Library Of Congress To Store Your Inane Twitter Chatter For All Eternity
from the hey-grandma-you-seemed-drunk-a-lot-in-2007 dept
The United States Library of Congress is getting plenty of attention for announcing that they’re planning to digitally archive every single tweet ever made since Twitter’s inception in March of 2006 (the first ever tweet is here if you’re interested). Twitter now processes something like 50 million tweets every day, or about 600 tweets per second. While relatively easy to store due to that 140-character limit (the LOC already stores roughly 167 terabytes of online content for your grandkids to peruse), the vast majority of it will be people talking about the Twilight films, shampoo choices or weekend plans. Obviously offering easy access to the pertinent (to you) and historical bits of data is going to be important.
The LOC blog post is utterly devoid of any real information on that subject, though an accompanying Twitter blog entry indicates that only after six months will Tweets qualify for inclusion into the Library (so start deleting your offensive and incoherent tweets now), and direct or private tweets won’t be archived. Google seems to be helping on the accessibility angle by announcing a replay system, allowing people to examine snapshots in Twitter time (for instance take a look at this snapshot of the 2010 Winter Olympics). Given that history can often be written with a heavy focus on the elite, the Library of Congress focuses on the fact that this everyday chatter about events could provide very useful context for historians:
"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."
All of this raises the question of whether or not permanence will impact the way people use Twitter. As it stands (whether they should or not), most people treat Twitter as an off-the-cuff conversation. And while most people who use the service for business act professionally, even many corporate representatives are a little more candid and conversational while using Twitter. Getting a glimpse of the real human beings behind the brand has helped many companies immeasurably in dealing with customer support and public perception. Does all of this change once the participants realize their customer promises, clever barbs and burrito recipes are going down on their permanent record?