As part of my evolving IndieWeb experience of owning all of my own internet-based social data, last year I wanted a “quick and dirty” method for owning and displaying all of my Twitter activity before embarking on a more comprehensive method of owning all of my past tweets in a much more comprehensive way. I expected even a quick method to be far harder than the ten minute operation it turned out to be.
Back in early October, I had also replied to a great post by Jay Rosen when he redesigned his own blog PressThink. I saw a brief response from him on Twitter at the time, but didn’t get a notification from him about his slightly longer reply, which I just saw over the weekend:
So, for his benefit as well as others who are interested in the ability to do something like this quickly and easily, I thought I’d write up a short outline of what I’d originally done so that without spending all the time I did, others can do the same or something similar depending on their needs.
If part of Mr. Rosen’s reply doesn’t give you enough motivation for why one would want to do this, IndieWeb.org has a laundry list of motivations along with a list of dead and defunct sites and social media silos that have taken pedabytes of data with them when they died.
How to (Quickly) Own and Display Your Tweets on Your Own Site
Download all your tweets
- Go to: https://twitter.com/settings/account
- Near the bottom of the page you should see a “Your Twitter archive” section
- See the
Request your archivebutton? Click it.
- After a (hopefully) short wait, a link to your archive should show up in your email associated with the account. Download it.
- Congratulations, you now own all of your tweets to date!
- You can open the
index.htmlfile in the downloaded folder to view all of your tweets locally on your own computer with your browser.
Display your Twitter archive
The best part is now that you’ve got all your tweets downloaded, you can almost immediately serve them from your own server without any real modification.
Simply create an (accessible–use the same permissions as other equivalent files) folder named
In my case I created a subfolder within my WordPress installation, named it “twitter”, and uploaded the files. Once this is done, you should be able to go to the URL
http://example.com/twitter and view them.
As an example and to see what my archive looks like, visit http://boffosocko.com/twitter.
Alternately one could set up a subdomain (eg. http://twitter.example.com) and serve them from there as well. You can change the URL by changing the name of the folder. As an alternate example, Kevin Marks uses the following: http://www.kevinmarks.com/tweets/.
When you’re done, don’t forget to set up a link from your website (perhaps in the main menu?) so that others can benefit from your public archive. Mine is tucked in under the “Blog” heading in my main menu.
Unfortunately, while you’ve now got a great little archive with some reasonable UI and even some very powerful search capabilities, most of the links on the archive direct back to the originals on Twitter and don’t provide direct permalinks within the archive. It’s also a static archive, so you’ve periodically got to re-download and upload to keep your archive current. I currently only update mine on a quarterly basis, at least until I build a more comprehensive set up.
Current Set Up
At the moment, I’m directly owning all of my Twitter activity on my social stream site, which is powered by Known, using the POSSE philosophy (Post on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere). There I compose and publish all of my Tweets and re-Tweets (and even some likes) directly and then I syndicate them to Twitter in real-time. I’ve also built and documented a workflow for more quickly tweeting using my cell phone in combination with either the Twitter mobile app or their mobile site. (Longer posts here on BoffoSocko are also automatically syndicated (originally with JetPack and currently with Social Network Auto-Poster, which provides a lot more customization) to Twitter, so I also own all of that content directly too.)
You’ll notice that on both sites, when content has been syndicated, there’s a section at the bottom of the original posts that indicates to which services the content was syndicated along with permalinks to those posts. I’m using David Shanske’s excellent Syndication Links plugin to do this.
Ultimately, I’d like to polish the workflow a bit and post all of my shorter Twitter-like status updates from BoffoSocko.com, but I still have some work to do to better differentiate content so that my shorter form content doesn’t muddy up or distract from the people who prefer to follow my longer-form content. Based on his comment, I also suspect that this is the same semantic issue/problem that Jay Rosen has. I’d also like to provide separate feeds/subscription options so that people can more easily consume as much or as little content from my site as they’d like.
For those who are interested in more comprehensive solutions for owning and displaying their Tweets, I’ve looked into a few WordPress-based possibilities and like the following two which could also be potentially modified for custom display:
- DsgnWrks Twitter Importer
- Ozh’ Tweet Archiver (Separately available on GitHub with scripts [.csv, JSON] for importing more than 3200 Tweets limit imposed by Twitter API; it also has a custom “Twitter” theme available; for additional support and instructions there are additional blogposts available.  
Both of these not only allow you to own and display your tweets, but they also automatically import new Tweets using the current API. Keep in mind that they use the PESOS philosophy (Post Elsewhere, Syndicate to your Own Site) which is less robust than POSSE, mentioned above.
I’ll note that a tremendous number of WordPress-based plugins within the plugin repository that are Twitter related predate some of the major changes in Twitter’s API in the last year or two and thus no longer work and are no longer supported, so keep this in mind if you attempt to explore other solutions.
Those with more coding ability or wokring on other CMS platforms may appreciate a larger collection of thought and notes on the Twitter wiki page created by the IndieWeb Community. 
Do you own your own Tweets (either before or after-the-fact)? How did you do it? Feel free to tell others about your methods in the comments, or better yet, write them on your own site and send this post a webmention (see details below).
The IndieWeb movement is coding, collecting, and disseminating UI, UX, methods, and opensource code to help all netizens to better control their online identities, communicate, and connect themselves to others at IndieWeb.org. We warmly invite you to join us.