Twit-story: The Library of Congress vs. Google Replay

The Library of Congress will collect and store the full volume of Twitter for “scholarly and research purposes.” Twitter is psyched because it’s another demonstration of legitimacy:

It is our pleasure to donate access to the entire archive of public Tweets to the Library of Congress for preservation and research. It’s very exciting that tweets are becoming part of history. It should be noted that there are some specifics regarding this arrangement. Only after a six-month delay can the Tweets will be used for internal library use, for non-commercial research, public display by the library itself, and preservation.

As evidenced by events like the Iranian election protests, Twitter users can act as documentarians of history as it happens.  The Library of Congress’s recognition of this is another sign that Twitter has grown up a bit; the timing couldn’t be better, coming just a couple days after they announced their advertising model.

For the vast majority of Twitter’s data, this announcement is really a non-story – after all, there’s nothing stopping anyone from visiting Twitter and accessing all public tweets.  What about accounts that have been deleted, though?  And what about the accounts that get deleted after the Library of Congress makes an official historical record of them?

Buried in Twitter’s blog post is a much “friendlier” strategy for making Tweets a part of history: Google’s Replay service, which allows users to revisit moments in history and watch events unfold through Twitter and other online media.

As with most announcements, the difference lies in the semantics.  Google Replay would pinpoint specific times and issues – in other words, it would gravitate toward tweets which were sent with the idea that they were for public consumption.  The idea of Twitter turning over a hard drive full of information to a government office may be no different in practice or outcome, but it sounds a lot creepier.  Suddenly, you may find yourself perusing your own Twitter feed to see if you have anything to worry about.  A better announcement might have been a joint release by Twitter, Google, and the Library of Congress discussing a way to incorporate publicly broadcast real-time updates into research.  It might have looked like a tool on the Library’s website, powered by Google.

The nature of Twitter makes this a minor issue, but it isn’t the only place that history is recorded in real time.   Facebook and Google Buzz have both incorporated elements to mimic Twitter’s free-flowing stream-of-consciousness format.  That means they’re just as potentially attractive to the Library of Congress as part of the “historical record” – even though their data is decidedly more sensitive.

Freedom of Informa…

Last week, Big Government covered the exposure of US Deputy Chief Technology Officer Andrew McLaughlin’s personal contact list through Google Buzz.  Though many Gmail users had the same problem, McLaughlin’s personal electronic Rolodex was embarrassing because it contained people potentially affected by the policies he was in charge of.  Because of this, Consumer Watchdog filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

And then the information was gone.  Left in its place are some tough questions about data on government computers – and whether or not that qualifies as government data.  Does Google have to release any data they have on McLuahglin?  He may have deleted his Google Buzz account, but does Google have that information backed up somewhere?

Situations like this make it clear why last week some of the biggest names in technology called on the federal government to establish strict protections on personal data.  They don’t want to be forced to reveal your personal data because then it will become obvious just how much of your data they have.

Coming soon: SNL joins the 21st Century

This weekend, my brother and I were remembering of our favorite SNL sketches. I wanted to watch it, so I dialed up Hulu, the free video site that includes content from NBC. Nothing. I had to go to Google Video to find “Sabra Price is Right.”

Funny enough, Mashable today reports that a new SNL website is in the works. The site would feature (legally uploaded) clips to watch.

Lorne Michaels and company are apparently still working out a revenue model for the site – which means they view this as a separate business venture from their TV show. But beyond their recent election-related ratings boost, SNL has spent the past few seasons struggling to find the relevance it once had as a source of cutting-edge comedy.

What better way to create a buzz and excitement about the show than to release their sketches online for the viral email-forwarding crowd? And what better way to track which three minute sketches (buried in a 90-minute show) generate audience reaction? To be on the cutting edge of comedy, SNL must join the cutting edge of technology (beyond Andy Samberg’s Digital Shorts).

Entertainment 2.0

I just found this article about an online variety show to promote the band Tally Hall. Warner Brothers’ offbeat promotion is an attempt to match modern media and the spirit of the Monkees. And good for them, because it seems like in today’s media environment, the bigger the company or cause is, the less likely they are to try new marketing and – more importantly – revenue models.

During my college days around the turn of the century, music downloads took off, and record companies attacked Napster. They should have realized that the black market sprang up because of some important consumer trends: sometimes people wanted to buy singles, rather than 13-song albums, and they wanted their media digitally. This was a new revenue model and a new market that iTunes eventually capitalized on; and now legal music downloading and internet radio sites exist. How badly do you think Sony, Universal, and other major labels wish they had thought of a download-based business model ten years ago?

The trend is starting to continue to video. Studios and television networks are quick to scour YouTube and pull unauthorized copies; anyone who has tried to share a Saturday Night Live sketch on Monday afternoon can attest to this. But now NBC and other networks and studios have been delivering web content though their own sites and through other sites like Hulu.

The beauty of capitalism is that factors such as the delivery of goods and services are ultimately dictated by the customer. Smart companies analyze those trends and find ways to take advantage of them.

BlackBerry Buzz

I just got back from a much-too-short vacation, during which I turned off my BlackBerry, dropped it into a drawer, and didn’t even look at it for three days.  Speaking of BlackBerries, the internet is all abuzz with headlines like this:

Campaign: John McCain Invented the BlackBerry

My first thought: “#$%& you, John McCain, for making me reachable at 3:00 a.m.” Just because Hillary Clinton is ready to take the call doesn’t mean I’m ready to take the email.

Then I read the actual posts by Wired’s normally-dependable Sarah Lai Stirland and Politico’s Jonathan Martin about this seemingly ridiculous claim. Both quote as their source McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who waved his BlackBerry in the air as evidence of developments in telecommunications over the past 15 years.

That’s not my spin. That’s Martin’s account:

“Asked what work John McCain did as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee that helped him understand the financial markets, the candidate’s top economic adviser wielded visual evidence: his BlackBerry. ‘He did this,’ Douglas Holtz-Eakin told reporters this morning, holding up his BlackBerry. ‘Telecommunications of the United States is a premier innovation in the past 15 years, comes right through the Commerce Committee. So you’re looking at the miracle John McCain helped create and that’s what he did.'”

Holtz-Eakin is taking too much credit for his boss – after all, no Senate Committee can or should really take credit for the innovations that companies like Apple, Research In Motion, AT&T, and others have made through their private research and development. But can anyone actually read this as a claim – even a mistaken one – that John McCain invented the BlackBerry?

The folks who are making hay over this are looking to create a parallel with the storm around Al Gore’s much-ridiculed “inventing the internet” gaffe. Of course, the joke about Gore stems from a direct quote (“During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet”). Drawing similarities with a staffer waving a prop is a stretch to say the least.

Biden my time…

Obama has tapped Joe Biden as his running mate. Apparently, flattery will get you everywhere.

In some ways, last weekend’s much-ballyhooed announcement did not go quite as Team Obama had planned; the text messages that were supposed to make grassroots activists the first to know was short-circuited by the good old Washington, D.C. insider leaks, and the mainstream media knew hours before the official announcement to ObamaNation.

But overall, the announcement must be considered a success. The Veepstakes dragged on for days as anticipation built. University of Virginia professor/political commentator Larry Sabato called the pick “acceptable,” but not a “game-changer.” In other words, it would have been a boring pick without the hype machine.