censorshipSome folks have asked me, both here in the comments and via direct messaging, about how I set up the @ALASecrets2009 account on Twitter and how they might do something similar for their upcoming library (or other) conference. There’s really no big secret to it, and it’s nothing hard to do. It’d have been even easier to do this had I not been working at the time and paying more attention to my job than I was to this aspect of my profession.

The person who set up the original @alasecrets account had one hell of a good idea and all credit for everything goes to him/her for the original notion. All I did was run with the idea once someone took that account offline.

The original @alasecrets account freely tweeted and posted the password so anyone could log in and tweet directly. That’s awesome, but it leaves the account open to those less amicable to the idea and they can shut it down simply by changing the password and marking the feed as private. So it’s kind of fortunate that Twitter has some security holes and methods that leave a Twitter account wide open to mass, anonymous posting and does so without any further need of a password beyond account set up and security.

So when I learned that some party pooper took down the @alasecrets account, I simply set up one with a similar name so people wouldn’t have too much trouble finding it or changing their contact information by adding a quick “2009” at the end of the name.

When I set up the @ALASecrets2009 account at Twitter, I set it up with a strong password to make sure it wasn’t easy to guess. I made some cosmetic changes like adding the same picture @alasecrets used as their icon so the look and feel would be as close to the original as possible. After that, I fairly forgot about the Twitter side of things because I wanted to concentrate on the methods of posting.

To allow an open gateway into the account, I set up an e-mail address through Twittermail. With Twittermail, you get a randomized e-mail address that you can use to post to a Twitter account. Normally you’re supposed to keep that address a secret, but that wasn’t the point in this case. Since one can send both regular e-mail and SMS text messages to an e-mail address, this keeps the Twitter account open for both computer and cellular users.

After I got that set up I started spreading the word via my own Twitter account. Several librarians follow my feed so I relied on them to spread the word about the replacement account for @alasecrets. It worked beautifully. I just tweeted that @alasecrets was compromised, follow @ALASecrets2009, and gave the e-mail to use for anonymous tweeting. The word went out very quickly and I saw new tweets show up in less than half an hour.

censorship_press_obey2A while later, another librarian messaged me through Twitter to say that things might be getting bogged down with the Twittermail address. I thought about it for a few minutes and figured out another avenue to the Twitter account, this time going through Blogger. I set up a dummy blog on Blogger.com and, like Twittermail, you can get a random e-mail address to post to your blog. Now, that e-mail from Blogger only posts to your blog, not Twitter. However there’s another service called Twitterfeed that allows you to route an RSS feed to Twitter. So people could send their Tweets to the Blogger.com e-mail, they’d post to the blog, and then route to Twitter every half an hour. To be sure, there’d be a delay from the time they tweeted to the time the tweet appeared on @ALASecrets2009, but it was a fully automated, and anonymous, way to post to the account via a different e-mail.

Both the Twittermail and Blogger solutions were set and forget. Once I set them up and gave it a test, I forgot about them. Both solutions do not require any password to access the Twitter account. The password, in this case, are the e-mail addresses themselves. In this way, the @ALASecrets2009 account was opened to all, but made secure from shutdown by anyone outside Twitter itself.

Just to be on the safe side, I also set up a third method of posting. Since I have access to the @ALASecrets2009 account, I could post whatever I want to it. But I’ve left it alone after I got everything ready because, well, I’m not at the 2009 Annual Conference and thus don’t have much to say about it. Still, I could see both e-mail addresses bogging down and I wanted to make sure that messages would get through. So I set up a final avenue, a simple Gmail account where people could e-mail their tweet and I’d manually copy and paste it from e-mail to Twitter. I didn’t expect that to be a very popular method and, indeed, I’ve only hand copied three or four tweets.

I also made it very clear that no information from the Gmail account would be retained and, after the conference is over, I’m closing that Gmail account down. Besides, I’m not a spammer and wouldn’t know what to do with a sheaf of e-mail addresses even if I had one.

Finally, to make it easy for everyone to get information, I put a post here on the blog where it’d be easy to get all three e-mail addresses, a link to the new account, and a description of what happened. Occasionally I’d tweet updated information to pass the word along, but by the end of day one, I didn’t really have to. That is, after all, what social media and networking is for as are little hacks like this to get around those who don’t like what’s being said online.

One more big vote of thanks to the person who originated the @alasecrets account. I have a feeling that you started a tradition! Here’s lookin’ forward to Midwinter!