This document explains the reasons that have caused me to consider, and now to experiment with, switching my primary support for scripting and other projects away from Twitter and onto the Telegram platform.
Document revision history:
I have used Twitter since 2011 as a means of announcing project updates and providing occasional support for projects to end users. Most of my projects have been JAWS scripts for various Windows applications, though I also write and host a few NVDA add-ons as well as the occasional stand-alone application, usually command-line based. See my main website for a list of my public projects.
Twitter has worked reasonably well as a means of both advertising and supporting my projects over the years. However, a number of factors have by now convened to make me seek a better alternative.
First, personal impact: Twitter is, by nature, a focus-scattering element in my life; that is, its short, random-topic, and randomly-timed messages tend to interfere with my ability to maintain focus on one thing. I, on the other hand, am by nature a focused person; and I do best when such distractions are minimized. This problem has long been apparent to me but was one I tried to ignore in favor of the ability to connect with so many people online.
Then there's a category I'll call socio-technical: I want the abilities to announce project updates and to answer project-related questions. Announcements are usually practical within Twitter's latest 280-character-per-tweet limit, but announcements are easily missed and/or buried in short time by other tweets in most users' Twitter feeds. Support, on the other hand, can be complicated by the character limit. The DM limit of 10,000 characters is more than adequate for support but requires either open DM access both ways or Follow relationships that I do not wish to maintain on a primarily announcement-focused account, in order to avoid cluttering my own Twitter feed.
Finally, there's the category I'll call corporate: Twitter has occasionally made moves that startled the user community, including sudden changes to its interface that broke popular software and/or significantly burdened developers with the need to replace otherwise solid code with completely new means of accomplishing the same functionality. This sometimes resulted in very unexpected breaking of Twitter applications popular among blind users. An early example was the adoption of strict visual formatting rules for applications that displayed tweets, a move that caused me in August, 2012, to oppose the requirements' predicted adverse effect on accessible Twitter clients by writing "An Open Letter To Twitter Regarding Nonvisual Twitter Applications" to the company. The latest of these startling moves, though at this writing not to my knowledge explained, was to disable the OpenTween client on February 25, 2020 with no warning whatsoever by revoking the application's permission to access Twitter resources. I had chosen OpenTween as an application likely to stay immune to sudden disabling based on its relatively large user base, so this move was particularly shocking to me. The move also raises concerns for me that other third-party Twitter clients may, again without warning, be disabled by Twitter. This would make my continued reliance on Twitter, especially for supporting applications and projects largely intended for blind users, decidedly risky for me.
I began experimenting with Telegram in mid February, 2020, first simply as a means of communicating with friends who already used the platform. On February 16, I created an experimental Telegram channel called "Doug's Project Update Announcements" with the aim of determining whether this would be a good way to announce project updates and to provide support for them. I had intended to experiment quietly with this approach for a short time before announcing it publicly, but the sudden disabling of OpenTween caused me, also for aforementioned personal reasons, to cease most of my Twitter interaction, and also to play more in earnest with use of Telegram for announcing and supporting projects. I thus announced this endeavor publicly on March 1.
My concerns are addressed by the Telegram platform thus:
Personal: A channel devoted to support and announcement of my project updates would restrict my focus to projects, which is far less scattered than the focuses encouraged by following Twitter.
Socio-technical: Telegram channels are designed for one-way communication, which is perfect for announcements. They also support pairing with a group for discussion, which permits support without cluttering the channel view. As a side benefit, this allows all subscribers quickly to examine the latest updates to all projects in chronological order, which is difficult on Twitter without people keeping my timeline open separate from other timelines. (Channel messages are automatically forwarded into the group as well, so users may follow all discussion without loss of context in the discussion group.) Regarding message length, I have not found a character limit on Telegram messages yet.
Corporate: It is my understanding that Telegram has been very popular for many years, though only recently among blind users. Telegram has an API that appears stable, in case there is ever a need to develop an accessible alternative interface to the platform. The Unigram app, available in the Windows Store, is just such an application and, at this writing, is reported to be significantly more accessible via screen readers than the native Telegram application on Windows. The iOS Telegram client is natively accessible enough to support reading and posting messages (some other features are not accessible, however).
I publicized the experimental "Doug's Project Update Announcements" Telegram channel on March 1, 2020. Anyone may join the channel by clicking that link, and I encourage feedback on this approach for announcements and support. By this writing, the channel also has a more easy-to-remember public link at https://t.me/dlee_code, and anyone can immediately view channel messages even without Telegram or a Telegram account at https://t.me/s/dlee_code.
Until an issue is resolved with the creation of paired discussion groups, the discussion group is running separately and without automatic forwarding of announcements from the above channel. Anyone may join the discussion channel here to provide thoughts or feedback. Please keep messages in this group related to projects I'm working on and/or to messages I post in the channel.
At this time, the channel/group pair runs in parallel to my Twitter support while I assess the feasibility of its exclusive use. If I choose to discontinue Twitter announcements or support, I will announce this in both places. I am also exploring the automation of tweets directly from the channel. My ears remain open for other alternatives just in case a better one still exists.