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I once heard a great story about the sparse historical record of the world of the “common man.” An “average Jacques” who lived a block or two from the Bastille in Paris apparently didn’t hear the commotion when over 8,000 French revolutionaries spent all day storming the prison in 1789. So, his diary entry for the biggest day in the history of democracy, unfolding in his very own neighborhood, was something like: “Not much happened today. It rained.”

Most of the 55 million daily Tweets that the library of congress is beginning to store may be nothing more than 140-word-or-fewer observations that “not much happened today. It rained,” but there also is other stuff in there that will be a gold mine for future historians and observers of culture. And that could be kind of scary if you wrote it.

The Times quoted Fred R. Shapiro, associate librarian and lecturer at the Yale Law School, “This is an entirely new addition to the historical record, the second-by-second history of ordinary people.”

Most tweets are public and available to anyone who subscribes, so archiving them ALL is certainly no big new exposure. Plus, the collection, for the moment, is only available to bona fide scholars. It does, however, give one pause knowing that they are being preserved in a searchable database. Will it ALWAYS be reserved for scholars? Selling subscriptions could provide a nice revenue stream for some future cash-starved government.

Just as some Facebook and Myspace users have learned, employers and busybody keepers of the public morals are ready at any time to go looking for evidence of past discretions.

Story here: “Library of Congress Will Save Tweets”

Tom Kelchner