Twitter and History March On

The Twistory saga continues. The tech news is full of stories these days about firms delivering social media brand management and public opinion results, all magically derived from massive tweet collections. Whether prudent or not, people want to know what the consumer/political twittering pulsosphere thinks. God knows how many PhD candidates have a thesis in mind with “Twitter” or “Tweets” in the title sub-title.

So whether this is the “End of Twistory” or our DiscoverText software goes into the “Dustbin of Twistory,” the fact remains that people are creating big Twitter datasets (they were for a long time before we started) and they are sharing them for research and other purposes. Needless to say I have had considerable private and public feedback about all this. Some of the more interesting public assertions include:

This is very interesting, Stuart, I have tweeted it. Sadly, this is not a new phenomenon. Many times the owners of a web service use the TOS to put walls around knowledge, no matter if people are generating that knowledge. And usually happens after the “garage age”; before that age, owners begs for a little of attention. I always say about this kind of conduct in digital projects owners: “All of them are hippies, until they enter Wall Street”

- Alejandro Tortolini, AoIR Listserv (Post May 5, 2011)

Perhaps the most thought provoking was Michael Zimmer’s retort to the notion that Tweets “yearn to be free” (an admitted reach on my part). As Michael notes:

I’m not in full agreement with your starting point that tweets “yearn to be free”. I think the nature of the platform (140 character limit, broadcast as one voice among millions of accounts, viewed via a live stream that makes it almost impossible to read every single one) also supports the notion that tweets are meant to be fleeting.

- Michael Zimmer, AoIR Listserv (Post May 5, 2011)

Finally, Ulf-dietrich made the type of analogy that helps me to pause and think about the nature of the translation challenges as we bring old norms and rules into debates about the current technological quagmire.

To me it seems the owners of Internet-based services go too far sometimes in claiming rights to authors’ content. To vary an old Internet metaphor: An owner of a road should not be entitled to claim royalties to pictures of cars that have driven over the road.

- Ulf-Dietrich Reips, AoIR Listserv (Post May 5, 2011)

Meanwhile, the bin laden tweets keep piling up, now approaching three million in my unsharable project.

About Stuart Shulman

Stuart Shulman is a political science professor, software inventor, entrepreneur, and garlic growing enthusiast who coaches U12 boys club soccer with a national D-license. He is Founder & CEO of Texifter, LLC, Director of QDAP-UMass, and Editor Emeritus of the Journal of Information Technology & Politics. Stu is the proud owner of a Bernese/Shepherd named "Colbert" who is much better known as 'Bert. You can follow his exploits @stuartwshulman.
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