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Monday, 20 September 2010

Tweet Delete Policy

I decided today that I was going to delete all my old tweets, and only keep the last month or so on my stream.  Because Twitter doesn't offer intelligent bulk delete options I started by wiping my entire stream, including the last month, using TwitWipe (a tortuous process due to bugs in TwitWipe - plus retweets need to be manually deleted).

Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, eh?! (If you believe that, read this first.)

Here's a list of my reasons why I feel this is a sound policy:
1.) Tweets are of the moment, and much of what I tweet about is pretty much redundant even a day after the tweet, never mind a few years.
2.) It's very easy to take a tweet out of context, especially given the limited number of characters to clarify.  It's too easy for someone to quote a single tweet of mine out of context and misrepresent my intentions.
3.) I treat remarks on twitter like spoken conversation.  Why would I want a permanent record of every word I ever spoke?  As per the first two points I want to be free to discuss what's on my mind today and not have some future person or application trawl through my tweets from the last 2 years and put me in some box or other.
4.) I don't think I have anything to hide. (Have I said that enough, yet?) But too many people are having their lives disrupted due to throw-away comments made on Twitter.  Examples include Paul Chambers, who's since lost two jobs due to a single misguided tweet,  John Dixon, a councillor facing investigation by Wales' public standards watchdog for a tweet about Scientology, and Kevin Pietersen, who was fined by the England and Wales Cricket Board for what I thought was a perfectly understandable outburst posted in the heat of the moment.  Many more examples are emerging of ordinary people being judged by throw-away comments analysed after the fact.
5.) 99% Boring - with so many thousands of tweets in my stream the good stuff - or at least the tweets I think others should be interested in - are lost.  I'm going to try and wipe the chaff on a regular basis, but this may prove too much hard work.

I'm not sure whether this is the right move, but I'm going to give it a try.  If you have any thoughts please feel free to comment below.. (And then return in a month to delete your comment!!)


Update 21-Sep-2010: Dan Benton questions whether tweets can actually be "deleted" and set up this fantastic experiment.  My initial thoughts on this were: I suspect they [these third-party services] have to honour deletes else open themselves up legally, e.g. in a libel claim.

If I make a libellous claim in a tweet, then any other publisher who repeats that claim could be pursued for damages as a co-defendant.  I could enter an agreement with the claimant to delete said tweet - and, as is most likely, publish an apology - in exchange for the case being dropped.  Services re-publishing my tweets and not honouring delete notifications could themselves be the subject of legal action.

Knowing a few publishers as I do I know they have means to get indexed and cached search results of web pages removed from search engines in a reasonably prompt fashion on the few occasions articles are removed under threat of legal action.  I suspect these search engines play by similar rules.

But I'm eagerly awaiting the results of Dan's experiment.

PS Dan - who told you to play nice, and would you otherwise not have played nice ;-)


  1. Possibly a good idea - but I use my twitter stream as a link stash and search it via backupmytweets! I suppose I could search inside bit.ly, which might be better...

  2. I agree, how narcissistic can one be... all this chatter is fine the day it's being sent/received. But certainly not worth preserving for eternity!

  3. I don't really see the point. If someone is looking up something you said months ago the chances are they aren't using twitter and the chances are that this other tool won't have deleted your tweets either.

    There are now hundreds (if not thousands) drinking from the Twitter firehose of which a lot are already twitter search engines. I don't believe that any of them honour deleted tweets. I wonder if Google/Bing/Yahoo do either?

  4. i've come to the same conclusion for past 6months since i first started using twitter. the content is ephemeral and useless afterwards. plus, some things i've posted can be embarrassing upon looking at it days/weeks later. sometimes I drink and tweet :) - and that results in bad tweets - lol. I thought of creating my own 'TidyTwitter' app to periodically wipe out all but the most recent 2 weeks of tweets to keep it all nice and clean. I assumed someone else had made something similar - now i know for sure. I've also really reduced my own tweets - practicing self-restraint since 'no one gives a $hit' about what i'm about to tweet. Twitter is mainly a means for me to get links to great tutorials for web dev., blog articles, etc...


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