How should you go about preserving your Twitter posts, which are sometimes referred to as tweets. You may feel this is a strange question, or perhaps even an incomprehensible one. For those who may not be familiar with Twitter, this is a microblogging application which can be used to create a brief (up to 140 characters) blog post. Although initially used by individuals to summarise how they are feeling or what they are thinking the ways in which the service is being used has evolved: in some cases it is used as a general chat facility, and so has some parallels with an instant messaging environment (with the added advantage that tweets can be delivered free-of-charge to mobile phones). Of particular relevance to this blog, is the way in which institutions are beginning to explore Twitter’s potential from an institutional context.
On a recent post on the UK Web Focus blog I described how the Open University has set up an institutional Twitter account. And a number of responses to the posts described similar institutional Twitter accounts for Edge Hill University (illustrated), Birmingham City University, Coventry University and Aston University. We can also expect departments to follow the example of the School of Law at the University of Sheffield which is using Twitter to syndicates its Law School News blog.
Many fans of Twitter may feel that issues of preservation shouldn’t intrude in what is normally used as a individual productivity and social tool. However if is often the case that new technologies which may have initially been provided for individual use and for social purposes, quickly seem to be used by early adopters in teaching and learning and research contexts. And soon afterwards institutions which are willing to explore the potential of such emerging technologies to support the needs of the institution will set up Twitter accounts, areas on YouTube, iTunes, etc. as, for example, the Open University has done.
Hence the need, I would argue, for institutions to ensure that they have considered the preservation and management implications of their tweets, even if the institutions feels that it would be inappropriate to have heavyweight policies on personal use of micro-blogging technologies. But perhaps before we establish the institutional policies we need to think about the different ways in which such micro-blogging applications may be used and also what the potential risks may be.