Mike Isaac

Recent Posts by Mike Isaac

Prepare to Cringe: Your Tweeted Life, Now Available for Download

Few things make me more aghast than a peek into my own past. Fashion choices from the ’90s. Old journal entries. My early taste in music.

On Wednesday, Twitter will give users another reason to cringe: The company will allow you to download your entire history of tweets from the moment you started using the service.

I’d venture to guess that the majority of Twitter users won’t have massive files to comb through, as the company has stated that the average user consumes more tweets than he or she writes.

But for the power users out there (like myself), there are six years of messages to browse. Twitter kindly makes it easier for the high-volume tweeters; you’re able to browse through by month, or search your archive by keywords, hashtags or specific usernames.

Philosophically, it’s a significant milestone for Twitter. For years, the company has taken the stance that users own their tweeted speech, and thus should be able to download and possess it as such. (The timing couldn’t be better, either, as Facebook and Instagram face a backlash from users who feel like their life photos are being commoditized and sold.)

Though, honestly, once you get the ability to do so, take a look at your early tweets. It’s horrifying. My first year of tweets was a mess of sound and fury, spit out into the void by an idiot, signifying nothing.

At the same time, it shouldn’t be surprising. Every service has a learning curve. Even Twitter’s founders — Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey — wrote many awful tweets (by today’s lofty standards) in the early days. It’s like learning to crawl before you can walk; everyone goes through that phase of tweeting what they had for breakfast. Looking back is embarrassing, yes. But I liken it to opening up my high school yearbook — it’s supposed to be a little cringe-worthy.

Want to experience true horror? Go look at your first Facebook messages from 2004.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik