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TidBITS Arrives on Mastodon, Continues (Reluctantly) on Twitter and Facebook

As part of Elon Musk’s not-so-secret plan to drive Twitter into the ground, the company recently rejiggered the pricing for API access for developers, raising the cost for enterprise-level access from free to a minimum of $42,000 per month. You wouldn’t want it to be easy for publishers to post their content on Twitter, would you?

That new level was both prima facie ridiculous and financially infeasible for companies like Automattic, makers of WordPress and the Jetpack plug-in that enables automatic social media sharing of posts. Automattic turned off the option to post to Twitter in Jetpack and said it would add the capability to share posts to Mastodon and Instagram.

I’ve used Jetpack to post TidBITS articles on Twitter and Facebook for years. Despite the hoopla about social media, neither the impressions nor subsequent engagement has ever been more than a drop in the bucket of TidBITS traffic or conversation. We see about 200–500 views per post on Twitter, while Facebook posts average 100–300 views. While those numbers seem low, clickthroughs are even worse: Google Analytics tells me that social media accounted for just 1.64% of TidBITS traffic over the last year. Unimpressive though those numbers are, they took no work to generate, thanks to Jetpack.

However, Jetpack has now stopped posting our articles on Twitter. My initial reaction was, “Good riddance!” I was prepared to leave Twitter entirely. But, although this breakage was an excellent opportunity to drop Twitter like the rotten potato it has become, I couldn’t help wondering if there was an alternative way of posting TidBITS articles on Twitter for free. It wasn’t worth anything to me other than the time spent scratching an intellectual itch.

Some research showed that the social media management service Buffer still offers a free plan for three channels, whereas competitor Hootsuite has only paid plans. Because the raison d’être of both is to post to social media, they are either unaffected by Twitter’s enterprise pricing changes or have decided to absorb the cost increases.

But how to get TidBITS articles into Buffer’s queue automatically? Just as I’m unwilling to pay anything to post to social media, I also refuse to do any ongoing work to make it happen. If it’s not automated, forget it.

Initially, I gravitated to the automation services IFTTT and Zapier, which I think about periodically even though neither has ever actually solved a problem for me. That has continued to be true because even though both claim to be able to bring in a WordPress post and send it off to Buffer, neither proved capable of logging directly into my WordPress server. Zapier also recommended its WordPress plug-in, but I passed since it hasn’t been updated in a year and has only two stars, with multiple users claiming it doesn’t work at all. IFTTT and Zapier remain options for blogs hosted on that can’t install plug-ins, assuming you can get them to log in.

However, I quickly found the WordPress to Buffer plug-in, which has 4.5 stars and was last updated a week ago. After my developer installed it, it took me just minutes to connect to my Buffer account and configure WordPress to post to Twitter. It has a Pro version with additional features that costs $39 per year, but none of the extra features seem necessary for my setup.

As a bonus, Buffer and the WordPress to Buffer plug-in now support Mastodon, so I also set up and connected a TidBITS account there. If you’re using Mastodon and want TidBITS headlines in your feed, follow us at @[email protected].

Finally, curious about what was happening with our posts on Facebook, I visited our Facebook page and discovered that something caused Jetpack to stop posting to Facebook after March 2023. No one has apparently noticed or at least mentioned it to me. Since I was goofing around in Buffer anyway, I set it up to post to Facebook and turned Jetpack’s reposting service off entirely.

WordPress to Buffer plugin interface

While part of me wants to kick social media to the curb entirely, I’d feel bad for the people who like seeing TidBITS articles in their feeds. So as long as posting TidBITS articles on social media remains free and automatic, I’ll keep it going.

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Comments About TidBITS Arrives on Mastodon, Continues (Reluctantly) on Twitter and Facebook

Notable Replies

  1. I had a similar issue with an organization I help out.

    I volunteer for our local eruv. In Jewish law, on our Sabbath, one cannot carry between a private domain and a public one. That mainly means you cannot carry, say a book from your house to the synagogue on the Sabbath.

    To get around this issue, large Jewish communities create an eruv that demarcates a boundary around the entire community as a private domain. The boundary is physically marked by wires, walls, utility lines, etc. If the boundary is down, the eruv is down, and you cannot carry.

    The question is how do you know whether the eruv is up or not. I setup a fairly complex tech system. The rabbi, after determining whether the eruv was up or not, would tweet the status to our Twitter account. Zapier picks up the Tweet, posts it to Facebook, and creates an RSS feed., our email list picks up RSS feed and emails it out to all of our email subscribers. Meanwhile, our website, SquareSpace displays the Tweet. Finally, we use Twilio to read the Tweet to whomever calls our hotline.

    Basically, one tweet per week, and Zapier wanted $20 per month and Twitter wants $100 per month.

    We switched to Mastodon, but won’t work with third parties to build plugins.

    However, I discovered that Mastodon automatically creates an RSS feed of all your posts. And everyone uses RSS. That means we can use Zapier and and I found an RSS plug-in for SquareSpace. We still need to update Twilio, but the built in RSS feed saved us from a lot of trouble.

  2. I didn’t even know TidBits was on Twitter.

    Have you considered Spoutible as well as Mastadon? Not much content there yet but I think the whole Twitter alternative universe is trying to sort itself out and it wouldn’t hurt being on several options.

  3. Once upon a time, more than a decade ago, twitter supported RSS feeds. At the time, I thought that discontinuing RSS was a clear marker that the character of the company had changed in a very negative way.

  4. I bailed on Twitter last year (no confirmation all my account data was removed, thanks Elon /s).
    I was curious about Mastodon but the confusing multiple servers to choose from (am I tech or just hobbiest?) and such, I never followed up. Then I was looking at Bluesky but waiting for an invite is like…well…like the meme of that Simpson’s kid, Ralph Wiggum, on the bus, alone. Crazy how you just want to have a social info presence and now its tower of blab-all.

  5. Very helpful commentary. I’m trying to revive a regional writers organization and I like your discussion of social media strategy. Ours has been somewhat haphazard, so your experience was helpful.

  6. Everyone? I used RSS for a news feed but it quickly became overwhelming and I hadn’t checked it in more than a year. I can understand using it as an email interface, but am I missing a much more wider usage? Or did I just sign up for too many RSS feeds?

  7. Everyone means all the other third party services. I had Zapier watching my Twitter feed and propagating it to Facebook and other services. If I wanted to continue using Twitter, I would have to pay Zapier $20 per month.

    Zapier can’t watch my Mastodon feed, but Zapier can watch the RSS feed Mastodon generates and propagate that to other services.

  8. This is probably the issue. I’ve used RSS since the early 2000s as pretty much my only source of news and following things on the internet. I only subscribe to things I’m interested in, and have different approaches to feeds depending on the source. But it’s generally not an issue to stay on top of them all and it allows me to keep up with what I’m interested in and be done. And I don’t end up clicking around randomly wasting my life on things that are pointless or corrosive.

  9. When automatically posting to Mastodon can it post hashtags?

  10. The organization I help with has used for many years.

  11. Glad you are on Mastodon! I just followed the account!

  12. Thank you David. I found your explanation of Jewish practice most informative and interesting. I’m one who’s twitter only comes from the songbirds in our NC backyard lol. But I really appreciated what you were saying and how technology helps to keep an important religious tradition through adaptation!

  13. I hadn’t even heard of Spoutible before this. Someone else mentioned Bluesky, but I don’t like the private clubbiness feel to what I read right now. I approve of the open nature of Mastodon, even if I’m unlikely to ever be a heavy user.

    Not easily. I could add one to all the channels as part of the template, but per-channel templates are a paid feature, and I’m not willing to put money into the maw of social media. I’ve never seen any real utility to hashtags either, probably due to hating social media.

  14. Supposedly, Bluesky is meant to be just one implementation that uses an open, decentralized protocol they’re also developing. Both are in beta stages. The “AT protocol” would be an alternative to ActivityPub, the protocol that Mastodon and everything else in the Fediverse uses between servers. The supply of Bluesky invites is outpaced by the demand so that likely contributes to the feel.

    Because Mastodon doesn’t have full-text search, hashtags are more important for discovery there. And when other users “boost” one of your messages, they can’t add hashtags themselves (the lack of an equivalent to “quote tweets” is intentional but controversial). It’s probably still not worth paying to include them just on those messages.

  15. Another great example for how creativity truly flourishes when creators have to deal with constraints — and have a goal that’s valuable to them. What a great story, David. Thank you for sharing!

  16. I just found you there and am now following.

  17. Very simple, sign up on About 90% of all Mastodon accounts are on it. Many servers are very niche and have a few dozen accounts on them. One thing about is that other Mastodon servers aren’t going to block it, and it’s run very professionally. It also gets all the security updates.

    Each Mastodon server can have its own policies. For example, a Mastodon server can decide not to take post from other Mastodon servers, or allow certain posts.

    That might be important to some people (If you’re a bark friendly LBGTQ+ Furry, there’s a special server for you!) However, for most people who are following companies, main stream artists, and news organizations, Mastodon Social is where you should sign up.

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