Spiraling out of Control

Do you remember your first tweet?

Some of you in History and New Media probably do, if you only started tweeting a few weeks ago. However, for those of us who started earlier, it’s tougher. I remember when I started tweeting from my @sportzak account (March 2009) just not what I tweeted. Did I write something witty? Something historical? Something insightful? Something bland like ‘hey this is my first tweet’?

Since I’ve been reading about internet archiving this week, I thought it would be fun to find out if my first tweet is archived.

First I tried the Way Back Machine. But no dice. As Jinfang Niu points out in her overview of web archiving not all websites can be crawled, either due to the crawler limitations (dynamic web content, like streaming media, can’t be archived easily) or the sites themselves block such actions via robot exclusions. Twitter, with log-ins, passwords and privacy concerns, is not cached. (Plus everyone’s “twitter.com” page looks completely different since it shows their customized feed, so I don’t even know how it’d be possible to archive the main site.)

Fortunately, it turns out that Twitter has been archiving my tweets this whole time! I found a link showing directions on how to download your twitter archive, and after I downloaded and extracted the zip file, I finally saw my initial tweet:

I think this is a perfect first tweet, as it really sums up the internet as a whole, not just twitter. As Abbie Grotke opens her review of the Library of Congress’ web archiving endeavors, the internet “is large and ever-changing and that content is added and removed continually” causing issues with selection, timing, and value when archiving sites. (Think of Niu’s example of archiving p1 and p2-a of a website.) Of course, Internet spiraling can be good: the September 11th digital archive “spiraled” from 28 submissions by January 2002, to 328 by March, 693 by May, 948 by July, and 1,624 by August thanks to the interconnectivity of the internet.

What were your first Tweets like? Post them below in the comments!

In honor of my first tweet, let’s end this post with some John Coltrane:


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About Zach Klitzman

A History Grad student at American University

4 responses to “Spiraling out of Control”

  1. drdankerr says :

    I love it! Nice incorporation of the reading. Remember the outside reader is important. One question I have is what the historical value of archiving your own tweets is? As a historian I would more likely be interested in studying the tweets of someone else.

  2. zk9098a says :

    Great question Dr. Kerr.

    I agree that having access to just your archives is not of much use to historical research (though it would be great for writing memoirs or other introspective works). At the same time, though currently Twitter only let’s you access your personal archive, the fact that this infrastructure is already in place is a great baseline. As more and more of our cultural output appears online in platforms such as Twitter, there’s a chance they would expand the public accessibility of the archives.

    Even if Twitter never makes Twitter archives fully searchable to the public, they still can be used by historians. For example, historians who are lucky enough to have direct access to their subjects might in the future ask for access to to their subjects’ Twitter archive, much like asking for their collected letters. Similarly, “famous” tweeters could choose to deposit their archived tweets for public consumption in repositories like Library of Congress, university libraries etc…

  3. maria eipert says :

    Hey Zach, great post! I wish I could say that my first post was brilliant, witty, and engaging. Instead on August 4, 2011, my very first tweet from my personal twitter reads: “Jersey Shoreeeeeeeee!!”.

    I have no idea if I am talking about going down the shore or the television show. If my first tweet was about the MTV show, then I am currently judging myself!

    I also wrote about Twitter in this week’s blog and after some digging I found this great site, http://topsy.com/. It has archived “All Tweets Since 2006!”. It is pretty useful as you can search by types of posts to trends to influencers. Check it out!

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