[Air-L] Library of Congress Acquires Entire (Public) Twitter Archive

camille pb camille.pb at gmail.com
Wed Apr 14 17:17:18 PDT 2010

To Nancy : I am currently working on Usenet culture and of course I was
reminded as well of the Deja News / Google Groups archiving and indexing.

Although you don't explicity say this, so I might be wrong, you seem to be
opposing the "historical cultural significance" of the Twitter archiving to
the Usenet archiving by Google. Why would the latter be devoid of any
historical/cultural meaning ?

I have read a lot of news articles and forum threads (like Slashdot and
Kuro5hin) from around 2001, when Google bought Deja News and set out to
complete the archiving process. Of course there was a lot of debate like you
mention about the private / public information, and the fact that the info
was indexed, thus searchable, thus commodifiable. Also a clear negative
point was (still is of course) that the Web application platform for
searching the archives doesn't differentiate explicitly the Usenet archives
from the Google Groups themselves. And of course the adsense running in the

But there was a consensus about the fact that Google's digging of Usenet's
past was giving value to a previously overlooked cultural matter. Suddenly
Usenet had substance, that you could find in a series of "first posts"
making history (first spam, first mention of Microsoft, first message
announcing the Linux project, first mention of aids, etc. a lot of which is
listed in the Usenet Timeline cooked up by Google Groups) as well as in the
flame wars and other conversational games pertaining to Usenet culture and
having informed in some kind of way Internet culture as a whole. Someone was
saying on Slashdot that, as a Usenet veteran, he had always been doing his
own archiving, consisting mainly of technical discussions and faqs, because
he thought the tech stuff was what was going to be important to keep ; but
he realized now that when the tech dimension had evolved so much, to the
point that all that info is almost useless now except for a old machines
tutorials collector, the "cultural" dimension, that seemed to be vain and
stupid at the time (flame wars and all) was the real substance of Usenet as
part of Internet's history in the making.

So would the negativity stem from the fact that the Usenet archiving was
made by a for-profit company, when the LIbrary of Congress is not ? Actually
it did say a lot about the choices Google made to build its fanhood (in its
early age, largely made of Internet hobbyists, and thus prone to Internet
nostalgism/culturalism).  But that's another question, maybe.

If it's just a question of past user info made public, I do not understand :
doesn't the lIbrary of Congress makes public its archive (not a rhetorical
question : I don't know how it works, as I am not American) ? Also the user
info was always public on Usenet, yet not systematically searchable like in
Google Groups, I agree. In both cases it would be questionable ethically to
republish that info. But in both cases they are "an amazing repository of
mundane moments", specific to the mundane of Internet culture and history I
would add.

Sorry again if I read too much into your message. In any case it was good to
be reminded of the Usenet archiving, which seem very important to put the
Twitter archiving in perspective.

Camille Paloque-Berges

*Phd Candidate
Université Paris 8
Laboratoire Paragraphe


On Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 1:35 AM, Nancy Baym <nbaym at ku.edu> wrote:

> I am reminded of Google's acquisition of USENET archives and reposting of
> them as "google groups," indexed and searchable. It was a little shocking to
> find that posts you had assumed were going to a group at one time in a
> non-archived forum were now searchable, often times by your email address.
> On the other hand, my gut reaction to the Library of Congress archiving
> public Twitter posts is positive. The public twitter stream is of historical
> cultural significance and is an amazing repository of mundane moments in the
> daily lives of many people and records of what they thought important. It
> was initially posted in an architecture that was searchable and that
> displayed all public tweets in an ongoing stream. I think it's great that
> the Twitter stream will be preserved and curated by an institution which is
> not going to go out of business, or get bought and reinvented, or just
> reinvent itself and make it all go away.
> I recognize the privacy issues at stake, and think it's important to
> discuss them, but I'm fine with this.
> Nancy,
>> On Apr 14, 2010, at 6:13 PM, Michael Zimmer wrote:
>>   For those who haven't already seen the news, the Library of Congress
>>> announced today that they are acquiring the entire archive of public Twitter
>>> activity since March 2006:
>>>  Library of Congress Announcement:
>>>  How Tweet It Is!: Library Acquires Entire Twitter Archive
>>>  http://www.loc.gov/tweet/how-tweet-it-is.html
>>>  Twitter Announcement:
>>>  Tweet Preservation
>>>  http://blog.twitter.com/2010/04/tweet-preservation.html
>>>   > And my initial probe of various open concerns:
>>>  Open Questions about Library of Congress Archiving Twitter Streams
>>  >
>> http://michaelzimmer.org/2010/04/14/open-questions-about-library-of-congress-archiving-twitter-streams/
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