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Trouble for the tweet keepers?

Library of Congress’s ambitious plan to create a Twitter archive still hasn’t taken flight

By Alex Beam
Globe Staff / January 25, 2011

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Cast your mind back to last April when the Library of Congress breathlessly announced the creation of a Twitter archive. Oh, brave new world! The thoughts of Ashton Kutcher (“I’m co-hosting Regis and Kelly today’’) memorialized for the ages. The media went nuts, and Library officials were sounding off to anyone with questions about this important new historical resource, available to — nice Orwellian touch here — “qualified researchers.’’

Now you could hear a pin drop. “We had been hoping to have things pretty airtight by October 2010,’’ library spokesman Matthew Raymond e-mailed me. Calling the project a “hot potato,’’ Raymond said, “It’s at a sensitive point right now that involves a potential third-party helping facilitate the ongoing ingest.’’ Twitter spokeswoman Carolyn Penner has her information-flensed corporatespeak at the ready: “There’s lots we’re working through. It’s a big endeavor and we’re making sure we get it right.’’

Question: Can individuals opt out of the archive? “People can opt out by protecting their account,’’ Penner replied. Suppose they want to delete their messages in the future? “I’m not going to speculate on what options will or won’t be available in ten years,’’ she e-mailed.

Question: What will this cost the taxpayer? “It’s hard to predict what it will require from a budgetary standpoint,’’ Raymond e-mailed. “I think ultimately the funds needed for the technical piece would be low because we’re not talking about an overwhelming amount of gigs and bandwidth.’’ Someone will have to pay for the servers, won’t they? “That would be difficult to break out,’’ Penner responded.

Trouble in Twitter paradise? I suspect this has devolved into an unholy technical and legal clusterfunk, with lawyers piling upon lawyers a la Google Book Settlement to produce a highly compromised and entirely unrewarding result. But it is comforting to know that future historians will have access to this important tweet from the Twitter account [stuff]mydogsays: “Woof woof.’’

Why we no have
Who knew that Connecticut had a state troubadour? What a great idea! I’ve listened to music by three of them — Thomasina Levy, Lara Herscovitch, and Chuck Costa, who was appointed to a two-year term just last week — and they’re all quite talented. “It’s pretty low-key, and it’s a lot of fun,’’ Levy told me. “I played for the governor, and I got a lot of school gigs, too. Many states have poet laureates, but we are the only one with a state troubadour.’’

The job does not seem to require heavy lifting. In return for an annual stipend of $2,500, the troubadour must perform three concerts for the state’s culture and tourism commission, and “promote the state of Connecticut in song.’’ The appointment lasts two years, prompting ex-troubadour Herscovitch to call herself a “troubefore.’’

Could it happen here? Cambridge and Somerville are brimming with guitar-strumming crooners. But Massachusetts Cultural Council spokesman Greg Liakos tossed cold water on my enthusiasm. “In 1988 our budget was $28 million and now it’s $9 million,’’ he said. “We’ve got a lot of rebuilding work to do, and chasing after troubadours is not high on our priority list.’’

I am accepting nominations. Send me clips of your best work at the e-mail below.

Art news
Malden’s own Frank Stella, one of the country’s most successful miminalist artists, has won a lifetime achievement award . . . for squash. A product of Phillips Academy in Andover, Stella became so bonkers for the sport that he built his own court at his home in upstate New York. “I don’t really think I need an award,’’ the 74-year-old artist told the crowd at the Tournament of Champions in New York. “I’ve gotten so much out of squash and had so much fun playing it.’’

Also honored: onetime Newton resident Mark Talbott, who played “the match of the century’’ — the 20th century, that is — at the Cyclorama, defeating the unbeatable Pakistani champion Jahangir Khan in the 1984 Boston Open.

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is beam@globe.com.