Backing up Your Social Network

The infamous Fail Whale,  terror of the Twitter masses

Social network apps and platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have revolutionized the way academics maintain existing social & professional connections, renew those connections, and forge new connections within and across disciplines.  In particular, Twitter has transformed the the ways in which many scholars (especially those in the digital humanities) connect and share ideas.  But as we rely more and more on these social networks for communication (and even collaboration), we inevitably start worrying about what might happen if we were no longer able to access our Twitter or Facebook account (the horror!). 

Granted, the likelihood of a massive server failure at Facebook that would cause a loss of data for users, for example, is quite low.  However, there is always the possibility that your account might get hacked (through no fault of your own) and irrevocably messed with.  You’ve also got to remember that while companies like Facebook and Twitter will most likely be around for a long time (knock on wood) they make no promises to provide you with your content if the company goes belly up.  But what can you do?  The data is all stored on their servers, right?  And short of manually copying all of your content, there isn’t a whole heck of a lot you can do, right?  Quite the contrary – there are actually some useful apps (both online and desktop) that will help you out in your quest to backup your social network data.

So, with all of the recent talk on Prof. Hacker about what we save, how we organize what we’ve saved, and how we backup digital files, its worth looking at some alternatives for backing up the content on your social networks.

On the Facebook side of things, there are a couple of noteworthy apps.  Of note is SocialSafe (, an Adobe AIR based desktop app (which means it runs on Mac & Windows) that lets you download and save (locally) all of the data and content from your Facebook account.  This includes all photos, friends data, and profile data (this includes data relating to friends that was linked to the original profile).  The great thing is that SocialSafe lets you browse your account locally (as opposed to saving it in some inaccessible and incomprehensible data structure).

While SocialSafe is a commercial application, the price tag is pretty cheap – only $2.99 (though, that prince is apparently promotional and will eventually change).  Dot releases are included in the price, though there will be an upgrade price associated with a major release (v1 to v2, for example.).  The other cool thing is that, while not included in the current release, SocialSafe will be able to work its back up magic on other platforms & services (no word which yet).

On the Twitter side of things, there are a number of online services that allow you to backup information.  Of particular note is Tweetake ( – which is a dead simple little online service which lets you backup your friends, followers, favorites, direct messages, and your own tweets.  Within a few seconds Tweetake kicks out a CSV file containing  the sender’s name and screen name, their location and description, timestamp, and the tweet text, along with just about all the other info that Twitter stores.  The good thing is that its free (yah for free)!  But, there are some drawbacks to Tweetake (as well as all other similar services).  First, because of a limitation with the Twitter API, there is a maximum amount of content that can be extracted from Twitter – specifically the last 1000 records in any of the categories.  So, if you have more then 1000 tweets, are following more than 1000 people, or are an academic rockstar like @dancohen (with lots of followers), you are going to run into some problems.  The other kicker is that Tweetake doesn’t have the ability to import backed up content back into your Twitter account (or into a new account).

Ultimately, the point to all of this is that whatever tool you use, backing up the content on your social network is not only smart, but in many cases vital to your professional life.

What tools or techniques do you use?  Share!


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