Library of Congress to archive ‘Tweets’.

April 19, 2010 at 7:57 am Leave a comment

So, most of you guys reading this probably don’t use twitter…yet. The social networking site is undeniably becoming a cultural phenomenon. It even provided the means for Iranians to organize protests and almost led to a revolution, all in 140 characters or less. The social implications of twitter are pretty profound, actually. The site can show cultural reactions to major events in a way that was impossible previously. Here is what the Library of Congress official blog had to say about the matter:

“Have you ever sent out a “tweet” on the popular Twitter social media service?  Congratulations: Your 140 characters or less will now be housed in the Library of Congress.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.

We thought it fitting to give the initial heads-up to the Twitter community itself via our own feed @librarycongress.  (By the way, out of sheer coincidence, the announcement comes on the same day our own number of feed-followers has surpassed 50,000. I love serendipity!)

We will also be putting out a press release later with even more details and quotes.  Expect to see an emphasis on the scholarly and research implications of the acquisition.  I’m no Ph.D., but it boggles my mind to think what we might be able to learn about ourselves and the world around us from this wealth of data.  And I’m certain we’ll learn things that none of us now can even possibly conceive.

Just a few examples of important tweets in the past few years include the first-ever tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey (http://twitter.com/jack/status/20), President Obama’s tweet about winning the 2008 election (http://twitter.com/barackobama/status/992176676), and a set of two tweets from a photojournalist who was arrested in Egypt and then freed because of a series of events set into motion by his use of Twitter (http://twitter.com/jamesbuck/status/786571964) and (http://twitter.com/jamesbuck/status/787167620).

Twitter plans to make its own announcement today on its blog from “Chirp,” the Official Twitter Developer Conference, in San Francisco.  (UPDATE: Here’s their post.)

So if you think the Library of Congress is “just books,” think of this: The Library has been collecting materials from the web since it began harvesting congressional and presidential campaign websites in 2000.  Today we hold more than 167 terabytes of web-based information, including legal blogs, websites of candidates for national office, and websites of Members of Congress.

We also operate the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program www.digitalpreservation.gov, which is pursuing a national strategy to collect, preserve and make available significant digital content, especially information that is created in digital form only, for current and future generations.

In other words, if you’re looking for a place where important historical and other information in digital form should be preserved for the long haul, we’re it!

(Thanks to my co-blogger, Jennifer, for the headline.  She always does a much better job of that than I do!)”

So, what do you guys think? Every tweet we’ve made at @isuTech will be backed up forever in the Library of Congress! I think that’s pretty cool, but I’m sure many would disagree. Could this be useful for researchers in the future? Or is this a big waste of time? Feel free to leave a comment but don’t forget your quiz!

Nick

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