Noah Brier | November 10, 2022

The WITIBot Edition

On SMS, interesting links, and fun experiments

Noah here. This week there’s been no shortage of talk about Twitter and where people are going to go if it falls over. I personally think that’s pretty unlikely, but I also think we mostly know the answer to that question, and it’s not Mastodon. It’s still most likely Twitter, but critically it’s also Discord, Slack, Whatsapp, and all the places where so many of us have already moved so much of our time and attention. The migration to these more narrow services has been born out of the desire, at least amongst some of us, to return to an earlier-feeling version of the web and social media where conversations were more free-flowing and debates could be had without death threats.1

One of the reasons we’ve put renewed energy into paid subscriptions is to stand up WITI Discord (which you should join if you're a paid WITI subscriber). Over the last few years, I’ve found tons of enjoyment in these more selective networks, and I think we can make something special.

The other thing I’m interested in is trying to do some more community experiments. The selective nature of the network makes this possible. To that end, I’m excited to announce a fun little prototype I’ve been hacking around on this week that I’m tentatively calling WITIBot (better names welcome). It started as just a little foray in tying together some services like Twilio and Airtable, but then quickly took on a life of its own. 

The idea is simple: send a text to +12182978183, and it will send you back a link. Well, first, it will ask you for your email, but then it will send you back a link.

Where it starts getting fun is some of the additional functionality for paid subscribers. In addition to being able to continually use the service (the first link is free for non-paid subscribers), it also allows you to submit your own links that it will share with the network. To make that work, you’ve got to verify you actually own the email you said was yours, which we handle with a little link that gets emailed to you. Once that happens, you can send in links, add blurbs, and even set your initials, and those shared links will also go out to requesters. I’ll be keeping an eye on things to make sure they don’t get out of hand, but the fact you have to be a paid subscriber is also a pretty good safety mechanism, I suspect.

Anyway, give it a try, and if you’re a paid subscriber (and interested), I’ll dive into how I made it all work.

Why is this interesting?

Lately, I’ve been building lots of stuff with Airtable. It’s one of those apps that takes a long time to understand how it would be useful, but once you wrap your head around it, use cases pop up everywhere. I have all the subscriber data from Substack flowing into Airtable (I really wish Substack had an API, so I didn’t need to deal with all this in such a roundabout way), so I can keep track of who is a subscriber and use that data in places like Discord (when you verify on Discord, it checks you on Airtable) and now in WITIBot.

If you haven’t played with Airtable before, at first it looks a lot like Sheets or Excel, but it’s actually much more like Postgres or MySQL. Rather than a spreadsheet, which is great for calculating stuff, it’s actually a database, which means you can do lots of database-y things that are a pain with Sheets. Views, which you can use to trigger things, are basically SQL queries. When you layer on an amazing API and automations, which allow you to trigger certain actions (including javascript scripts) when data changes, you get a pretty incredible platform on which to play. Like I said, lately I’ve been doing lots of hacking on there and have been generally impressed.

For WITIBot, it starts with Twilio, which makes it super simple to stand up a phone number. You sign up for free, and they give you one that can accept phone calls and texts. From there, you just add a destination you want to send your messages—in this case, an Airtable Webhook automation—and you’re on your way.

From there, I catch the message using that Airtable automation and process it. I ended up having to write a decent amount of javascript to do the job, as I ended up with a bunch of different handlers for sending links, accepting links, verifying users, and so on. If you send InfoMe, it gives you a brief explanation of what the service can do.

From there, everything basically happens with Airtable bases (their name for the equivalent of a spreadsheet tab). As messages come in, it checks to see if you’ve been in touch before, and if you haven’t, asks you for your email. If you send a link, it also checks to see if you’ve “verified” that email by sending you a link to click. To handle that, I’m actually using Cloudflare Workers, which are tiny little bits of Javascript that can run on command. That talks back to Airtable to check that the link you clicked matches the user and verifies you if everything looks good. Here’s what a few of the automations look like in Airtable:

In the end, this wasn’t more than a few hours of time to get everything hooked up. It’s not the most robust service in the world, but that’s always the tradeoff for prototypes like this. If you run into issues, please let me know, and I’ll work to fix them (one I already know about, which I’m hoping isn’t an issue, is that Twilio still has me locked at 500 outbound messages a day). 

Hope you enjoy it, and I also hope this is the start of more community experiments like this. If you are into that idea, join us over on Discord or reply to this email. (NRB)

WITI Classifieds:

We are experimenting with running some weekly classifieds in WITI. If you’re interested in running an ad, you can purchase one through this form. If you buy this week, we’ll throw an extra week in for free on any ad. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to drop a line.

A world of music in your inbox, one song at a time. Get Ecléctico.

Nudge, get customer insights with ease. Try Nudge

The finest micro-creators across all platforms (TikTok, YouTube, Reddit, more!) in one place. Indie World is here.

Quick Links:

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)

Why is this interesting? is a daily email from Noah Brier & Colin Nagy (and friends!) about interesting things. If you’ve enjoyed this edition, please consider forwarding it to a friend. If you’re reading it for the first time, consider subscribing.


I’m not really in the camp that thinks Twitter is going away, and its value as an information vehicle during elections paints a clear picture of just how useful it remains if you’re willing to put in the time to find great follows.

© WITI Industries, LLC.