If you’ve been around ProfHacker for a bit, you’ll start to notice that we frequently return to a couple of themes. We like to eat, teach, be productive, and we absolutely, positively recommend that you take backups seriously. In the world of technology, it’s not if something will fail, it’s when. And when Fate decides it’s your turn for some hard-drive failure or to wash the phone that you forgot to take out of your pants, you will need your backups to continue to be as productive as you need to be.
It’s not necessarily difficult to make backups of your own, locally stored information. (And you can read some of our previous posts about backing up these data, including Annual Reminders–Backup, Back Up Your Essential Files Using Dropbox, Backing Up a Campus Email Account, and more.) It takes an initial investment of time and maybe some money to make sure that you’ve covered your own system. But sometimes what fails is someone else’s system. Your hosting provider could have a catastrophic failure (Mark’s experience with this situation led to more than one post on the subject of backing up your website or WordPress Blog as well as an admonition to check your backups.) Your entire campus’s Course Management System could go down, as Ethan’s did for three days last year. Or you could find yourself suddenly locked out of your Google Docs account, as happened to friend of ProfHacker Karin Dalziel last month.
Following Natalie’s advice on “How to Back Up Your Cloud” can get you over such unscheduled outages.
Of all the things that we have to lose access to, perhaps the least vital is our social networks. After all, you probably haven’t been working on that article on Facebook. That being said, social media is an important aspect of many academics’ workflows, helping us to network and connect with others. If you’ve spent a lot of time adding photos and tags and curating your social graph in Facebook, recovering those data and investment would be almost impossible. A little more than a year ago, Ethan covered how to backing up your social network. For that reason, I wanted to quickly update his post from a year ago with some tools that I have integrated into my workflow.
There are a number of different services and methods that one can use to backup one’s tweets. Ethan recommended Tweetake, which “which lets you backup your friends, followers, favorites, direct messages, and your own tweets. Within a few seconds Tweetake kicks out a CSV file containing the sender’s name and screen name, their location and description, timestamp, and the tweet text, along with just about all the other info that Twitter stores.” The number of tweets that the service can extract is, however, limited by Twitter’s API. For this reason, you might be better off having a constant backup system in place for your tweets.
One such system is Twapper Keeper. Twapper Keeper (TK) lets you create archives of tweets for particular hashtags, keywords, and for individuals. Using the service is as easy as going to the website, clicking on one of the types of archives, and providing a search term. You do not even need to login via Twitter to use it. You can see Twappers of my own tweets or of tweets related to the upcoming 2011 MLA Conference. Once you create an archive, TK grabs the tweets that fit its criterion and saves them for later. It even goes back some in time to grab past tweets. It too is limited by the Twitter API, so the sooner you create an archive, the sooner it will be grabbing your tweets. You can then export your tweets to an Excel spreadsheet in case you want follow Mark’s “Practical Advice for Teaching with Twitter” and assess how particular tweets are used. (Along with TK, Mark also recommends The Archivist. I haven’t used this tool myself, so I’ll simply point you to his post.)
A fan of redundancy, I also use Twistory as another way to backup my tweets. Twistory scrapes my tweets and adds them to the calendar of my choice. I have my tweets sent to my Google Calendar, which I then mirror to iCal on my home desktop. This means that Twistory provides me with three different backup streams of my tweets, one of which gets captured in other backups associated with that machine and another of which lives on Google’s servers.
And finally, I go for one more option, using BackupMyTweets. (Somebody loves his Twitter account….) Much like TK and Twistory, BackupMyTweets provides real-time copies of your tweets and provides flexible download options into HTML, XML, or JSON formats. BackupMyTweets is part of the larger BackupMy.Net suite of tools, which offers email, blog, and online photo backups. These latter services all carry subscription fees, but BackupMyTweets is free.
I don’t use Facebook nearly as much as I use Twitter, but I know that many others depend on it not simply for clicking cows and photos of friends and family but also for their academic networks.
Last year, Ethan discussed SocialSafe, which us “an Adobe AIR based desktop app (which means it runs on Mac & Windows) that lets you download and save (locally) all of the data and content from your Facebook account. This includes all photos, friends data, and profile data (this includes data relating to friends that was linked to the original profile). The great thing is that SocialSafe lets you browse your account locally (as opposed to saving it in some inaccessible and incomprehensible data structure).” As Ethan notes, SocialSafe isn’t free, but it continues to be offered for just $2.99.
Another option for backing up your Facebook account is the Firefox add-on, ArchiveFacebook, which was developed at Old Dominion University. This extension allows you to copy friends lists, messages, photos, events, groups, and more. Once you’ve installed the add-on, you will need to choose to create an archive. Moreover, you will need to create additional ones in the future as it does not update the archive. Depending on the amount of information in your account, making the archive can take several hours as well.
If what you most care about on Facebook are your photo albums, you might find another Firefox add-on more useful. Facebook Photo Album Downloader (facePAD) lets you download entire albums with a single button click. At the moment, you cannot use it to download photos that are not in albums, but the simplicity of facePAD means that you might find yourself using it more frequently than ArchiveFacebook.
The problem with all three of these options thus far is that they are not working in the background for your. A final option for backing up Facebook, then, would be to use Backupify. Natalie mentioned Backupify in her post on backing up your cloud because it handles much more than Facebook. It will grab your Twitter stream, Delicious bookmarks, Google Docs, Flickr photos, Blogger, WordPress sites, Google Calendar, and more. And yes, it will back up your Facebook. Backupify is free individuals who use less than 2 GB of storage, which should be enough for you to backup small accounts. I’ve used it to backup my Flickr, Twitter, Google Docs, and Facebook, and I have yet to hit my limit. It runs silently in the background of the Internet and sends me a weekly update to let me know that all’s well with my backups. Paid subscriptions cost $39.95 and $59.95 for 10 GB and 25 GB storage, respectively. But you can’t really beat free and automatic!
This isn’t an exhaustive list of how to backup your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Nor do we expect you to depend on only these two social networks. But here’s where you, the ProfHacker readers, come in!
What tools do you use to backup your social networks?
[Image by Flickr user swanksalot / Creative Commons licensed]