Social Network Storage: Search and Retrieval Doesn’t Have to Stink

Social Network Search Got Me Down

Pedagogy and Learning, User Experience Comments (1)

Something has been bothering me for a while. Maybe this has been on your mind, too.

How long have you been on Facebook and Twitter? Four, five, six years? I joined Twitter in 2007 and Facebook in 2006, so it’s going on 6-7 for me (I was on Friendster, Orkut, and MySpace before those services opened up – yep, I was a social media geek even way back when). I have posted more than 11,500 tweets (all of them are great, I swear) and countless numbers of Facebook posts, photos and check-ins. If you are a social media user – a frequent poster to your timeline on Facebook or a compulsive Tweeter – you share these traits, and you probably have noticed a few things:

  1. It’s difficult to categorize or compartmentalize the content you have contributed in any sort of meaningful way. A lack of taxonomy or hierarchy makes it very difficult to ascribe deeper meaning to the information you share.
  2. Connecting with others that share interests is difficult at best. Twitter has recommended users of course, but those recommendations seem to be based on who follows whom, and not really about the content created and shared by those individuals. How can you find truly like-minded people on this huge network?
  3. Finding your past content on Twitter is hard; finding it on Facebook is near impossible. Try to search your Twitter timeline for something you tweeted, retweeted or favorited in the last week or two and it’s pretty easy. Try to search out a couple months ago or more, and it’s a hit-or-miss affair. Facebook is even worse. A few third-party sites like Archify have popped up that help with finding your content. However, those types of services just become another site or service you need to sign up for and provide access to your data for. Not very helpful in the long term, really.
  4. Locating posted content on these networks from others is not even something worth trying. Unless the content was posted to Twitter by someone relatively famous (10,000+ followers or more), and then favorited or retweeted by a score of others on the network, you are going to have a hard time finding it.
  5. The built-in search features on the networks are made for a different use case than searching for archival content. Facebook’s is tailored for searching for pages and people. Twitter is more a search of current or trending topics and hashtags.

If these sorts of limitations have raised their ugly head for you in your use of social media, you are not alone. Searching Google for “How to search Facebook posts” yields 10,900 results. A phrase like “How to save Tweets” results in 120,000! It’s pretty clear that the networks we all depend on are just not meeting these needs for archiving and searching, though Twitter has announced you’ll be able to download your tweets soon, I’m not so sure that it’s going to happen as they have stated. The clock is ticking, and I am growing impatient. I want to find my best content now! Facebook’s situation is even worse. An unusable mess, really.

It is likely that with the large user base that these platforms have, they could support this type of functionality. But at this time, they have chosen not to. Why is this?

It could certainly be the sheer volume of the data and user counts makes this type of feature impossible without significant investment. Other factors, such as lack of perceived value to the business model or absence of a revenue stream for archival content, are more likely at play here.

This leads me to my main focus here. I use Facebook and Twitter to learn and share things that I learn with others. I learn a LOT from people I talk with on these networks. Prior to my heavy Twitter involvement, I would blog daily (or close to it, anyway). After my Twitter usage increased to the current levels (sometime in 2010 or so, maybe), my overall personal blogging started to taper off. My conversations with others at conferences and industry events tell a similar story. The “Twitter ate my blog” syndrome is a real thing and it’s a tough spot to be in.

If you are trading short blog posts or have given up using your blog as a knowledge transfer tool to aggregate links and post them for others to read and find by posting these links to Twitter or Facebook, I would argue that you are simply acting as a sieve and not catching the good stuff for later. This knowledge you are sharing needs to be saved, archived, and tagged for later retrieval.

I’m sure you know by now that this was a key driving principle behind the creation of our network for learning, Tappestry. For more reasons behind why Tappestry was created, check this post, or this podcast.

The Tappestry platform is made for long-term saving, tagging, and retrieval. The use of high-speed, cloud-based NoSQL databases enables this. The Tin Can API helps ensure this. The agile Web services layer connecting all of the client layers to the system equips you to do this. The robust search features in the client software (Android, iOS and Web) empower you to achieve this.

So how does this play out in the real world, where more of your friends, followers, and family are on a more pervasive network like Facebook or Twitter? Well, I think a really useful way to leverage Tappestry for both immediate sharing and long-term storage and retrieval is to try out the “Share to Facebook” and “Share to Twitter” features in the Tappestry app.

You can create and store your learning events – or threads, as we call them – in Tappestry. By turning on the share feature in your settings on Tappestry, you can then automatically have your threads show up on the social network of your choice. It’s the best of both worlds, really: More people see your content, and you can still find it months later. The content is tagged and categorized, and you can easily find others that also are into topics that you are into. Your favorite things like location metadata, tagged people, favorites and hashtags are all searchable, as well, so why not log your content here before sharing it out to others?

I sometimes hear things from new Tappestry users like, “Well, I don’t want to use the ‘I Learned’, ‘I plan to’, etc. structure that Tappestry suggests to me when storing my content.” That’s entirely okay to feel that way, and it’s definitely okay to make modifications when you feel like posting something. Tappestry only offers these guides as a suggestion. You can log your content any way you see fit. No limitations really apply, actually. The suggestions are only that: suggestions.

So, there you have it. In short, the five issues I’ve found in the big social networks have been solved in Tappestry. I realize our network is just getting started, but the potential here is really big (others have noticed this, too). Hopefully, this information was useful to you as ponder ways to make your social data safer in the long term.

Why not try this use case out for a bit and see what you think? Use Tappestry for storage, sharing and search of your own learning record and important social data.

Unfortunately, all the other networks simply fall short in this area at this time. If you care about your content and want to be able to find it later, why not put it in a safe place?

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Chad Udell is the Managing Partner, strategy and new product development, at Float. There he leads his design and development teams to successful outcomes and award-winning work via a strong background in both disciplines and a singular focus on quality. He has worked with industry-leading Fortune 500 companies and government agencies to design and develop experiences for 20 years. Chad is recognized as an expert in mobile design and development, and he speaks regularly at national and international events and conferences on related topics. Chad is author of Learning Everywhere: How Mobile Content Strategies Are Transforming Training and co-editor and chapter author, with Gary Woodill, of Mastering Mobile Learning: Tips and Techniques for Success. His newest book, Shock of the New, co-authored with Gary Woodill was released in April of 2019.

» Pedagogy and Learning, User Experience » Social Network Storage: Search and...
On December 13, 2012
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One Response to Social Network Storage: Search and Retrieval Doesn’t Have to Stink

  1. Raphael says:

    I wrote an app that lets you search for your old Facebook photos, videos, notes, status posts and events.

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