Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
James Pindell is trying to bring The Boston Globe’s election coverage to everyone by being everywhere
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
July 19, 2012, 10:38 a.m.
Twitter preserved

That plan to archive every tweet in the Library of Congress? Definitely still happening

It has turned out to be quite an undertaking, but the Library plans to make good on its promise to America.

Twitter preserved

A little more than two years ago, the Library of Congress announced it would preserve every public tweet, ever, for future generations.

That’s right. Every public tweet, ever, since Twitter’s inception in March 2006, will be archived digitally at the Library of Congress. That’s a LOT of tweets, by the way: Twitter processes more than 50 million tweets every day, with the total numbering in the billions.

Fifty million tweets a day. How cute. That number is now 400 million, according to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. (The first comment on the project’s FAQ page sums up much of the Internet’s reaction: “It’s critical the future generations know what flavor burrito I had for lunch.”)

We hadn’t heard about this project in some time. Last week a story on Canada.com quoted a social-media researcher as saying the LoC “has quietly backed away from the commitment.”

False, said Library spokeswoman Jennifer Gavin; the project is very much still happening. Good librarianship, she said, moves more slowly than Twitter.

“The process of how to serve it out to researchers is still being worked out, but we’re getting a lot of closer,” Gavin told me. “I couldn’t give you a date specific of when we’ll be ready to make the announcement.”

The Library first revealed its plans in a tweet on April 14, 2010, but apparently that was before sorting out with Twitter the logistics of acquiring all that data. Petabytes of data.

“We began receiving the material, portions of it, last year. We got that system down. Now we’re getting it almost daily,” Gavin said. “And of course, as I think is obvious to anyone who follows Twitter, it has ended up being a very large amount of material.”

Gavin said the archive will be made available to anyone with a library card, but only on the premises in Washington. “My understanding is that at this time we do not intend to make it available by web,” she said, but that may be subject to change. It’s not meant to be the Ultimate Twitter Search Box we’ve always dreamed of.

In fact, there will be a six-month embargo on fresh tweets (even though, obviously, the data is publicly available — if you can find it). That agreement has been in place since the deal was struck. Twitter said then the tweets could be used only “for internal library use, for non-commercial research, public display by the library itself, and preservation.”

The challenge now is finding ways to refine the raw data in useful ways. Sort by keywords? Date? Sentiment? Burrito flavor? Gavin said the Library is still figuring out the user interface.

POSTED     July 19, 2012, 10:38 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
James Pindell is trying to bring The Boston Globe’s election coverage to everyone by being everywhere
“Whether it’s their inbox, whether it’s for Twitter, Facebook, Medium, Instagram — the idea is to reach audiences where they’re at.”
The New York Times collaborates with This American Life on a special investigative report
The New York Times is running its story Friday, while This American Life’s complementary report will air this weekend and be available for download as a podcast Sunday.
With an interface that looks like a chat platform, Quartz wants to text you the news in its new app
“The content type is always messages, and that’s always true whether you’re getting the message inside the app or as a notification.”
What to read next
0
tweets
Working with young reporters, City Bureau is telling the story of police misconduct in Chicago
“Those areas, more than any part of the city, have been disenfranchised over the past 100-plus years. Even though there’s coverage there, it’s often quick, one-hit coverage — parachute journalism.”
0The New York Times’ new Slack 2016 election bot sends readers’ questions straight to the newsroom
“Instead of asking you to come to us and be part of this massive room of people shouting over each other, you can bring us to you, and have us be, essentially, one more person in your conversation.”
020 years ago today, NYTimes.com debuted “on-line” on the web
“We all had a sense that something important was happening, but at the time there were actually very few users. So it was a bet on people getting online and buying more PCs.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
The Huffington Post
Mozilla
Wikipedia
DNAinfo
Press+
SeeClickFix
Franklin Center
Amazon
The Ann Arbor Chronicle
The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Fiscal Times
InvestigateWest