Comprehensive archive of tweets: 8 May to 1 October 2012

Given that Groundviews is extremely active on Twitter, covering, inter alia, unique updates after eventful Presidential Electionsalerting and real time information curation during tsunami warnings and the international fallout over Twitter of media content published domestically, it’s been a real challenge to record our conversations and updates for posterity. This is especially important in a country that remains extremely censorious of any narrative that runs counter to or questions official propaganda and where mainstream media, though increasingly embracing new media, do not yet demonstrate any real understanding of how it can be used to further investigative journalism and holding accountable public institutions and officials.

Over a year ago, we published Resource book for historians, researchers and media: A year of tweeting from Groundviews. At the time we used a web service called Tweetbook. Using the same service, we have created a PDF capturing all tweets published by Groundviews from 05/08/2012 till 10/01/2012. However, since Tweetbook’s data is locked into the PDF format, and we are Groundviews is committed to open data and journalism, we discovered that Tweet Download offers far more flexibility and options to archive tweets.

  1. A list of our Followers as of 1 October 2012 can be viewed online as a Google spreadsheet here or downloaded as plain text here.
  2. A complete archive of our tweets from 8 May to 1 October 2012 (including retweets and Twitter conversations) as a Google spreadsheet, as plain text or webpage.

The issue of older content simply disappearing from Twitter is a serious and growing problem. ‘History, As Recorded on Twitter, Is Vanishing From The Web, Say Computer Scientists’ published in MIT’s Technology Review notes that “Almost 30 per cent of recorded history, shared over social media such as Twitter, has disapeared (sic), according to a new study of the Egyptian uprising and other significant events”. As the article goes on to note,

Social media plays an important role in the spread of information around the world. Of course, opinions differ over the importance of its role in the Arab Spring. But few would deny that this form of communication defines our time.

And now it’s vanishing.

Sadly, mainstream media and other civic media initiatives in Sri Lanka do not archive with rigour and regularity the content they publish on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Arguably, the very nature of the platforms makes this exceedingly difficult to do, and in the case of Facebook Fan Pages and Group based updates, downright impossible to date.

Importantly, Twitter itself has promised before the end of 2012 the ability to download all tweets, though how, in what format and whether replies and retweets are also included is unknown. Till such time archival is made easier on Twitter, Groundviews will rely on the likes of TweetBook and TweetDownload to keep as open a record as possible about the vital and viral discussions, information and knowledge it curates.