Tyler Robertson

I let anyone change my Twitter avatar for a week, and it was pretty much fine.

Friday, May 21, 2021

While working on an unrelated article for Zapier, I noticed an "Update Profile Image" action in the Twitter integration, and I couldn't wrap my head around it.

Who could possibly want to update their profile image with automation?

It sounded terrible.

I had to try it.

Using Zapier, I built a Zap (their word for automated workflow) that ran any time someone tweeted #ChangeTylersAvatar. It grabbed all of the text after the hashtag and searched for it in Giphy, then set my profile image to the result: Try it out!

Then I left it on for a week (and change) to see what would happen!

Isn't letting anyone change your profile image a bad idea? What if someone picks something inappropriate?

To save myself from suffering too much embarrassment, I made a couple important adjustments before going live:

1: I made it very obvious that I was no longer in direct control of my profile image:

2: Giphy's integration lets you set the rating for the gifs it returns, letting you quietly keep everything PG.

So even if anything bad had gotten through, it would be more likely to come across as comical mishap, and not a personal branding fiasco.

Some highlights:

Should you do this?

Maybe! It was fun to see what search terms people would pick, and watching what would come out of it. If nothing else, it made for an interesting conversation piece!

There are a few improvements I'd make if doing this long-term:

1: Because of Zapier's plans and Twitter's API limits, the Zap only ran every 5 minutes. So I'd either use a Delay After Queue action to queue up requests, or pick a more "instant" trigger.

2: Giphy's search feature is great, and lets me set the rating of the image it returns, so I don't accidentally end up with porn on my bio. But, I would have liked a little more control. For example, what if the Zap only picked up tweets with images, and set my profile picture to whatever the image was? That would be riskier, embarrassment-wise, but more entertaining for my followers.

3: Piggy-backing on the above, it would be cool to make the profile picture more interactive, similar to Constantin Liétard's experiments with Pokémon. Zapier also integrates with apps like Bannerbear, making it possible to automatically generate new images, then set your profile picture to those. This could be cool for something like crowdfunding, where your profile image is updated to reflect current progress towards a goal.

4: The Zap lacked any sort of feedback, making it hard to know when a new profile image takes effect. If I were to revisit this, I'd have it reply to the tweet that prompted the change, or post somewhere and tag the offending tweeter to let them know.

Will you do this?

Let me know!

If you try this out, or have done something like this in the future, I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to reach out on Twitter, where (as of this posting) you can still change my profile image with #ChangeTylersAvatar and a search term.