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 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

April 2014, finding hashtagged tweets from November 2013 - a case study

Earlier today I spotted (I have a saved search on Twitter for my own blog) that someone (@PH_AdvocateEU) had been trying to uncover old tweets from a conference, using information in an even older blog post of mine which is now ridiculously out of date.

Since I like trying to find old tweets and haven't done it for a while I got in touch and asked if I could use it as a case study, to see what could be found. They agreed and I had a look - not much through usual methods but a 'handsearch' (combing through participants' tweets) looks the most promising, but it is the most labour-intensive unfortunately.

The hashtag in question is #EUCOPDBrx13

All the tweets that I've collected (there are more out there, but fiddly to uncover) are in this Storify:
#EUCOPDBrx13 - a collection of conference tweets

1. Has anyone already done the work for you - not in this case
It's possible that someone else has collected the tweets together and embedded them into a blog post or Storify etc, so search for the tag there first (you can use Google's Blog Search tool - I didn't find anything on either site in this particular case though.

Sometimes people add a widget to their website which feeds in hashtagged tweets and stuff can be picked up from them (not in this case though it seems).

Note that there may be paid-for services that do this, but I'm afraid I don't know about them. If you have a server and know what an API is you may be able to call them up from Twitter's servers.

2. - a few
Twitter's own search box is a really good place to start, I've recently been surprised and delighted to find really old tweets on it - note though that I'm using the web browser version, not a smartphone or tablet app.

When you first search anything on Twitter you're shown the 'top tweets', you need to click on 'All' to see what else is available... and then you need to scroll down to the end (and keep scrolling until you're met with a note saying 'Back to top' which is Twitter's way of telling you that all available tweets are loaded).

You can see them here (although as time passes fewer of them will appear presumably)

Doing this brought up 21 tweets - one was @PH_AdvocateEU telling me which hashtag to look for and seven of them were from 'bots' (automated accounts) reporting that the tag was (at the time of the tweet being sent) trending, which certainly suggests that there should be quite a lot of tweets.

Below was the earliest tweet I could find (it's a picture of the tweet with its address beneath it because embedding tweets doesn't seem to work very well on this blog. Subsequent tweets are embedded and show up as plain text).

If you are using Storify or you don't need to use the Embed Code to add a tweet, just its URL. Here are the URLs of the tweets above. If you hover over the datestamp (or timestamp) of the tweet you can then right click / copy link location to get the URL. (this is the one shown as a picture above)

I may have missed one or two!

3. Search Google - a couple
An ordinary search on Google can also bring up tweets. Don't forget to investigate cached copies of things - if you see a tiny green arrow to the right of a site's address click on that and choose cache (this is an archived copy of the page).

I found a couple that didn't show up when searching directly on Twitter

4. Targeted search restricted to names - not much, not tried all!
We know who was tweeting about the conference

We know from the content of their tweets who else was there, or participating
@imi_Ju, @karinkadenbach, @IPCRG, @yankeeu, @EU_H2020, @mikegalsworthy, @mikakosinska, @NABedlington, @humedsci

Although it doesn't bring up much in this case it's worth adding these names to the hashtag (one by one alas, this is fairly laborious I'm afraid) to see if you can find any other tweets that they sent or were mentioned in.

To find tweets they sent
from:imi_Ju #EUCOPDBrx13

To find tweets mentioning them
@imi_Ju #EUCOPDBrx13

I'd have to concede that this hasn't been particularly successful in this case though!

4. Manually scroll back to the relevant point of people's timelines - very promising, but hard work
Twitter will let you scroll back 3,200 tweets' worth on anyone's page. If they're very chatty this might not help if you're looking five or six months later of course.

I tried this for @EU_COPD, and found this - they've published fewer than 500 tweets so scrolling through wasn't too onerous. Each of these could be captured in a storify by collecting the URL (where it says 28 Nov, in grey - that's the timestamp that has the unique address for the tweet).

I'm not going to collect all of the URLs but a couple are (the last two in this pic)

5. Instagram and other tools - haven't checked
People take pictures, they tag them - have a look on Instagram for the same tag and see if there's any info there (you can include these in Storify stories I think).


  1. Another recently added Twitter feature you left out - if you click Advanced Search on the left of the Twitter search results, you can restrict by date. You can also restrict by sender, so you can get a search result that represents a particular person's feed in a certain date range, without having to manually scroll back.

    Just like in Google, all of these advanced search terms become keywords in the search box. So for instance to search my account (@krelnik) from February 1, 2012 to March 30, 2012, you can use this search:

    from:krelnik since:2012-02-01 until:2012-03-31

    1. Oh cool! Did not know that :) Delighted at new info, will try out later, thank you.

    2. I use the from:... to restrict by user, but loads of these tweets weren't coming up - and that's because I didn't know about the date restriction options, which obviously allows you to retrieve them. Nice one, ta.

  2. I haven't tracked the changes here carefully, but I do believe the date searches are pretty new. At the least it's a good reason to stay conversant with the Twitter website, which often lets you do things like this that aren't easy in the various Twitter clients.

    1. I am also convinced it's fairly new. I haven't used the link to the Advanced Search for a while though, as like you I've picked up the format to recreate its effects in the search box, but glad to be aware of it regardless of when it happened. Agree with your point about Twitter website, though they do seem to be doing their damndest to make the rest of the website interface as irritating as possible ;)


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