@ilegal blogs

A New Way To Search Case Law: using the Twitter archive

I wrote earlier about the (relatively) new ability to download your tweet archive from Twitter. This post is about using that archive


I’ve now put @BAILII‘s tweet archive online. Basically, it’s a complete searchable archive of all the tweets by @BAILII since I kicked it off on 27th May 2012. That’s 3,337 cases or thereabouts

Most importantly, I’ve now incorporated the ability to search the archive directly via @BAILII‘s Twitter profile. If you go to @BAILII you will now notice a link in its profile prefaced by “Search my tweets”

Go to @BAILII, click the link and have a play. You don’t need to be logged in to Twitter to access the feature. It will open a new browser window and, as the archive itself is online, allow you to search its contents

The positives that come to mind:

  • it is a very easy and quick way to search for case law that the @BAILII account has tweeted previously;
  • all the links in the tweets are still functional and take you to the original case within the BAILII site itself (unless BAILII has since removed or moved the particular case)
  • the Twitter search functionality is keyword focussed and reasonably powerful. Whatever search term(s) you use, the tweets themselves include the proper citation (note that the tweet prefixes are added automatically by me)
  • It’s a good integration!

The most obvious downsides:

  • it is limited to the period of the archive – it only goes back to May 2012 so is certainly not the complete archive of BAILII case law
  • Twitter @BAILII does not tweet absolutely every new case that is put on the BAILII website. Close, but not all. I’m going to look into this and vary the auto-tweeting parameters I think, to allow future archives to be more exhaustive, if not complete, at least for the time periods covered

It’s a work in progress. I just thought you might like the possibilities it presents, certainly for those Twitter accounts that similarly see advantages in allowing their complete tweet history to be indexed and searchable online. I think factoring it into a Twitter profile too is a decent idea as it boosts the functionality of that particular account for those users who follow/access it

It just may be the first UK legal-type account to do it too, which is kind of nice

Right now I intend to update the archive on perhaps a monthly basis. I’ll see how it goes and whether it turns out to be useful or not. If anyone has any thoughts on it, I’d love to hear them

Something for the techies…

The archive itself doesn’t give lots of ways to process or use the tweets beyond what I’ve set out above. However, I’ve found what looks to be a decent Python script – a multi-format archive of all your tweets – under a  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License by Michael E. Shea at

Mike’s script parses through the JSON records contained within the archive and outputs the tweets into different formats, including:

  • A single HTML5 page.
  • A single big text file.
  • A single big JSON file with all the elements included.
  • A SQLite3 database.
  • A CSV file suitable for Microsoft Access.

I haven’t tried it myself yet, but it has prompted me to get my head around Python. Here’s a tutorial if you were interested

Thanks for reading

One comment on “A New Way To Search Case Law: using the Twitter archive

  1. Pingback: The @BAILII Twitter archive now updates automatically on a daily basis | ilegality

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This entry was posted on February 24, 2013 by in Automation, RSS, Twitter, Useful tools and tagged , , , , , .
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