Staking Claims with Scheduled Tweets

Twitter has a nifty new feature which allows you to schedule the publication of a Tweet. But, crucially, it doesn't let the reader know when the message was originally written.

How can you, as a publisher, prove that you wrote a scheduled Tweet at a specific time?

Here's one method.

  1. Write a Tweet which contains a timestamp - "This is my message 2020-08-17"
  2. Generate a hash of the message - SHA256: BAE149775399E3AEBC9DEF9D4D4468C9217593B58B76655F479C9CEE4FF73CBA
  3. Post the hash to Twitter.
  4. Schedule your message as a reply to the hash.

Here's an example - check the dates:

Is this useful?

Probably not very useful. Here's a couple of ideas.

Post your prediction for something, without influencing it. For example, the results of an election.

A sort of Dead Man's Switch - a message to be sent when you're not available.

It isn't foolproof.

It's really easy to screw up a hash. My first couple of experiments didn't work because of errant whitespaces.

Modern hashes like SHA256 are probably resistant to collisions in Twitter's limited message space.

And, of course, a person can post two hashes - for contradictory messages - and only publish replies one of them.

Share this post on…

7 thoughts on “Staking Claims with Scheduled Tweets”

  1. Modern hashes like SHA256 are probably resistant to collisions in Twitter’s limited message space.

    By the pigeonhole principle, it’s clear to show that there are collisions (there are 2^256 possible SHA256 hashes and there are 0x10F7FF^280 possible tweets, therefore some must collide). That said, there are no known practical collision/preimage/second-preimage attacks on SHA256.

    1. Gustavo Guevara says:

      That’s a very interesting fact. I’m studying to understand the types of attack you’ve enumerated, but I’d like to know why have you defined the maximum number of permutations as 0x10F7FF? Thanks in advance.

      1. hi mom says:

        i dunno twittrr but it looks like messages are 280 utf8 code points long

        1. Yeah, they’re up to 280 scalar values long, and there are 0x10F7FF (i.e., 0x10FFFF code points minus the 0x800 surrogate code points, which cannot be encoded in UTF-8) possible values for them.


Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Send to HN

    Many of the conflicts in academia are to some extent related to giving
    proper credit where credit is due. Sometimes, feuds arise over which
    papers of co-authors to cite in the ‘Related Work’ section of
    a manuscript; sometimes, researchers are accused of intentionally
    ignoring related work; sometimes, people even get removed from the
    author list of a work to which they contributed.1 Another type of
    conflict arises when such works are to be presented. Given the
    tendency of science to require ever-larger collaborations, how should
    one present the contributions of everyone in a fair and unbiased
    Let’s take a look at a few strategies that are already in place:
    As a naive undergraduate, I always thought that everyone contributed
    equally to all papers. Heck, most of my reading consisted of one-author
    or two-author papers and some rare three-author collaborations. It was
    only later on that I learned that certain academic domains have come up
    with their own rules. In computer science, for instance, the rule of
    thumb seems to be that the first author is usually a Ph.D. student,
    while the last author is usually a principal investigator providing the
    funding and supervising the whole work. This leads to a double-cone
    shape of the importance of authors: importance decreases from first to
    middle authors, while it increases again towards the end.
    Upon first learning this, it struck me as interesting that this sort of
    arcane knowledge is typically not directly communicated to the reader
    of a paper. You have to be ‘in the know’ in order to grasp the relevance
    of a certain author position. Moreover, I immediately wondered where the
    cut-off was. In other words, if you are a middle author, did you
    contribute (almost) as much as the first author, or was your
    contribution more humble, such as providing additional references, etc.?
    Author names can also be adorned with additional typographical marks,
    such as an asterisk* or a dagger† to
    indicate shared authorships. While I find this to be an absolutemust in order to communicate the fair sharing of credit, most
    bibliographies have no built-in support for this—citations will only
    show up as a list of authors, and of course, there can only be onefirst author. This has led to interesting discussions as to whether
    a first-first position is to be preferred to a second-first
    position (meaning a shared authorship, without being listed as the
    first author). I was surprised and stumped by the fact that people were
    actually looking at these minor distinctions. My inner mathematician
    cries foul because either the two authors contributed equally, thus
    making them indistinguishable so that the order should not matter,
    or they did not, in which case equal contributions are not justified.
    The root of the problem seems to be that we tend to cite a list of
    authors as First et al., thus hiding other authors that participated
    in a project. We have to change this if we want to avoid discussions of
    this sort! Below, I will mention a few ideas that might help, but I do
    not have a good solution for this yet.
    A nice addendum to Strategy I involves paragraphs that state the
    contributions of individual authors. This is an excellent way to get
    readers of your paper to understand who did what—at the same time, it
    has become a kind of rote template to fill. I often wonder whether it
    can really do justice to the excellent insights all of my colleagues
    contribute to a project. Sentences of the form ‘Alice conceptualised the
    work, Bob prepared the experiments, and Charlie ran them’ do not really
    tell about the heroic deeds of Alice, Bob, and Charlie—who knows how
    hard it was to come up with everything, to figure out a good
    experimental setup, and then finally to run it?
    Despite these misgivings, the contribution statement is a useful thing
    to have, and I wish that machine learning venues would encourage it
    more. At the end of the day, it is up to the authors whether they take such
    a statement seriously, though, and it is hard to know whether all
    authors agree with all formulations of such a statement. The role of
    power dynamics should not be misunderstood here. I am lucky to be in
    a situation in which this is not a big deal, but I am learning that this
    is not the norm, unfortunately.
    A simple strategy, not often followed, is to make everyone contribute
    equally to a publication. In pure mathematics, this seems to be the
    norm. This strategy is in fact reminiscent of the famous
    Hardy–Littlewood collaboration, which followed four axioms:3
    When writing to one another, it was completely indifferent whether
    what they said was right or wrong.
    When one received a letter from the other, he was under no obligation
    whatsoever to read it, let alone answer it,
    It was preferable that they not both thought about the same detail,
    if possible.
    All papers would appear under their common name, regardless of
    whether one of them had contributed anything.
    What a marvellous set of rules! In particular the last one removes all
    quarrels and potential conflicts concerning co-authorship! Most
    interestingly, these rules were known to others as well, so they knew
    about this type of ‘contract’.
    The remarkable thing about such rules is that they are quite pragmatic:
    both Hardy and Littlewood knew very well that it would be helpful to be
    linked to certain works; at the same time, their collaboration rules
    were fundamentally about trust, making other arrangements unnecessary.
    The fundamental hitch of this strategy is that it does not scale, nor is
    it applicable to all types of collaborations or all types of scientific
    inquiry indiscriminately. Nevertheless, it would be an interesting
    strategy to follow in smaller projects, and I would definitely like to
    be part of such a collaboration in the remainder of my career. I trust
    all my collaborators to a sufficient extent for this to work.
    The fundamental issue with all of these strategies is that they impede
    true unfettered collaboration:
    Students know that their name needs to be attached to a certain number of single-author papers.
    Some universities have rules in place that prohibit joint authorship.
    Other universities only ‘recognise’ certain author roles on a paper,
    such as (joint) first/last author.
    When applying to academic positions, positions on a publication are
    often used to judge the merits of a candidate—contribution statements
    etc. notwithstanding. A major issue with this sort of judgement is that
    it is not transparent. This gives us academics all kinds of wrong
    incentives,4 in the worst case forcing us to be ‘opportunistic’ when
    it comes to seeking collaborators, or making us jaded5 and turn away from
    academia altogether. I think all of us are sufficiently smart to figure
    out a way to ‘game the system’, but is this really how we want to spend
    our waking hours?
    Again, I unfortunately do not have a fully-fledged solution for this
    yet, but I urge everyone to rethink their strategies for giving credit
    where credit is due. Here are some of the themes I often reflect upon:
    Do I give enough credit to the team when presenting joint work?
    For instance, I always use the ‘Collaborative We’ when talking about joint work; I also always briefly introduce
    all authors of a paper. Is there more that I can do on a regular
    Do I perceive contributions sufficiently well? Do I overlook
    a certain type of contribution, or a certain type of personality?
    Can I codify or abstract certain of my rules to make them more
    Is my deliberation process fair? Or as close to fairness as it can
    As a reflection about a very extreme case of crediting people, I want to
    leave you with my ‘Carthusian Way’.
    I have always been fascinated with monastic communities and
    my (idealised) understanding of them. Devoting yourself utterly to
    a certain kind of task while shutting out the rest of the world has
    a certain kind of appeal to me—and reading works such asThe Glass Bead Game
    or Anathem only fuelled that
    desire to a certain point. I have since come to the conclusion that fleeing the world is not
    necessarily a good answer, but I learned a very interesting set of
    practices from different religious orders.
    One of the most remarkable ones is the Order of
    . Their way of life combines the way of the hermit with
    living in a community, and I found this to be an excellent situation to
    strive for as an academic. The Carthusians tend to eschew worldly
    honours even more than other orders, and one of their strategies involve
    the conscious seeking of anonymity. As Thomas
    writes in The
    Silent Life
    on the Carthusians:

    When a monk of exceptional virtue dies, the highest public honor he
    receives in the Order is a laconic comment: laudabiliter vixit. In good
    American we would translate this as: “He did all right.” Finally, the
    Carthusian does not even have the personal distinction of a grave marked
    with his own name. He is laid away in the cemetery under a plain
    unmarked cross, and vanishes into anonymity.

    If my legacy was laudabiliter vixit, I would certainly be pleased!
    This desire for remaining unknown also expresses itself in the way the
    Carthusians communicate their knowledge. If they feel the need to publish
    anything because it might serve others, they often sign their name as
    ‘A Carthusian’, eschewing any form of commendation from others. That
    way, their work truly speaks for itself.
    We have more technology at our disposal than the Carthusians when they
    were first founded, so I wonder if it would not be possible to prevent
    attaching work to one name, while still reaping the benefits of being
    an author. I would love to see the following strategy being implemented:
    Everyone publishes under the name of their discipline. If you send
    a paper to a machine learning conference, let the author be ‘A
    Machine Learner’, ‘A Group of Machine Learners’, ‘A Group of
    Scientists’, or just ‘Scientists’.6
    Calculate a hash of the original paper source or title usingSHA-256, for instance.
    Tweet about it or use some other type of system to distribute/announce the hash to others.
    See Terence Eden’s Blog for a brief tutorial on this.
    The neat thing about using Twitter as a distribution medium is that,
    theoretically, your tweets can also tag all co-authors of the paper
    or at least list their names.
    For such a tweet to be useful, it would ideally not come from
    a Twitter account tied to your person, but maybe an institutional
    account or another type of service. The idea is to keep all names
    and identifiable information out of this for as long as possible.
    This would solve certain types of priority disputes, similar to howanagrams where used by early scientists.
    It would also be massively beneficial for peer review, which is known
    to favour the ‘bigshots’ over the ‘underdogs’, provided some
    identifiable information is available—in the form of a preprint, for
    instance. Most importantly, this strategy would alleviate the issues
    with referring to publications only by a single name; we would have to
    refer to it by its title, or its abbreviation, or some other kind of
    identifier. Plus, since you
    have control over the hash, you can still use it to get the recognition
    for the work in certain areas, such as faculty applications! I concede
    that this algorithm probably works best for ‘Everyone is Equal’
    publications, but maybe it would also make shared authorship in papers
    more attractive again.
    I know that such a solution is neither practical nor feasible for many
    other reasons, but I like to use it to challenge myself a little bit by asking
    myself the following question on regular basis: ‘Would I still like to
    work on the things that I am working on if my name was not attached to
    My answer, so far, is a resounding ‘Yes’. I hope it stays that way.

    Read More

What are your reckons?

All comments are moderated and may not be published immediately. Your email address will not be published.Allowed HTML: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> <p> <pre> <br> <img src="" alt="" title="" srcset="">