Micro-Star International motherboard with AMD Phenom II 4-core processor.

Defining the App

Social Media Apps and Credentials

You sign in to Twitter or Mastodon either in a web browser or a smart phone app using an email address and a password. That puts you into the human user interface, where you can scroll through the feed, "favourite" or "like" a post, "boost" or "retweet" a post, reply to a post, or create and upload your own post. Or at least that's the situation during an interactive session.

Looking deeper, after submitting a valid identity (email address) and password, the server directs your browser to a new page while sending a small piece of data called a cookie. The browser stores the cookie and associates it with the server that provided it. Or, the cookie content could specify that it's for a domain such as .example.com or similar. The rules include:

That behavior is desired for interactive social media sessions in a browser or smart phone app. But for automated posting, we want rather different behavior.

My automated posting program uses an API or Application Programming Interface built around a REST or Representational State Transfer model.

What that jargon means is that my program will connect to the server with HTTPS, and then send requests and receive data or at least numeric return codes, just as a browser does. But unlike a browser, the point is not to receive data in order to render and display web pages.

Cookies aren't used. Each action makes a connection that carries authentication information, makes a request, retrieves the result, and disconnects.

Skip Mastodon,
Jump to Twitter

Set Up Mastodon Apps and Credentials

This is very easy:

  1. Use a browser to log in to your Mastodon account.
  2. Click Edit Profile.
  3. On the left side, click Development.
  4. At upper right, click New application.
  5. Enter a name in the Application name field. Leave everything else on this screen as it is.
  6. Scroll to the bottom and click Submit.
  7. This takes you back to what should now be a list with one entry, your new application. Notice that it shows read write follow under "Scopes". Click on the name of your new app.
  8. You will see a list of Client key, Client secret, Your access token. Copy this data to somewhere safe.

All we really need is the access token, which will look something like this:

Client key           mqrEzrv5QHRg+MAzUlK8PvB5t/s8SmfFZeEgmrN0xKb
Client secret        ultv9ND0Hx5Sks8fwfO05eaQRoDs+mhv/GaEwWLic9t
Your access token    fTi/KwMnvY+wD6zSi733JtgImn0xeMwEXWDEI1aVo2C

Don't want Twitter,
Ready to use Python

Set Up Twitter Apps and Credentials

Setting up an app on Twitter is similar to the process on Mastodon, but a little more complicated.

Sign into Twitter, start creating a new application

Start by signing into Twitter.

Then go to the page apps.twitter.com and click on Create New App.

Start an editor session in a terminal window, you will need to copy and paste a few cryptic strings into there. They're needed for later programming steps.

Signing in to Twitter, creating a new app.

Name and description

Specify a name and a description for the application. This is intended to make it easier for you keep track of things once you have created dozens or hundreds or even thousands of applications.

"My Tweet scheduler" would be fine for both fields here.

Setting the new Twitter application name and description.

Website and Callback URLs

Since we aren't really creating an application for users, the website URL doesn't really matter. Neither does the callback URL list, which I will leave blank.

Click the box to agree to the Twitter Developer Agreement.

Then click the button to create the application.

Setting the Twitter application website and callback URLs, and agreeing to the developer agreement.

Application Details

Congratulations, you have created a Twitter application!

Notice that this page has four tabs, Details, Settings, Keys and Access Tokens, and Permissions. We clicked on the button to create the app on the previous screen, that took us to the Details tab.

Twitter application details.

Application Settings

Click the Settings tab.

Copy and paste the Consumer Key, also called the API Key, into a text file. It's a 25-character mixed-case alphanumeric string. Also paste the name, "API KEY", into place. There are a few of these cryptic strings, you have to keep track of which one is which.

Twitter application settings.

Application Permissions

Scroll back up and click the Permissions tab.

We want to upload image files and post text status updates. Make sure that access is set to Read and Write.

Twitter application permissions.

Consumer Key and API Secret

Click on the Keys and Access Tokens tab.

The Consumer Key or API Key appears again on this screen.

Copy and paste the Consumer Secret, also called the API Secret, into a text file along with the Owner ID.

Twitter application consumer key and API secret.

Creating the Access Token

Scroll further down the page.

Click the button Create my access token.

Creating the access token for a new Twitter application.

Access Token and Access Token Secret

Copy and paste the Access Token and the Access Token Secret into that same small text file.

Twitter application access token and access token secret.

Checklist

You have defined an app within Twitter, and you should have a record of:

Creating the Python Program

Make sure to protect the sensitive information collected in the above steps! Carefully configure the ownership and permissions of any file containing them, as access to that data provides full access and control of your social media identity.

Now you're ready to copy and modify my Python program, test it, and deploy it with cron.

To the Linux / Unix Page