I’ve written frequently on ProfHacker about ways to archive Twitter posts. For your personal Twitter stream, I heartily recommended the open-source ThinkUp. But for archiving hashtags---for example, a conference backchannel or a class Twitter stream---the answer is not so clear. Former ProfHacker favorite TwapperKeeper no longer supports exporting archives, meaning it’s difficult to make use of the TwapperKeeper archives in any analytically rigorous way. Other hashtag archiving services have disappeared too, as Twitter’s API’s terms of service has grown more restrictive.
A few weeks ago I suggested that using Twitter’s hidden RSS feed was perhaps the best way to continuously grab search results, and I showed how to hack a hashtag RSS feed. Now, I want to highlight the TwitterPad plugin for WordPress, which can import a Twitter RSS feed directly into WordPress.
Developed by ProfHacker friend Martin Hawksey, TwitterPad installs as easily as any other WordPress plugin, giving you a new option in your Settings menu. After you add the RSS feed you want to grab, you then have a few choices---to aggregate the posts on a single page, or to create a new post for each day’s worth of Twitter updates. You can add CSS styling to the list of tweets in a form directly on the TwitterPad settings, as well as control the new post template.
Note that the RSS feed doesn’t necessarily need to be a hashtag; you can use any other of Twitter’s search operators (for example, the from query). This means you could use TwitterPad to archive your own tweets.
I’ve been testing TwitterPad with my Science Fiction class’s tweets, and I’ve been pleased so far. I especially like that clicking the username that precedes each tweet links back to the original post on Twitter (something TwapperKeeper never did). I did have one day where the tweets disappeared entirely, and I had to reset the archive. This meant I couldn’t recapture some of the earlier tweets (Twitter’s RSS feed is limited to the most recent 100 items). Also, while the results display nicely in a browser, they are not easily downloadable for further analysis. So, even though I am using TwitterPad, I still rely on the Windows-only Archivist Desktop app to reliably collect my class’s hashtag (the Archivist can export the archive into an Excel-friendly XML file).
For the adventurous, Martin Hawksey has also developed TAGS, another solution for storing tweets, this one powered by Google Apps. Though more powerful, TAGS requires a bit more set-up than TwitterPad. Stay tuned for an upcoming ProfHacker post about it!
What about you? What solutions have you found for archiving Twitter backchannels?
A Rainy Day in Seoul photograph courtesy of mendhak / Creative Commons Licensed