Twitter can be addictive. Once you get started with writing tweets, it can be difficult to stop. Unlike other social networks, Twitter has a wider sense of community outside of your own friends, largely because of the way hashtags can be used to comment on events as they happen and browse through tweets relating to a particular subject. Plus, it’s rather simple to churn out dozens of 140 character messages.
Whether you have been using Twitter for a few months or a few years, you may be surprised at just how many words you have put online through the service. Recently, Twitter announced plans for a feature many people had been asking for – downloading your Twitter archives.
Here’s how you can grab yours, and what you can do with it.
Before we started, a little warning: it is possible that you may not be able to download your tweet archive just yet. At time of writing, Twitter is still in the process of rolling out the feature, but if you aren’t yet able to take advantage of it, it shouldn’t be too long until you can.
Request Your Archive
Fire up your favorite web browser, pay a visit to the Twitter website and log into your account. You’ll then need to access your account settings by clicking the gear button to the upper right of the page, and selecting Settings from the menu that appears.
Scroll down the page until you reach the Your Twitter archive section – if you do not see this section at the bottom of the page, it means that the feature is yet to be enabled for your account. Assuming you’re one of the lucky users that can get their archive, you’ll see a Request your archive button to get yours.
The dialog that appears lets you know that you will soon receive an email containing a download link, so just click Close and wait for the arrival of this email.
Download Your Tweets
Unless you have a particularly large number of tweets, or you have put in your request at an especially busy time of day, you should find that you receive an email from Twitter in just a few moments. All you need to do is click the ‘Go now’ button or the download link.
You’ll be taken back to the Twitter website where you will find a Download button. Click this and save the zip archive to your hard drive.
Because Tweets are very short, the zip file that has been created for you is unlikely to be particularly large, so you will find that it downloads fairly quickly. To make use of it, you will need to extract the contents of the zip file – you can do this using the built-in archive support offered by Windows and OS X, or turn to a third-party tool.
Browse Your Archive
Your Twitter archive is provided in two formats – HTML and CSV. We’ll start by taking a look at the HTML version because it is, for most, the more interesting of the two. To do that, open the folder you have extracted and double click the index.html file
There are a few ways you can browse through your archive. You most recent tweets are displayed first and you can skip back through time using the arrow buttons to the left and right of the month header.
To the right of the page you’ll see a number of graphs – one for each year since you joined Twitter. These serve not only as a means of seeing how many tweets you posted in a particular month, but also as a way of navigating through them.
Hover your mouse over a bar on a graph and a popup will reveal how many tweets were made. Click the bar and you can browse through the tweets for that month. Just as with the main Twitter website, it is possible to search through your tweet archive, though here you’ll find just your own tweets, not everyone else’s tweets as you would on the Twitter.com search.
Type a keyword or two into the search bar at the top of the page – it does not matter if you are connected to the internet or not – hit enter, and any matching tweets will be displayed with the search term highlighted.
Your Twitter Spreadsheet
So far, your Twitter archive has taken a form that is very similar to the main Twitter site, but your download also includes your tweets in CSV (comma separated value) format which can be loaded up in Excel or your preferred spreadsheet tool. In the download you decompressed, load up the tweets.csv file in your spreadsheet app, or upload it to Google Docs or the Excel Web App to view it online.
This spreadsheet contains all of the same information as the HTML-based archive, but you are given the opportunity to sort tweets by date, user ID, method of tweeting and much more. There’s a great scope for getting creative with your data here, and it’ll be interesting to see if any new, unique apps get created just for visualizing and browsing your Twitter archives.
That’s All For Now
The only problem is, your Twitter archive won’t stay up to date, so you might want to redo your archive every so often. At any rate, it’s nice to be able to see everything that you’ve ever tweeted, and archive it just in case Twitter ever loses anything. Plus, it’s rather fun to see so much data – a virtual slice of your life – at your fingertips.
Have you downloaded your Twitter archive, and if so, what have you done with it so far? We’d love to hear about any interesting projects you’ve taken on with your Twitter archive in the comments below!