That sounds quite philosophical doesn’t it? Well it isn’t.
Earlier today, I just wanted to check whether I’d previously commented on something in Twitter. All I needed to do was doublecheck my Twitter feed and I’d be away.
Except that it would have been about a year ago. And Twitter’s river of tweets doesn’t really offer a good way to get back to last year’s “considerations.” My tweet count stands at something like 4,500. More than many, but fewer than plenty. Scrolling through well over a thousand messages to get back to last year isn’t easy. In fact, it’s pretty hard.
OK. Let’s try using the search box at the top of the Twitter page.
But that’s a really crude search box that essentially gives you live results, with perhaps a “Top Tweet” bucking the trend. No good for a historical search. And certainly, it doesn’t offer any way to separate out my own search results.
At this point I tweeted my problem and a couple of people suggested that I use search.twitter.com. This is the search engine that Twitter bought way back when it didn’t really offer a solution. Oddly enough, you’ll have to search hard to get from your Twitter page to this site. Indeed, I’ve still not found the link. You just have to know that it’s there.
If you click on advanced options or use the sytax from:@username you can specify an individual to search.
Except it doesn’t work.
Or rather, I couldn’t get it to work. When I searched for a word that I knew I’d mentioned in the last couple of week I got “No results.” So it’s a little hit or miss to say the least.
Google Realtime was also suggested. Google has done a deal with Twitter to ingest its data and improve live search results.
As you’ll see from the above screengrab, Google seems to rank my tweets on some kind of secret sauce, and although it’s obviously been indexing them for quite a while, there’s no obvious logic that I can detect apart from tweets or retweets with well-followed people seem to rise to the top.
But, again, I got a failure. Google couldn’t find a word I’d used two weeks ago. So I wasn’t confident that it’d identify a word I might have used a year ago.
In summary then, I’m not convinced that there’s any reliable way to search for an old tweet you’ve sent. If you’re famous, or your tweet gets retweeted endlessly, then it’ll show up. But if it just went out into the ether largely uncommented on, then it’s as good as lost…