Plank is now @plank on Twitter. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mr. Stephan Nagel (@nagel85). He had registerd the account some time ago but hadn't found a use for it. He's the webmaster at http://vvijsselmeervogels.nl — the site for a Dutch football club that's been around since 1932. He arranged to hand over control of the login and email and since he hadn't really used it, there wasn't a great deal of history to worry about. The last thing we wanted was to alienate his followers or fans.

How do you swap?

Twitter offers a good system for semi-transparently changing your username, but it gets a bit tricky if you want to 'swap' two names. We needed to change @plankdesign to @plank and vice-versa. So, how does @Twitter suggest you do this? Well, it turns out that years ago when Twitter was a bit smaller, you could submit a request and they'd handle this for you. Times have changed and Twitter now has 300 million users. We emailed them and got a canned response pointing us to the account and username FAQs. Happily, there is an answer buried in the troubleshooting. Twitter recommends this:

Username is in use by another Twitter account that you own.

If you're trying to move a username from one to another of your accounts, you can do this yourself.
  • First, log into the account that currently has the desired username.
  • Change the username to something else (try adding a number or underscore). This will immediately free up the username to use with other accounts.
  • Log into your other account and change to the desired username.
Please note: Once you’ve changed your username, it returns to general circulation and may be selected by another account, so you have to move fast! — Twitter.com

The move

Sound a bit scary? Especially that last bit about moving fast? Give up the hard fought username and then quickly rename the current "old" account to it? We proceeded with caution. There are tools out there like http://tweetclaims.com watching usernames and immediately alerting interested parties to their availability. We ran a couple of tests, creating two temporary Twitter accounts and swapping the usernames between them, identifying the time it took to release a name, potential pitfalls, etc. The results showed that — even with 300 million users — a renamed twitter username was released from the system and become available again in a matter of seconds. So we waited for a low traffic period to make the change — 8am EST on a Friday. With the West Coast still asleep, Europe winding down the week, and Saturday dawning in Asia, we felt we'd have the best chance of recovery if something went wrong. We pulled the trigger and luckily it was a complete success.

The odds and ends

Now we're slowly changing and checking the many links back to our Twitter account. We'll keep monitoring the old account for DM's and wayward direct typing of @plankdesign. Most 3rd party services that use the Twitter API changed automatically, which is great.

Thank you

It all comes back to Mr. Nagel. He gave us the name and asked for nothing in return. We hope we can return the favour one day — show him around Montréal if he ever pays a visit or give him some advice for his webmastering job. He's our hero today. He's our true #FF!