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As the Twapper Keeper Twitter archiving tool becomes part of Hootsuite, we explore the options now available to preserve event tweets.

 

“Twapper Keeper’s archiving is now available in HootSuite! As a result, we will be shutting down Twapper Keeper. Existing archives will be kept running until Jan 6, 2012, after which you will not be able to access your archives anymore.

Thanks for using Twapper Keeper – we look forward to seeing you at HootSuite.”

So begins the long goodbye to an incredibly useful service.

With just a few clicks, even the most casually interested observer could create a public archive of a Twitter hash tag. This was immensely useful to me as an event amplifier, as it allowed me not just to provide visualisations, using tools like Summarizr, but also provided a rich pot of data about Twitter interaction at amplified events.

Brian Kelly’s recent post, Responding to the Forthcoming Demise of Twapper Keeper, outlines the processes currently available for migrating Twapper Keeper archives and suggests some of the factors which may influence decisions by key stakeholders about which archives should be preserved. In this post I will summarise my own response to the announcement, which overlaps with much of Brian’s advice, and consider some of the implications of the withdrawal of Twapper Keeper from my perspective as an event amplifier.
 

“My” Archives

 
I feel a personal obligation to rescue the archives I have created myself, but also have a vested interest in the preservation of a number of archives created by others – particularly those which record discussions surrounding events where I have been involved. After all, those archives effectively represent a record of my work to date, as well as a valuable evidence base for future research into the use of Twitter at amplified events.

As a general rule, I do not create Twapper Keeper records for events myself, as I am outside of UK HE and was therefore only permitted to create a limited number of archives. In fact, I have only ever created one archive myself. Instead, I encourage clients to create an archive for their event, as they are (in the main) part of UK HE establishment and are therefore not subject to the same restrictions. Unfortunately, this strategy means that I cannot necessarily rely on someone else backing up archives that interest me before Twapper Keeper disappears, so I have chosen to undertake this myself.

I have used Martin Hawksey’s Google Spreadsheet tool, described in his post: Free the tweets! Export TwapperKeeper Archives Using Google Spreadsheet. I will also take a series of screenshots from Summarizr about each archive to serve as a visual summary of the data contained within the archive, for reference purposes.

For the record, the archives I have created so far are:
 

Hashtag

Event

#lis_dream1 The LIS DREaM Project Launch Event, July 2011
#idcc11 The 7th International Digital Curation Conference, December 2011
#idcc09 The 5th International Digital Curation Conference, December 2009
#iwmw11 The Institutional Web Management Workshop 2011
#iwmw10 The Institutional Web Management Workshop 2010
#devxs DevXS: Student Developer Hackathon, November 2011
#dev8d Dev8D: The annual DevCSI Developer Happiness Days
#a11yhack DevCSI Accessibility Hack Event, June 2011
#jisc11 The JISC Conference 2011
#jiscrim JISC Research Information Management Final Project Event, September 2011
#jiscres10 JISC Future of Research Conference, October 2010
#jiscres11 JISC Research Integrity Conference, September 2011
#ukolneim UKOLN Social Media Metrics workshop, July 2011
#uxbristol UXBristol: Bristol Usability Conference, July 2011
#p1event The Power of One, November 2011

 
Upon revisiting Martin’s post, I find that he is now asking people to help co-ordinate the effort to rescue archives by sharing those they have created using his method. Several of the above already appear, but I have added the remainder to his catalogue.

I will be contacting the organisers of each event to make them aware of the changes and to share the link to the relevant archive, as a matter of courtesy. I will also be making a local copy of each archive to store offline with the other materials from each event.
 

The Future

 
I am a Hootsuite Pro customer, so I investigated my options to continue using the Twapper Keeper functionality in its new incarnation. Information about the new feature is not yet easy to find on the Hootsuite website, but I did eventually find this how-to explaining the new process. Interestingly, I also found instructions to download your archive, a feature that Twitter demanded that Twapper Keeper remove back in March of this year, and a pause/resume archiving function.
 

Hootsuite Pro Feature List

Hootsuite Pro Feature List

 

There is of course, a catch. A Pro customer (paying $5.99 per month) can archive only a measly 100 tweets, or purchase a bolt on to archive up to “100,000 tweets and download all keyword related Twitter messages”. When I attempted to upgrade my plan, I found that 10,000 additional tweets would cost me $10 per month, and 100,000 additional tweets would cost me $50 per month.

Luckily, Martin Hawksey is a master of Google Spreadsheet tools and has created this alternative method of collecting tweets and has provided detailed instructions to archive and visualise Twitter conversations around an event hashtag . I will certainly be making greater use of these tools for future events.

As I have mentioned before, you can use CoverItLive to collect tweets and export them as an RSS feed. I tend to have this running as an incidental back up to Twapper Keeper at events, as it is my preferred method of offering interactive access to amplified discussions for participants who choose not to use Twitter. However, I tend to run a CoverItLive event only for the duration of the event itself, so this does not preserve the longer tail of the discussions.

The code for Your Twapper Keeper is still available which enables you to create your own local version of Twapper Keeper for personal use, but at the time of writing the accompanying website appears to be unavailable, so it is not clear whether this tool will remain supported.

Update: John O’Brien has just let me know that the latest version of Your Twapper Keeper is available here.
 

Reflections

 
Once again, this is a pertinent reminder of the fragility of using third party online services. However, it also raises a questions about who should care for amplified event materials stored online after the event, and for how long. On this occasion I had a personal interest in seeing these archives migrated safely to an alternative site, but in general I have no contractual obligation to ensure the longevity of materials from the events I amplify. Should I, as a professional event amplifier, be committing to monitor online services and alert previous clients if their materials are at risk? Should I be migrating the content myself? If I take on these responsibilities, how long should they last? And how should I charge for such a service? Even with Martin Hawksey’s incredibly simple and timely solution to retrieve archives from Twapper Keeper, it has still taken a not-inconsiderable amount of time to assess the implications of the changes, create the duplicate archives, share them, and communicate with the event organisers to notify them. Managing the withdrawal of other services may take even longer.

This experience has reinforced the need to consider these issues and to ensure that there is a clear agreement in place with my clients covering whether they want materials from their amplified event to be maintained over time, what should be saved in the event of a service closure, and who should be responsible for migrating that content. My concern is that many event organisers only see short term value in amplification, and may not be fully conversant with the issues. There may also be concerns from participants in amplified events, who agreed to one thing at the time and may not want their contributions migrated to a different environment, which they may have cause to distrust.
 

Conclusions

 
I feel like I have waded into a bit of a quagmire here. Many of these issues will undoubtedly be debated in time and at the moment there are so many questions that I could end up writing an EVEN LONGER post just to explore them. But not today.

However, I would very much welcome the perspectives of any event organisers who have used Twitter at their event. Is the long term existence of an archive of those discussions is something you would value? And is the continued availability of online event materials from your event an issue of concern when amplifying their event?

 
 
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