Cautionary tale from a Twitter 'share-cropper'

Twit Cleaner is a popular web app that has been used by hundreds of thousands of Twitter users to clear deadwood from their accounts.

Now, however, Twit Cleaner has become one of the latest victims of Twitter's controversial API changes, according to the site's sole proprietor, Si Dawson, who told me recently: "It's simply technically impossible for me to continue."

By sheer coincidence, I had begun using Twit Cleaner days before Dawson announced its demise. It is gre ... make that, it was great. And it will be missed by users, some of whom Dawson described as being "in grief." He announced his decision in a blog post:

"This week I worked 62 hours straight. Actually, that's a lie, I worked 65 hours straight, with 3 hours of naps. ... Twitter has stopped being fun.

"I started Twit Cleaner in 2009. Given that I haven't managed to develop a livable income out of it in that time (barring donations from you many wonderful, generous people), it's pretty obvious I'm not in it for the money. It's been my primary occupation over that time, and absorbed several thousand hours of coding, designing, building, testing and supporting it. Everything on Twit Cleaner (bar some low level server decisions), I've personally done.

"I wanted to make Twitter a better place for everyone. I love to code. I love helping people. That's it. Unfortunately, the new API is so crippling that Twit Cleaner is unable to continue."

I sent Dawson some questions via email.

Is there any chance you might reconsider?

"Unfortunately, it's largely out of my hands. It's simply technically impossible for me to continue, due to the radically tightened limits that Twitter introduced with v1.1.

"I do understand why they've done this - partly to get more fine-tuned control over usage, partly to smooth out demand peaks. If someone can make 20,000 calls in a minute, that's a gigantic drain on their servers. Multiply that by the 1 million apps they have, and that's a sys admin nightmare. The new model is much, much simpler to manage, from their perspective.

"Unfortunately, it limits developers to largely trivial applications (although I'm sure they'd disagree). Any of us who were doing more intense analysis are in some kind of pain.

You don't seem angry toward Twitter. Are you really that good of a sport?

"The people I've interacted with at Twitter have always been patient, helpful and kind. Now true, I haven't been dealing with the guys at the top calling the shots - so I can't speak to their motivations. "Obviously there's large pressure there to turn Twitter into a profitable business, but the guys I've dealt with who are actually getting the work done? I have huge respect for them.

"It's definitely rough as the sands shift beneath your feet, but that really gets back to my primary lesson: Being a share-cropper (building something on someone else's platform) is a fool's paradise. Fun while it lasts, but ultimately doomed."

Somewhat surprisingly, Dawson hasn't lost his sense of humor, as evidenced by this tweet he sent days after his announcement: "Just realized that I'm going to have to clean my Twitter account manually from now on. Wow, that's gonna suck."

Have your own tale of woe? The address is

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

The 10 most powerful companies in enterprise networking 2022