This weekend something really bizarre happened. It was most probably the most disturbing accident that’s happened to me over the years that I’ve been active on social media.
I posted a photo on Instagram of my soon 3 year old nephew skating at Stapelbäddsparken in Malmö. Nothing strange with that. This is the photo.
But moments later I get a reply on Twitter that I thought was a bit weird. It’s Brian Einarsen saying “don’t want to, but trying to understand” - something that didn’t make sense to me.
So I used Tweetbot to check the conversation and to my surprise I realised that the photo I had posted on Instagram turned up like something else on Twitter. A photo of a man’s penis seemingly taken by the man himself. I was WTF is this? I quickly deleted the tweet but saved the screenshots to be able to sort it out.
I’m using an IFTTT recipe to turn my Instagram photos as Twitter posts, which has worked fine both before and after this happened, as far as I know. I fear that this is one of the possible failing factor here. I used the built-in sharing function to Facebook and it’s the correct photo posted there, so I don’t believe it’s Instagram itself. The other possibility is that it’s actually Twitter that’s screwed up the URL in the tweet itself.
So what went wrong? Apart from the obvious that wrong photo were posted on twitter, I still don’t know. After checking a bit more into it, I figured that there’s two URLs to the image in the tweet. Which was confirmed by two friends, who also kindly notified me (or rather my girlfriend actually) about the mishap.
One URL (pic.twitter.com/klk0vytr) leads to the correct image, and the other (pic.twitter.com/n2stzMQJ) to a Sorry, that page doesn’t exist. But that might be because I deleted the tweet directly when I saw it. Funny thing is, the tweet is still there even now after I deleted it. So maybe it was two tweets even?
No matter what went wrong it’s really scary that this can happen. You should be able to trust that what you write and post is what is shown to other people. If you can’t trust that, then it’s really hard to post anything. Obviously shit can happen and technology fail, but when it does fail in this way you wish it didn’t.
I’ve emailed both IFTTT and Twitter to see if any of them can figure out what happened. Stay tuned.
Update 1: I got a professional, kind and quick response from IFTTT CTO Linden Tibbets, where he first of all apologized for what happened and where he also explained the timeline of what they think happened.
(2012-09-08 09:23:31 PST) - You successfully uploaded the original picture to Instagram(2012-09-08 09:23:40 PST) - We get a ping from Instagram’s API letting us know to pick up your new photo. This is a Quick Trigger, so we can respond quite fast.(2012-09-08 09:23:46 PST)* - We grab the new photo data, including the photo file, from Instagram’s API and make an attempt to upload this photo+tweet to Twitter’s photo/media tweet API endpoint (https://dev.twitter.com/docs/api/1/post/statuses/update_with_media). That upload attempt failed, and the only message we get back from Twitter about why is: “Twitter is down or being upgraded.” This error is recorded in our logs and the Recipe is set to retry (4 more attempts are made after an initial failure to run an Action). However, a Tweet with the correct text and an incorrect image shows up on your timeline.(2012-09-08 09:33:19 PST)* - The Recipe and photo upload request is retried. This time the request succeeds and both the photo and tweet are what you expected, which lines up with what appears on your Twitter timeline.(2012-09-08 13:43:15 PST) - The Recipe works again, this time as expected all the way through.It is hard to know what exactly happened with Twitter’s API during the attempt to upload the photo+tweet the first time. Based on our code review, we are as confident as we can be that the photo we attempted to upload and finally did upload was the correct image in both cases.Again, I’d like to apologize for this unexpected happening. We’ve uploaded millions of pictures successfully to Twitter and it is unfortunate that when something does go wrong the content itself is offensive in nature AND that it happened with your account. We are happy to collaborate with the appropriate party from support at Twitter if they are in touch with you. Please let us know how else we can help and a deep thanks from myself and our team for your patience.Linden TibbetsCEO
n_s, Sep 11 05:39 am (PDT):Hi achaido,There are some awesome third party apps out there, but unfortunately we’re not able to troubleshoot for them very well. It’s best to reach out to the application itself for answers to your questions or to let them know about a problem you’re having with their product. Here’s a list of popular apps and how to reach them: http://support.twitter.com/articles/77277If your problem isn’t regarding a third party application, write back to let us know what’s going on. We can troubleshoot any problems you’re having related to twitter.com or m.twitter.com. Hope this points you in the right direction!Happy tweeting,-n_sTwitter Supportsupport.twitter.com@support
n_s, Sep 12 07:00 am (PDT):Sorry, but since you have already deleted the Tweet containing the image there is not much we can do to investigate further. Also, if you posted the image via a 3rd-party app and are using a script to post to Twitter, we cannot troubleshoot any issues with those services. We can only troubleshoot issues with photos uploaded via the Twitter UI.Again, we’re very sorry, but there is not much more we can do as this problem did not occur on our end.