Published back in September, Martin Weller’s post on Twitter, microblogging and living in the stream included an embedded presentation from Slideshare which contained a number of analogies for Twitter including suggestions that Twitter is:

  • A digital watercooler
  • A stream you dip into
  • A cocktail party
  • A virtual office
  • What knowledgement always wanted to be
  • Networking for Agoraphobics

Some of these examples had been floating around the ‘Twitterverse’ for some time.  Indeed several months ago I coined a number of analogies for Twitter and when Martin (and others) recently asked for such examples I tried to find my tweets on the subject. I thought this would be easy – I’d just have to either browse through my old tweets or search for a tweet from me containing the string ‘analogy’.

However I found that my old tweets seemed not be be available. And using Google to search for ‘search old tweets‘ I found various discussions including this one on the lack of a search and browse interface for old tweets.

However with some further searching I discovered I discovered that I could use the search interface on my Friendfeed account to find a number of my missing tweets, as illustrated.

So I can now create links to the copy of my tweets which can be found in Friendfeed including Twitter is:

  • Spouting off to strangers about the state of the government, trains, repositories, … [link]
  • The family conversation [link]
  • The digital watercooler for teetotallers who don’t talk to strangers in pubs [link]
  • The bar where everyone knows your name; you’re greeted by the coffee drinkers’ footie fans share moments of joy [link]

What have I learnt from this?  I now realise that the tweets which summarise ideas I might wish to expand on or the tweets from others which I may want to follow up will not necessarily be easily found again, and not because of problems with the Twitter service itself but because it may not provide access to the data.

Does this mean I shouldn’t be using Twitter, because of these limitations? I would say no – in many cases I don’t care about the old tweets.  Indeed I regard Twitter, like an increasing number of Web services, not as a well-defined and reproducible IT service but as a blended service, which has more parallels with real life.  And as I don’t lose any sleep over the pearls of wisdom which I may have shared with others in the pub which I then find I can’t remember, so this is how I regard Twitter. And if I do want to keep a record of useful tweets I’ll do what I did for the list of tweets on useful Web 2.0 music sites and document the resources somewhere.