Update: I’ve written a follow-up to this post.
A few days ago, the people behind Twitter archival site TwapperKeeper.com announced that they will be discontinuing the export feature of the service on March 20, 2011. Apparently the feature is in violation of Twitter’s terms of service, at least in the form it’s currently implemented in TwapperKeeper.
Unfortunately this cuts off a number of academics who are investigating communication on Twitter for scientific purposes from a convenient data source. While it’s fairly easy to get data directly via the Twitter API (which is what TwapperKeeper was doing), I know many people who want to concentrate on the data itself, rather than running their own servers to scrape Twitter on a regular basis. What’s more is that Twitter’s attitude is worrisome: many of us have tried to get an exemption from API rate limits in the past, to no avail. Twitter doesn’t give researchers privileged access to their data, and now they’re crippling TwapperKeeper on top of that.
Bottom line: what will we use after March 20? Ideally, a replacement would provide the following:
- the hashtag/search query functionality of TwapperKeeper,
- the export functionality of TwapperKeeper,
- exclusive use for academic purposes (on the grounds that this might keep Twitter from shutting it down),
- stability and reliability,
- long-term viability.
The last point is important, because I don’t think it will be difficult to set up a server somewhere to suit the needs of a few people, but a larger-scale solution seems more sensible in the long run. Maybe JISC can do something like that, based on yourTwapperKeeper (which they supported)? Or one of the big institutes (OII, Berkman)? Either way it would be nice to find an alternative that doesn’t give those of us with devs and major IT support behind them a huge edge over the rest…