rtweet future

Background: how I became the maintainer of rtweet

I didn’t want to maintain rtweet. It might sound strange coming from its maintainer, but I didn’t want the responsibility of writting software 12k people install it monthly. My offer was always to help with it so that the users could benefit from improvements and bug fixes on the package. I initially thought that having permissions to close issues, label them would help the community and the maintainer.

I was not totally altruistic. As recently recommended by Maëlle and Steffi, I had some interest in the package. I had a bot posting some plots daily. I wanted to have alt text in the tweets. There was a pending PR for just that. I could fork and use my own version or help with the package.

I got in touch with rOpenSci about the package. After some time waiting hearing back from the author of the package (Many thanks Michael W. Kearney, I was given edit permissions to the repository (under the helping eye of Scott Chamberlain). At the time, I got permission from rOpenSci there were 167 issues and PR open.

As I started going through them and changing the source code, people showed up to help (Thanks!). New contributors helped with closing issues via new PR or simply advising about naming functions or asking for its future. Another developer gained access to repository and contributed with their expertise (resulting in some funny moments). Despite all (breaking) changes, we tried to make the package easier to maintain. After waiting some time, for further community feedback, I released a new version through CRAN.

Shortly after, for some reasons my bot got less views and engagement. It made me realize that it might be an opportunity to start a professional project around the content of what this bot did. In addition, although I learn a lot from the online communities I decided to connect more with the local community. I am currently involved with re-launching the Barcelona R user group and organizing the Spanish R conference. These activities take time an energy away from package maintenance (not just rtweet). However, my support for the users of rtweet remains.

The community support I received was great. I hope to pass on it. CC-BY-4.0 Artwork by @allison_horst.

Current situation: supporting the v1 and adding support to the v2 API

To maintain rtweet I needed to adapt and understand the Twitter’s API (v1) documentation. The documentation didn’t always match the functionality. rtweet follows the API tightly, any change might break the package. For instance, the addition of the edit field broke the parsing of the tweets.

At the same time one of the oldest issues in rtweet is moving to the new API v2. With the 1.0 release, I decided it was time to stop adding features relying in it. It was clear that Twitter was moving to deprecate and replace it with the newer API. There are many benefits of the new API to developer and users. But as I realized that I should still fix bugs related to them.

The 1.1 release have recently provided some bug fixes and support for the v2. There is also an outstanding issue preventting new users of connecting to Twitter (fixed in github). The streaming endpoint in v1 stopped working before the announced date. So the new release included support for the replacement endpoint in v2.

As you have guessed, between releases I had been thinking and working to support API v2. The foundations to support the new endpoints were already set and easily expanded to new endpoints. In the development version of the package (in the devel branch), it is possible to retrieve bookmarks, retrieve the archive if you have academic access, among other endpoints.

Going forward: supporting rtweet users of v2 API

Recently (~3 weeks), there have been anouncements of future changes in who and how will be able to access the API. Simultaneously, there have been unannounced restrictions affecting other tools using the API. Recent changes and announcements are driven by need of money to sustain Twitter. To maintain rtweet with its current functionality it might need funds.

I will continue supporting rtweet and the freely accessible endpoints. But given that I will have less time and energy for rtweet, I am looking for a co-maintainer to help me:

  • Supporting new endpoints, using httr2, testing an API in CI, …
  • Review changes to avoid new bugs.
  • Help with issues and questions that the transition to API v2 and the current uncertainty bring.

Get in touch with me in this issue.

From time to time, I receive bug reports and petitions from premium API users. Currently, premium users get access to more data, elevated request rates and other endpoints. Helping them is usually challenging, and developing support for these endpoints will be difficult. To continue supporting these users I’ve set up a ☕ buymeacoffee and I, and my co-maintainer, will be open to consulting jobs about rtweet. With these jobs and funding we will be able to support them and implement new endpoints for all the users.

There is scarce information about the API changes and prices. Changes might come suddenly. We’ll do our best to keep up and inform all users. I hope this will be a good way to continue supporting the package an the community of users. Let me know if you have other suggestions.

Decorating/contributing to R. CC-BY-4.0 artwork by @allison_horst.

Thanks Maëlle for your support and reviewing the post.

Lluís Revilla Sancho

Bioinformatician with interests in functional enrichment, data integration and transcriptomics.