For those of us who forget what happened twelve minutes ago never mind twelve months, trying to sit back and reflect on the year just gone is incredibly difficult to do without a little help.
But for those of us with a personal Twitter account your timeline should be a reasonable means of seeing what you were doing, thinking, watching, taking the piss out of and moaning about throughout any given period of time. Or in my case, the year 2013. But sitting back to do just this on a quiet New Years Eve afternoon I soon discovered this wasn’t quite as easy as it sounds.
First of all I went lo-fi. A simple bit of scrolling down the list of tweets from my profile page. Easy, or so I thought. Now I’m not the most profligate Tweeter but even with a reasonably manageable Twitter habit I soon found that scrolling – and scrolling – and scrolling – and scrolling (etc) is about as much fun as an hour of daytime TV. But going through all that scrollbar pain to only get as far back as March 2013? Perhaps it was my puerile commentary on the Eurovision Song Contest (May 2013) that had caused Twitter to say ‘enough of this shite’ and burst into tears, but a display limit of 3200 tweets was probably the more likely reason for the dreaded ‘Back to top’ message and my year apparently beginning in Spring.
So. Third party apps. Mmmm. I checked a few out but can’t say any of them quite did what I wanted, so sorry API developers looking for a plug, there’s nothing to see here. Move on. So how about Twitter itself? Is there a way of quickly and simply sifting through all of 2013’s outpourings without ending up with a burnt out scroll wheel and a bad case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Well, yes there is. But neither Twitter nor the various nerd blogs do a great job of explaining how to do it unless you’re a nerd yourself. So assuming you aren’t a nerd and might actually want to see your fabulously witty asides on Richard and Adam (‘who?’) from this year’s #BTG (‘oh yeah – the singing brothers!’) here’s a slightly simpler guide to accessing your entire archive right from your very first ‘Hello Twitter!’ to your latest rant on the new year’s honours list. And BTW, this is assuming you’re on a PC or laptop. If you can do the same thing on a smartphone – good luck.
1) Log into your account on Twitter.com and click the Cog thing and then ‘Settings’. Yes, this is for non-nerds. You’ve been warned.
2) Right at the bottom of your Settings screen is an option to create a Twitter archive. Simply click the ‘Send Email’ button (yes I know my screenshot says ‘Re-send’. Don’t ask) and the Twitter elves will get to work collecting your entire micro-blogging output from your very first loss of Twitter virginity.
3) Apologies. Twitter doesn’t actually have elves, but if it did they would send you an email with a blue ‘Go Now’ button which will take you to this:
4) So after heeding the warning that your downloaded archive may contain ‘sensitive content’ which I think translates as meaning ‘total shite that will ruin your professional reputation forever’ you press the Download button and save the file containing your Twitter archive to your hard drive. So far, fairly straightforward. But here’s where non-nerds might get a bit confused. Zip files. Yep, them.
5) Your Twitter archive is now saved to your hard drive as a whacking great but highly compressed Zip file that looks a bit like this:
Yes I know, it looks more like a folder than a file but see that zip thing? That’s Microsoft showing they have a (sort of) sense of humour. Your next step is to (ahem) Unzip. In other words you need to ‘extract’ the contents of your Zip file so you can actually do stuff with the files and folders within.
8) Right-click on this icon and choose the ‘extract all’ option. I would include a screenshot but that might be getting a bit patronising by now, so just take my word for it. Choose where you want to create your extracted folder (again, ‘Desktop’ is as good a place as any) and away you go.
6) Now there’s two ways of seeing your archived Twitter genius. You could simply double-click the ‘tweets.csv’ file (highlighted) and open a rather huge spreadsheet that looks something like this:
Yep, it’s a bit underwhelming. Lots of weird numbers only understood by people who not only love Star Trek but have probably gone to the trouble of learning Klingon. And not at all interactive, which is especially thin gruel for those whose Twitter experience is mainly about replying to the Tweets of others. To whom or what were you typing ‘OMFG!!’ Excel won’t tell you to be honest.
7) Or, there’s the ‘index.html’ file (also highlighted).
9) And this is where the real stuff happens. Your web browser should show you something like this:
10) And that’s about it really. The cool thing about seeing your Tweets this way is being able to see your output by month and year. You can even type ‘Twat’ into the search box to track down every time you’ve said rude things about Piers Morgan.