Capturables from Bad Hair Day #4

Dave Winer and Marshall Kirkpatrick have two guests this time: Chris Saad and Doc Searls. As I mentioned in my notes from the 3rd episode, something in the dynamic of the conversation changed when the show's format changed from having just Dave and Marshall (as in the first two episodes) to having guests as well. But never mind; perhaps the positive tension between the two wouldn't have lasted over a longer series of shows anyway.

Two things I'd care to capture. First, it was funny that everyone but Dave mentioned using the Greasemonkey script for presenting Twitter search results on top of a Google search results page, which Marshall had just explained in the previous show. I'm figuring out how to start using it myself.

Secondly, it's always nice to read, listen to or look at Doc Searls. A show with Doc cannot fail, because he'll always spill a little gem of wisdom (or two, or a big one). This time what caught my ear was his reference to the ethical side of Twitter not being searchably archived.

I agree with the implication that there is a moral duty – I don't know on whose behalf, possibly Twitter, possibly the government – to enable the public to browse and search for what was published on Twitter at any time in the past.

Twitter is becoming a medium in its own right, a public news system. One could even see it as a utility (like the Internet itself). It's becoming so important that it will need to open up, be archived and searchable, and managed in a more transparent way, with more public involvement.

For now, Twitter is a silo, a walled garden, just like all the other social media and social networking services. The live web will be federated, one way or another. It's something Dave Winer has been campaigning for for a while. Unfortunately it doesn't really seem to be happening yet.

Okay, some people will object to my using the term walled garden, because all these systems do allow linking to and importing content from external sources. But that's not the point. The point is that as a user, I need to subscribe to all these services separately, and conversations are generally confined within those systems and according to the terms of service from the companies that run them.

Disqus, in my view, is an interesting example of a service which federates a specific type of communication (namely comments), across platforms and services. Still, even discuss is not an open standard. Email is perhaps a better example: it's ubiquitous and there is no lock-in of any kind, because it runs on technical conventions (standard and protocols) which are supported by numerous providers.

Final thought: I happen to have close links to some ambitious digital archiving initiatives in Finland. So I wonder what it would take, technically and in terms of resources, to build a searchable Twitter archive. And I wonder if there's a business model in there that would be worth exploring.

See also the FriendFeed group at