Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2016 scientific society talks in London blog post

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Using free tools to capture a handful of tweets or a larger bunch

These are my most-used tools:
  • Chirpstory.com (log in with Twitter)
  • SearchHash.com <-- from @lesteph (no login required) 
  • Storify.com (log in with Twitter, Facebook or create a Storify account)
  • GrabChat.com <-- new in, this is made by @dean_jenkins (no login required)
  • Epilogger (log in with Twitter or Facebook) - this actually automates stuff.
Edit: 21 September, now with added Epilogger :)

Questions to ask yourself
  • Has the series of tweets happened already, is it still unfolding or is the event yet to occur?
  • Is it just a few tweets you want, eg a short conversation, or a whole bunch from a hashtag or even a user?
There are paid-for tools that will let you press a button and when you come back later all the hashtagged tweets you want are nicely collected and probably analysed in some interesting way. I'm afraid I know nothing about them and have always used the free tools - the cost is my (your) time in doing the manual processing. I also don't know anything about how to analyse your tweets (how many were sent, who sent the most etc).

If you have a server and some coding skills then you can use Twitter's API to collect lots of tweets too but I have neither and can't help you there either.

The event's about to start, currently happening, only just finished
You'll need at least one or two hashtagged event tweets to be able to search for them on any of the five tools listed above.

Chirpstory and Storify can be used once the event has ended or is winding down. Both will search further back in time than Twitter's own search so if you've left it a few days you might be OK (this is also partly dependent on the number of tweets - I don't know what the cap is but the most I've ever captured is definitely under 3,200 tweets (typically about 20 pages of 50 tweets is capturable on Chirpstory. Storify lets you capture them in bunches of 20 so I generally prefer Chirp for bigger events).

I often set up a Chirpstory then collect the max number of tweets available, then return to it later adding more. You'll end up with duplicates but there's a button that lets you remove those. You can also remove RTs if you want to (sometimes it's useful to keep these in to get a sense of how often an idea's been shared I suppose) and re-order them chronologically (earliest tweet first).

Both embed into Blogger very well but I understand that the free version of WordPress (ie wordpress.com rather than downloading the software to self-host the blog on your own site) doesn't permit this sort of embedding - something to do with restrictions on the use of javascript I think, not sure).

SearchHash will run in the background for you while the event's running and you can refresh it periodically before 'tapping off' a selection of tweets to store in a more permanent form. Older tweets will eventually fall off from the SearchHash search so don't just leave it running. It's not truly automated, but it's a great help to grab a bunch to copy and paste etc.

I've not tested GrabChat to destruction yet but it looks like you can get a really nice end product to embed in your blog - have a look at the examples given on the front page at the link above. I would probably use this after the event had finished (so that there were enough tweets to be bothering with).

Edit 21 September
Epilogger is (to me) the new kid on the block and thus far it's pretty amazing. I set one up for @ayisasophia a week or so ago to track all #talesfromtheriver hashtagged tweets and at tiime of writing this it's trapped 827 of them. It will also search backwards (I don't know how far back) so if I set it up on "Friday 5th Monthtember 2012" it will find the tagged tweets from Wednesday 3rd Monthtember too.

So far it doesn't embed into blogs but I believe that's something they're looking into.

Event happened ages ago
While you probably won't be able to search for all the tweets by hashtag after a week or two has passed you can, if you can be bothered, recover them with a bit of time and effort. Unless a tweet has been deleted it remains permanently on Twitter's servers but stops being amenable to Twitter's search (or third party search tools) a week or so after posting. Tools like Topsy.com can find much older tweets (I've found ones from 2009 there) but you can't follow a thread, and what turns up can be a bit random). I'm in a fortunate position that I signed up to FriendFeed.com in 2008 and sent my tweets there so I can quite often find what I'm after, also all my tweets with a link in them are captured by Delicious.com - however this is of no help if you've not already set this up. Sorry :)

Things that make a tweet more discoverable are if you or someone else has favourited it (you can simply scroll through your list of favourites and, if you've favourited fewer than 3,200 tweets, you'll find it listed there).
A note on 3,200 tweets This seems to be the maximum number of tweets in any one thread that Twitter will let you access at one go. You can scroll back on your own tweets, or someone else's, only as far as your most recent 3,200 tweets. Same goes for hashtags, favourites and any other search. That doesn't mean you can't collect more than that - if thousands of tweets are being emitted on a topic you need to collect a bunch of them on day one, more on day two etc.

There's no guarantee that you'll be able to access all the older ones back to the 3,200th-tweet-ago though - Twitter doesn't let you scroll back all the way on hashtag searches, and neither do most third party apps. Should be OK on an individual's account.
If you want to grab a few tweets, eg in a conversation, and don't have the luxury of a hashtag to fish them all out with at one go, then it's a little bit more work but still pretty straightforward. Every tweet ever sent has its own URL and web page (not kidding) and if you know what the URL - see below - is then you can use Chirpstory or Storify to capture that tweet. For a smaller number of tweets I tend to use Storify - it has a very nice interface.

First catch your URL (the link that points to the tweet on its own webpage)
This assumes you've been able to find your tweet(s) either by search, by scrolling back through yours or someone else's timeline, mentions or favourites.

If the tweet has a grey 'Expand'or 'Details'  link below it then you can get the tweet's URL from that - plonk your mouse cursor over it and right-click, copy link address to copy and paste it somewhere else (eg in the Storify link search).

If the tweet is part of a response to someone else then you'll see a blue 'View conversation' link at the bottom and you can get the URL from that. If there is a chain of tweets in the conversation then clicking on the first one (you don't literally have to click on 'view conversation', just click anywhere within the tweet to expand it).

Using Storify to add a single tweet using its URL
Once you've got your URL(s) log in to Storify and use the link tool to search for the tweet (paste in the link, press enter, the tweet will appear) and get it in a format that you can embed into a Storify story.

The link tool is highlighted in yellow below.

If you're collecting loads of tweets by hashtag then it's the Twitter icon (the bird on the second left in the picture below) that you need.










Further reading
A list of tools for finding or capturing tweets - much more detailed post covering more tools and their uses.


Further posts in the Twitter tips series...



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