How to backup Twitter

Why backup Twitter?

It’s very easy to end up behaving as if an internet service will always be there and always be working, at least reasonably. But that’s a risky proposition, especially for free services – as was demonstrated at the weekend when Google, of all people, managed to wreck all the searches done on their search engine because of one wrong character in one place. Or as the Greek dramatist Agathon put it, “It is probable that the improbable will sometimes happen.”

Twitter is a relatively small company, with a technical track record that isn’t the finest and without an obvious future income stream. That’s not to say it isn’t an excellent, popular, useful and very usable service, but it does mean some caution is advisable (just as it is with Flickr, backup tips for which I blogged about last month: How to backup your photos from Flickr).

So if you are a Twitter user, it is advisable to think, “Would it matter if I lost all my Twitter data – my friends, followers and past tweets – either for a significant period of time or permanently?” If it would, then you should do some backing up now and again.

Other advantages of backing up Twitter

Running backups is also useful as it gives you data from Twitter in a form that is often easier to manipulate. For example, suppose two councillor colleagues, representing the same ward, have both been using Twitter and have each built up a reasonable number of followers from their ward. But perhaps they want to compare their respective lists so that each can reach out to people who are currently only following one but not the other? Backing up their lists of followers and comparing them offline is much easier than wading through the website screens for each.

Or perhaps you often tweet links to useful content on the web? Having all your past tweets in one file makes sorting through and picking out such information much easier.

How do you backup Twitter?

Twitter doesn’t offer an option itself, but there are several free options. My favourite is Tweetake.

Tweetake comes well recommended and is pretty simple: enter your Twitter username and password, select the backup option you want (“Everything”) and hit the button. It will shortly give you a csv file which you can save wherever you want.

The Tweetake backup file contains all your friends, followers and tweets. The format is perhaps a little unfriendly if you are not familiar with csv files, but if you have basic skills such as knowing how to open them in Excel and filter columns, then it is fine.

Tweetake: a health warning

As I said, it looks to be a credible, well recommended service. But you should always be wary about entering your username and password for one service (Twitter) on someone else’s (Tweetake) website. I think it is ok to do it in this case, but you need to decide whether or not to trust my judgement…

Any other Twitter backup suggestions?

Tweetake is by no means the only Twitter backup service available, so if you have your own favourite – and in particular if you have reasons for prefering it to Tweetake – please do post a comment.

Other computing housekeeping tips

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