Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Case Study No. 0193: Billy Hoppis and Thomas Youkel

Twitter archive inside the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is preserving all the public tweets ever sent so that our descendants may read them. Jason Cochran went deep inside the Library's Washington, DC, storage area to see the stacks.
Tags: twitter tweets jason cochran library of congress social media tweeting alyssa milano libraries history anthropology pompeii documentary interviews
Added: 10 months ago
From: bastablejc
Views: 133

[scene opens with Jason standing in front of the Library of Congress and speaking directly to the camera]
JASON: This is Jason Cochran in Washington DC, where the Library of Congress has just acquired every single public tweet ever sent.
[cut to Thomas Youkel ("Information Technology Specialist") opening a door marked "Restricted Area, Authorized Personnel Only", as they enter the computer room where the library's digital information is stored]
[cut to Jason talking with Billy Hoppis ("Asst. Director of Operations")]
JASON: First of all, it's kind of warm in here ... and, and noisy. Sounds like a water treatment plant or something. And that's just the computers doing that?
BILLY HOPPIS: That's right.
["This tweet's future home: A warm, humming, windowless computer room deep in the Library of Congress' Madison Building - @bastable" appears on screen, as various shots of the computer equipment in the room are shown]
JASON: [in voice over] This is where every single public tweet ever written will be preserved for all posterity.
[cut to Thomas speaking with Jason, as he points out some of the equipment]
THOMAS YOUKEL: Each one of these is a disk. Each one of these is a one-terabyte disk.
["I learned the tweets the Library of Congress will store, about 5 TBs worth, could fit on disks into a shoebox. Twice. Probably three times. - @bastable" appears on screen]
THOMAS YOUKEL: If you're asking me how many terabytes of tweets we are gonna take in, we're gonna take in five terabytes.
[cut back to Jason speaking with Billy]
JASON: So, what happened when you guys first announced that you're gonna be taking so many of the tweets from history?
BILLY HOPPIS: Well, we had a ... We noticed a large increase in the number of hits on our main gateway server.
[cut to Jason speaking with Matt Raymond ("LOC Director of Communications")]
MATT RAYMOND: The IT guys don't like me to say "crashed" ...
[cut back to Jason speaking with Billy]
BILLY HOPPIS: Nothing actually went down ... for good, or anything.
[cut back to Jason speaking with Thomas]
THOMAS YOUKEL: Do I actually actively tweet? No ... What am I, gonna send my wife a tweet that says I'm gonna be late for dinner?
[cut back to Jason speaking with Matt]
MATT RAYMOND: Y'know, it's not about finding out what he or Alyssa Milano ... Y'know, she retweeted me, by the way, I was very excited about that.
JASON: [laughs]
["Wow. When did I get so hungry? I could eat this table w/ a side of ranch. Everything is better w/ a side of ranch. - @Alyssa_Milano" appears on screen]
MATT RAYMOND: What she had for breakfast, like four months ago. It's for people to come in and do research, and let's make some discoveries about what we're like at this point in history.
[cut back to Jason speaking with Thomas]
THOMAS YOUKEL: Well, if you go back to even where we do have a lot of that minutiae in places like Pompeii and Herculaneum, that were covered by the volcano, by Vesuvius ... and you see the detail and the detail that come out from daily life in Rome, so why couldn't you mine tweets in the same fashion? To get what people were thinking at an immediate time period?
JASON: It's also kind of interesting that you would compare writing about Justin Bieber on the internet with, basically, the fall of a Roman city ...
["Should Justin Bieber get a new haircut? bUCkOY - @jsykdotcom" appears on screen]
JASON: I kinda like that.
[cut to Jason speaking with Matt outside the building]
JASON: But I wanna know, what was the tweet that Alyssa Milano retweeted?
MATT RAYMOND: Well, it was the very first tweet ... In fact, we wanted to announce the acquisition by Twitter, so it said "Library to acquire entire Twitter archive, all tweets ever, more details to follow."
["Library of Congress to acquire ENTIRE Twitter archive: bsEpT (via @librarycongress @PoliticsDaily) - @Alyssa_Milano" appears on screen]



Library of Congress' hidden Twitter computer room: WalletPop takes a peek
By Jason Cochran
Posted 12:15AM 05/20/10

The Library of Congress recently made headlines by announcing an unusual acquisition: every public tweet ever sent on Twitter. Cleverly, it made the announcement by Twitter -- and the interest brought the library's servers to a standstill. For all that, the IT guys in charge of keeping every tweet for posterity don't tweet at all.

Why would the Library be interested in obtaining something like that? And where are they going to put those tweets? I was given an exclusive invitation to come to Washington, DC, to find out.

In the humming computer stacks in the James Madison Memorial Building of the Library, preserving digital media is an ongoing challenge. Everything that's chosen for preservation, and there's a lot beyond Twitter messages, must be backed up, and as the storage media ages and evolves, must be put on the latest storage devices to ensure it can be read by the next generation of users.

The Library of Congress is your library. Like Twitter, it's free to use. So there's an advantage to keeping those throwaway bits of minutia clogging the Web.

If you're an anthropologist, you don't see a tweet as useless at all. Years from now, they will illuminate everyday life in a way we never have been able to do for previous generations.

Just like at home, computers can go down. At the Library of Congress, IT technicians sometimes find themselves in futile arguments with impassive computers. On one keyboard in the storage area, the IT guys jokingly leave spare change in the hopes that they'll appease the computer gods -- in this case, one of the processor towers is nicknamed Minerva, after a landmark mural in the Great Hall of the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building.

We're in the Library of Congress now, too: WalletPop is on Twitter as @walletpopper, and I'm there as @bastable.

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