Excellent piece on the need to archive (important) content published on Twitter.
Originally posted on appvocacy:
This kind of data capture is important in order to learn from the Q&A, which is otherwise of limited use to participants beyond giving them the chance to air their concerns directly to an influential person. Ordinarily, once a Twitter Q&A has taken place, both the content and the shape of the conversation is quickly lost.
Groundviews used a process created by Martin Hawksey, called TAGSExplorer. The process, explained here, involves archiving tweets with Google Spreadsheets and using a simple web interface to create an interactive visualisation. In order for this to work, it needs to be set up before the Q&A, and it needs to be based around a single hashtag. In this case, #askFCO was established by the organisers of the Q&A. Not all Twitter events are unified around one single hashtag.
The interactive visualisation created by Groundviews (and the tweet archive on which it is based) gives a flavour of which civil society actors with an interest in Sri Lanka are engaged on Twitter, and of which issues are important to them – at least, once you filter out questions which are irrelevant, zany, or incomprehensible. It is an excellent indicator of civil society discourse about Sri Lanka at a particular time, which is now recorded for posterity and open to analysis by anyone. The visualisation can provide a quick overview of the conversation for those with interest but little available time. Or, used in conjunction with the archive, it should yield all kinds of further information for those able to invest more time and effort.
The Minister’s replies, simply replicated from his Twitter stream, give a sense of the range of issues on the radar of the British Government. He answered eighteen questions in total over 45 minutes. One of them was procedural – he responded that he would try to answer a representative sample of questions, on which the tweet archive makes it possible to judge him. His seventeen substantive answers give a useful framework for further civil society engagement with the British Government.
However, this kind of analysis also gives reasons for human rights activists to be a little cautious. If it is easy for a civil society organisation to capture this data about the conversation, its participants, and the links between them, it is also possible for those with a hostile agenda to obtain the same information. Activists concerned for their security should be careful before engaging directly in Twitter Q&As.
But for human rights groups, learning how to archive and visualise Twitter events could pay significant dividends for research, networking, and helping to shape the discourse on human rights issues.