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By Brian Robinson

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Weighing the worth of Twitter

In the worthiness spectrum of information, how would you rate Twitter? It’s obviously becoming a somewhat popular way of communicating, but is it a medium for mostly inconsequential rabbiting or something more than that?

The Library of Congress (LOC) recently announced that it will be archiving all public tweets, from the beginning of the thing way back in March 2006. At the least, that’s billions and billions of the little buggers, with many trillions to come.

As the repository of the American experience, it makes sense for the LOC to do some of this. There already have been some important tweets that rate preserving and, as Twitter becomes embedded in the social milieu, there’ll be many more.

One of the outcomes of this move will, presumably, be the developments of innovative ways to mine this data. Twitter, in its own announcement, said that Google has already created “a wonderful new way to revisit tweets related to historic events.”

(Of course it has! Come on, world, does no one else out there have any imagination anymore?)

On the other hand, what are we to make of the recent memo out of the Office of Management and Budget that said much social media communication doesn’t rank as anything to worry about under the Paperwork Reduction Act?

I know that doesn’t necessarily imply that communications sent through government Twitter channels aren’t important, but it does come across as a devaluation of sorts of the worthiness of the medium. Do use it as part of your Open Government plans but, hey, it’s really no big deal.

So, which is it? Is Twitter a potential gold mine worthy of existing alongside all of the other important stuff in the LOC? Or, in that spectrum, a relative lightweight?

David Ferriero, the National Archivist, congratulated the LOC on its acquisition and said the only reason his outfit didn’t acquire the Twitter archive is because tweets aren’t considered government records, though some agency tweets could be. Twitter isn’t for everyone, he said, but “I do think that we need to recognize the potential power of the mundane details of our lives and what they might say about our culture.”

Posted on Apr 16, 2010 at 9:03 AM


Reader Comments

Mon, Apr 19, 2010 Johannes Scholtes McLean

When I heard the news that all of Twitter will be archived by the Library of Congress, my first thought was: “they are two weeks late, this should have

been published April 1st!” Surprisingly, the news seems to be genuine and the Library of Congress and Twitter have made joint announcements that all

Twitter communication (that is ALL) since 2006 will be archived as part of the historical archives of the Library of Congress.


The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world and I am sure one of their goals is to remain the largest library on the planet. Maybe this is an

effort by the Library of Congress to stay ahead of the National Chinese library once and for all! However, archiving millions of Tweets rather than priceless

works seems like an eccentric strategy.

In a library one expects to find knowledge and not raw unfiltered data like Tweets. As far as I can tell, 99.9999999% or more of all Tweets have no

historical relevance and lack substance, let alone knowledge.

Do you remember the opening stanza of T. S. Eliot’s Choruses from the Rock: “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the

knowledge we have lost in information?” Well, with all that Twitter communication now being archived in a library, I am completely lost!

Read more here: http://zylab.wordpress.com/2010/04/16/library-of-congress-archives-all-twitter-messages-since-2006-what-is-next/

Johannes C. Scholtes - Chief Strategy Officer, ZyLAB

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