t know why it started happening at this particular time (and I still don’t, really).

(and so forth)

So, here’s the rundown:

  • I have a feature turned on in my Delicious.com account which sees when I post links on Twitter, and creates bookmarks for those links.
  • On the IFTTT service, I have a recipe which takes new Delicious bookmarks, and creates link posts here on my WordPress blog.
  • In WordPress, I had JetPack installed, with the “Publicize” feature set to post links to my new blog posts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

And thus, a loop: Link posted on Twitter, picked up by Delicious; Delicious bookmark picked up by IFTTT and posted to my blog; Blog post picked up by JetPack, and posted to Twitter; Link posted to Twitter, picked up by Delicious, etc.

The mystery is why this suddenly started happening. Because I’ve had those services set up that way for some time now. My immediate solution was to disassociate the automatic cross-posting of new blog entries to other services from the JetPack Publicize feature. But what I may end up doing instead is to disable the monitoring of links on Twitter from my Delicious account, as that function was never as selective as what I really wanted.

But do you want to know who I really blame for this? It’s Twitter. Do you know why? It’s because of a change they made to their terms and conditions a while back.

You see, I used to only cross-post from Twitter to my blog via the IFTTT service, by having it watch for tweets I posted specifically with the hashtag ‘#moblog’. But changes that Twitter made to their terms caused IFTTT to remove a lot of their Twitter functionality. So, I started using the feature in Delicious which could automatically pick up links I posted to Twitter and create bookmarks from them, instead. But since there was no limiting factor (the hashtag), it opened the door for this cross-posting loop.

So there you go: it’s all Twitter’s fault.

 

About Dougal Campbell

Dougal is a web developer, and a "Developer Emeritus" for the WordPress platform. When he's not coding PHP, Perl, CSS, JavaScript, or whatnot, he spends time with his wife, three children, a dog, and a cat in their Atlanta area home.
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4 Responses to Loopty-Loop

  1. I’m tempted to tweet this, but I’m afraid it might open a black hole.

    • The odd thing is, I still don’t know why it didn’t happen weeks or months ago. The problem appears to have started around 3:30 a.m. on January 8. Early on, I suspected something changed in the last JetPack update. But I upgraded that around 11:15 a.m. on the 7th. So if it was just that, the problem should have appeared that same day, when the next post was created — less than two hours after the upgrade, and more than 13 hours before the loop started.

      Nothing else has changed on my server, certainly not at 3:30 in the morning. So I can only assume that something changed in one of the external services that caused it to start picking up things that it had been missing before.

  2. Kirk M says:

    There’s always the ghost in the machine, etc (to paraphrase Asimov). Okay, not that helpful but it may have taken a trigger of some sort to set the loop off after the update to JetPack. Perhaps, out of all the services you mentioned that were linked together, one is subject to a timed “roll up” as it were, of all it’s data accumulated over a set period of time. Just a possibility of course.

  3. Pingback: Be Wary of The Infinite Loop - WP Realm

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