To tweet or not to tweet? Archiving social media output for the future

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I tweet. I’ve been quite slow to join the Twitter revolution (if that’s the right word) but I ‘get’ what it’s for and quite enjoy having a place where I can jot all my thoughts down as randomly as they come: I’ve been known to work through problems in this way. I’ve done some very useful professional networking on Twitter, and have even managed to keep up with conferences that peers at other universities have been attending.

But what exactly will happen to those little bursts of consciousness  in 140 characters or less? Where does this ‘record’ of me go? There’s nothing earth shattering – my woes with getting electronic journals properly activated aren’t all that interesting to the world at large – but for some people or organisations there really might be something worth remembering. I’m not sure what the future will hold for archiving social media output, but there are initiatives to ensure that information of note is being archived so that it can contribute to our understanding of the world at any given point, and I spotted something in the news on this very topic, and thought I’d share. The National Archives has begun a project to archive all Tweets that have been produced by UK Government Twitter accounts, of which there are many more than you might think.

The UK Government Web Archive: Twitter links to around 40 separate official Twitter accounts ranging from the Prime Minister’s Office, HM Treasury and the Ministry of Justice to NHS Choices, the Office of Fair Trading and Ofgem, as well as an additional set of Twitter feeds relating to the 2012 London Olympics. In addition, the National Archives is also contributing to the activities of the Internet Memory Foundation by creating a searchable database of UK Government web output. These initiatives demonstrate that what is published on the Internet really should be regarded as information to be retained, and it’s fascinating to think that researchers of the future might consult Twitter feeds at some point during their research.

I highly doubt that future generations of researchers will need to know that in early May 2014 I was having problems with access to two electronic journals, or that my current musical obsession is the Requiems of Fauré and Duruflé, but in case you are interested, you can follow me at @electronicsarah…

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