Introducing the DocNow App

This week’s post was written by Zakiya Collier, Community Manager at Documenting the Now.

This week the Documenting the Now project announces the release of DocNow, an application for appraising, collecting, and gathering consent for Twitter content. DocNow reimagines the relationship between content creators and social media analysts (archivists and researchers) by addressing two of the most challenging issues of social media archiving practice—the issues of consent and appraisal.

The Documenting the Now Project is happy to release version 1.0 of our open-source tool freely for anyone to use. Read all about the app, what it does, and how to engage with the DocNow project team for support and providing feedback.

Over the last seven years, Documenting the Now has helped to foster an environment where a more broad sector of cultural memory workers can learn about web archiving tools and practices and can become involved with web archiving networks. This has largely been achieved by practicing transparency and inviting people who have traditionally been left out of established web content archiving networks into the project to participate, namely students, activists, and archivists who represent marginalized communities and who work in community-centered organizations, HBCUs, public libraries, community-based archives, and tribal libraries and archives.

Documenting the Now was a response to the need among scholars, activists, archivists, and other memory workers for new tools that would provide easily-accessible and user-friendly means to collect, visualize, analyze, and preserve web and social media content to better document public events. In addition, it aimed to respond to questions and concerns related to ethics, safety, intellectual property, and access issues for the collection, preservation, and dissemination of Twitter data in particular.

Documenting the Now has also developed community-centered web and social media archiving tools that both prioritize care for content creators and robust functionality for users:

  • Twarc – a command line tool and Python library for collecting tweet data from Twitter’s official API
  • Hydrator – a desktop application for turning Tweet ID datasets back into tweet data to use in your research
  • Social Humans – a label system to specify the terms of consent for social media content
  • The Catalog – a community-sourced clearinghouse to access and share tweet identifier datasets

In continuing to support and develop tools that embody ethical practices for social media archiving, the DocNow app joins this suite of tools. DocNow is an application for appraising, collecting, and gathering consent for Twitter content and includes several new features including:

  • Trends tab to view trending topics across the globe in real time
  • Explore tab to view content by users, media, URLs, and related hashtags all on one screen
  • Live testing and refining of collecting parameters on recent tweets
  • Tweets per hour calculator to easily identify Twitter bot accounts
  • Search and Collect tweets back in time via Search API and forwards with Stream API
  • Activate toggle to start collecting tweets and send a notification tweet to encourage transparency and communication in Twitter data collection
  • Collections tab to share information about your collection with the public
  • “Find Me” and Insights Overview features to specify and gather consent using Social Humans labels
  • Download Tweet ID archive for sharing following Twitter’s terms of service

The DocNow app also works in concert with other Documenting the Now tools, creating for users, a 4-step social media archiving journey:

Step 1: Collect content with the DocNow App by activating a search. Set collection limits and explore insights as your collection grows.
Step 2: Download your archive from the DocNow App, which includes a Tweet Viewer, Tweet IDs, and media files.
Step 3: Hydrate your Tweet IDs from the archive’s tweets.csv file back into full
tweets using DocNow’s Hydrator desktop application.
Step 4: Describe your collection and share your Tweet IDs with other researchers by adding them to the DocNow Catalog.

Ways to Use DocNow
There are 3 different ways to use DocNow including joining the community instance, running DocNow locally on a computer, and installing an instance of DocNow in the cloud. The Community Instance is a great way to get familiar with the tool before committing to running an instance but those with development skills may want to administer their own instance of DocNow locally or in the cloud.

  1. Join Documenting the Now‘s hosted community instance
  2. Run DocNow locally on your machine
  3. Install your own instance in the cloud

For help with installation and getting started, the Documenting the Now team will host community conversations. Dates will be announced soon! More information about the DocNow App can be found here.

Documenting the Now is seeking community input on all of our features as we continue to develop DocNow. Please join our slack channel by going to our website or email us at info@docnow.io.

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