My first-ever tweet and, 50,000 tweets later, some other meditations on Twitter


Some time on Tuesday, I expect I will send out my 50,000th tweet. Seems like a lot when you look at a big number like that. But then, this is post number 3,743 at this blog and these posts are way longer than 140 characters. So when I think about it,  3,743 blog posts sounds like way more work than 50,000 tweets.

In any event …

Twitter has recently started rolling out a service to some users that allows the user to download an archive of all his or her tweets. This is not available to all of its users but some few are finding they can do this. My lucky number came up this week. [If it’s there for you, you’ll find it under “Settings” way down at the bottom]. You request your Twitter archive and a few minutes later, an e-mail is in your inbox from Twitter with a link to download your tweets. Mine came as a ZIP file that, once unzipped, made up about 68 MB of space. I’d expected more, to be honest.

In any event, here’s my very first tweet, posted Aug 16, 2008 at 11:29 a.m.:


Exciting, eh?

I’m not sure I’ve improved much since in terms of quality of tweets but I’ll keep trying!

Now, what would be really great is if  if I could download the entire archive of someone else’s tweets. But, until I can do that, you can get the last 3,000 or so my tweets or any other user’s tweets by heading to and punching in the user name. My geek friends tell me that the functionality of may soon get busted up when Twitter updates the software that lets developers tie into Twitter’s platform to create new services and apps. (That is known as the API or application programming interface).

Back in 2009 when all I could think of to Tweet was to tell people I was mowing my lawn, I had trouble trying to figure out how Twitter could be useful for me or why anyone on earth might want to follow me and be interested in knowing I was mowing the lawn. In fact, less than six months after that first tweet, I considered packing it in on Twitter (and wrote about that decision here:  I’m De-Twittering: Here’s why) because I was unable to see the utility in it. Reading back over that post now, I see much that I would revise. The complaint I had then, though,  about Twitter and “Search” still stands.

If you’re reading that post about de-twittering, by the way,  read the comments. Those comments and reaction I had from others in my digital ecosystem made me reconsider Twitter. And now here I am: on the cusp of 50,000 tweets, maxed out on the number of lists, with 17,000 followers and 3,000+ people I follow. The only person who I actually know in meatspace (as we called it back when I was a tech reporter) who has hit 50K tweets is @Kady and she’s already within spitting distance of 150,000 tweets …

But Kady O’Malley, like me and, I think, a lot of reporters have found Twitter to be an invaluable tool for our jobs as we go about the dual jobs of newsgatherers and publishers. That’s why we keep hanging around the joint.

And beyond Twitter’s utility, it really is a social network, in that as you use it more and explore its possibilities, you will find and form relationships with the real flesh-and-blood people who are behind often pseudonymous Twitter accounts that you end up interacting with on a daily basis. I tried to get at some thoughts around that in this post: “On the death of Twitter friend.” I just re-read that and it makes as much if not more sense to me now that it did when I wrote it. And for those who know Penlan (offline or off), I suspect she’d be quite chuffed to know I still think about our odd digital-only relationship.

3 thoughts on “My first-ever tweet and, 50,000 tweets later, some other meditations on Twitter”

  1. I had little besides criticism for Twitter when I first discovered it as well. A friend convinced me to get an account for promoting my blog, but for a long time it was just a content distribution venue. It wasn’t until the ‘Arab Spring’ that I realized the utility of Twitter as an information-gathering venue, allowing me to get real-time updates and connect to a wider variety of perspectives than I could hope to garner from the newspaper.

    In for a penny, in for a pound, as they say – Twitter is now my main source for news commentary (although I still do rely on CBC and BBC for most of my news per se), but I’ve also really enjoyed the social media aspects you point to. It’s particularly useful for groups that can’t interact physically, such as abuse survivors or people with disabilities, who are precluded from ‘meatspace’ interaction by reasons of financial or physical accessibility.

    The thing I worry most about with Twitter is how insular it allows one to be. Technically, I could completely filter all views that disagree with my own, and have to work diligently to ensure that I have divergent opinions crossing my feed at regular intervals (which is, incidentally, why I follow your feed).

    All that is to say this: I’m glad you changed your mind.

  2. Thanks, Crommunist. I was on the ground on Tahrir Square for the Jan 25 uprisings and I can tell you, Twitter (when the government allowed the Internet to be turned on) was vital for our safety. It provided real-time tracking of the gangs of thugs, bad police/good police, fights, etc around the square at any given time. With no real civil authority on the Square, Twitter became the real-time “ALERT” service. Probably worth a longer/broader post on that subject …
    Now, anytime, I travel, whether to cover the Alberta provincial election or a foreign summit in Perth, Australia, it’s very quick and easy to plug into the “what’s happening” conversation and get a quick lay of what’s news and what’s about to be news…

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