ISMB 2012 on Twitter: here today, gone tomorrow

In previous years, when FriendFeed was used as the micro-blogging platform for the annual ISMB meeting, I’ve written a post describing some statistical analysis of the conference coverage. Here’s my post from last year.

This year, it appears that the majority of the conference coverage happened at Twitter, using the #ISMB hashtag. Here’s what happened on July 18th when I used the R package twitteR to retrieve ISMB-related tweets for July 13/14:

library(twitteR)
ismb1 <- searchTwitter("#ISMB", since = "2012-07-13", until = "2012-07-14")
length(ismb1)
# [1] 383

383 tweets. Here’s what happened when I ran the same query today:

library(twitteR)
ismb1 <- searchTwitter("#ISMB", since = "2012-07-13", until = "2012-07-14")
length(ismb1)
# [1] 0

Zero tweets. Indeed, run the same query via the Twitter web interface and you’ll see only a very few tweets with the message “Older Tweet results for #ismb are unavailable.”

So far as Twitter is concerned, ISMB 2012 never happened. Or if it did, the data are buried away in a data centre, inaccessible to the likes of you and I. Did you ever hear anything more about that plan to archive every Tweet at the Library of Congress? Neither did I. I very much doubt that it’s going to happen.

I think Twitter is great – for broadcasting short pieces of information, such as useful URLs, in near real-time. For conference coverage which benefits from threaded conversation, longer comments and archiving, I think it’s rubbish.

On July 18 I did manage to retrieve 3162 Tweets for ISMB 2012, created between July 13 and July 17. I’ll write about them in a forthcoming post. All I’ll say for now is – lucky I was able to grab them when I did.

9 thoughts on “ISMB 2012 on Twitter: here today, gone tomorrow

    1. nsaunders Post author

      Last I read on the LoC archive was “an initial offering in 4-5 months” – over a year ago. The lack of anything concrete and recent makes me very suspicious. Particularly since Twitter can’t supply me with a few tweets from last month.

    1. nsaunders Post author

      I currently see 673 results at Topsy; better than zero, but still far less than the real number. Topsy’s mechanisms are about as transparent as Twitter. There are various tweet archive services but generally, they require that search terms are specified ahead of the event.

      1. mem_somerville (@mem_somerville)

        Yeah, I didn’t know how they counted retweets either, which could really affect the numbers. But I don’t know if they actually archive. You can ask them to re-sync with twitter and deleted stuff does vanish–have seen that before.

  1. Duncan

    Hi Neil. Have Twitter Inc. “improved” the API or do they just deliberately return zilch? If you save/fave the tweets you can get them but that would be a pain the backside for all those ISMB tweets. Perhaps it’s time we all switched to the app.net twitter rival?

  2. Egon Willighagen

    Neil, thanx for this nice post, *and* the warning… I made this script for incremental backups:

    # first call
    library(twitteR);
    twitpubinnov = searchTwitter(“#twitpubinnov”, since=”2012-08-01″, until=”2012-08-13″, n=1000000);
    latestTweet = max(unlist(lapply(twitpubinnov, FUN=function(x) { x$getId() })));
    save.image(file=paste(“twitpubinnov.backup”, latestTweet, “RData”, sep=”.”));
    save.image();
    q(save=”no”)

    # later calls
    library(twitteR);
    load(file=”.RData”);
    twitpubinnov = searchTwitter(“#twitpubinnov”, sinceID=latestTweet, n=1000000);
    latestTweet = max(unlist(lapply(twitpubinnov, FUN=function(x) { x$getId() })));
    if (latestTweet > 0) {
    save.image(file=paste(“twitpubinnov.backup”, latestTweet, “RData”, sep=”.”));
    save.image();
    }
    q(save=”no”)

    Run it in a crontab or so, during a meeting, and create a custom archive…

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