tl;dr version Search for the URL itself, read the cached copy.
Audio version of this post:
Recently there has been a spate of American news sites returning a page that says the content isn’t available to me since I’m in the UK / EU and, because I’m subject to some unspecified horror to do with the GDPR and cookies, the website is worried about me seeing it and hopes I might just go away.
About 90 per cent of the time this problem is rapidly solved by searching for and reading Google’s cache of the page. The appearance may be a little different but the text is usually there and perfectly readable. Here’s an example of how to do this.
Yesterday I wanted to read the awful story about a young black woman who died after it was assumed she’d not be able to pay for the ambulance service that she needed. Her mother had found her slumped in the bath after she’d collapsed with a suspected stroke. She’d given birth via C section a few days before.
Try this – it doesnt always work though The next stage is to copy that address / URL (the wpbf.com bit next to the green padlock) – the quickest way to do that is to put the cursor into that address bar, it should automatically select the URL but if not Ctrl+A will do that. Then Ctrl+C to copy and open a new tab with your preferred search engine and paste (Ctrl+V) into the search bar and search [see also: handy keyboard shortcuts]
Ignore the top stories option. You might just about be able to make out a tiny little green arrowhead pointing downwards to the right of the green URL for this search result. That’s where Google hides the cache of its pages. Here’s a close-up.
Clicking on the green arrow will bring up a menu saying ‘Cached’ and clicking on that usually, but not always, bring up the page you want – it did in this case too.
The entire text is visible but for copyright reasons I’ll leave it at that. Here’s the link if you want to read it yourself, it’s a sobering read.
This is a very useful and more widely applicable trick
There are other cases (*cough*) where content isn’t shown to you, for all sorts of un-GDPR related reasons. It is nearly always worth checking the cached version first before either admitting defeat, asking a friend for a copy or reading a different newspaper’s story.
For the exceptionally patient
At the bottom of Fig 2 there’s a paragraph of text beneath the green URL and the green padlock. Google can nearly always read the page (whether there’s a cached version or not) even if you can’t. If you search for a phrase that appears there (put it in ” ” marks when searching) then Google will show that phrase in the search results, often in context which means it may show other bits of surrounding text. Frankly it takes ages but it may be possible (I’ve done it to uncover and reference a quote for work once) to work your way through very slowly and uncover a large portion or even the entirety of the otherwise hidden text.
If you’re looking for an answer to a particular Twitter-related query or are trying to troubleshoot something then this post should point you in some helpful directions.
1. Searching on Google and other search engines
If I know a solution or have some suggestions I’ll try and answer. If I need to check something first I usually type in some relevant search terms, the word Twitter and occasionally site:help.twitter.com into my preferred search engine (it’s Google). That last one searches for mentions of whatever I’m trying to find in Twitter’s help files. If I omit that then the search will cover any website (including this one) as lots of people write ‘how to’ blog posts about Twitter.
https://tweetdeck.twitter.com/ – Tweetdeck – really useful for people who regularly use more than one account, eg for work. You can log in to more than one account at once and there’s also the useful Teams feature where you can grant someone access to use a work account without giving them the password
There are a lot of people making misleading (and occasionally illegal) health claims on Twitter. When you challenge them they often block you. This has happened to me (and many other skeptic bloggers, scientists, healthcare professionals etc), and my early efforts at finding out how to monitor such accounts and tweets is a large part of why I now have this blog about how Twitter appears to work!
Of course being blocked has never stopped anyone from reading a blocker’s tweets as you can always just log out (or use a spare account, or an incognito window) to view anyone’s tweets, as long as the blocker’s account is public.
One disadvantage of being logged out, particularly if you use desktop Twitter, is that you can see only their broadcast tweets and not their ‘Tweets and replies‘ tab. To get around that the search string »from:username« had, until yesterday, been a simple workaround while logged in as the blocked account, on desktop or the official mobile app.
As of yesterday it no longer works while logged in as the blocked account – I don’t know if that’s a glitch or a permanent change to Twitter’s search function but for now it looks like your options for viewing tweets from someone who’s blocked you are as follows
Log out and use the »from:username« search style to view replies as well as broadcast tweets
As above in an incognito window (for Twitter searching purposes the two are logiclly the same)
Log into a spare account and you can either use the above search strategy or just visit their page (assuming they’ve not blocked your spare account)
Use Dabr.co.uk – you can even log in (for the time being, it might change) – as of early July the page seems to be down but https://dabr.eu is still up
Try other non-official phone apps too…
You can also search »to:username« to see tweets sent to that account if you like.
To see the tweets of someone whom you’ve blocked is as it always was – visit their profile and click on the ‘View tweets’ button.
You may be interested to see what data Facebook has kept about your use of Facebook and interactions with other people. Instructions are below.
If you’re an Android phone user it seems that Facebook may have kept copies of information about who you’ve called and when, and even the text of … the texts. As an iPhone user I can’t be too reassured though because if I’ve texted friends of mine who have an Android phone with Facebook on it then I can probably assume that (a) data about me are embedded with theirs and (b) I can’t access it directly (perhaps I could do a Subject Access Request, though presumably my information is held overseas).
Facebook’s Data Policy wants you to: “Bear in mind that information that others have shared about you is not part of your account and will not be deleted when you delete your account.” (from “How can I manage or delete information about me?”).
I downloaded my own data the other day and didn’t actually find much in there that concerned me – possibly because I switched off Facebook Platform Applications years ago – beyond noting that Facebook has every single contacted uploaded to my phone before 2009. I’m now using a different phone and phone number and haven’t shared that with Facebook. I do use Facebook on my iPhone, but not through the app and only by logging in on Safari. This probably doesn’t do a great deal (beyond psychological) to protect my data as I do have WhatsApp on my phone (and it can access my contacts) and Facebook owns WhatsApp 😉
Go to your Settings page: https://www.facebook.com/settings (or use the on-screen menu to get there, using that little white arrow to the right of the question mark, then click on Settings).
At the bottom of the page click on “Download a copy’ of your Facebook data”, marked with a yellow box in the picture below.
Click the green “Download Archive” button
You’ll be asked to re-enter your password, do this and Submit
You’ll be shown the file-download info box for your computer, mine’s a Mac and looks like this
Save the .zip file – it’ll likely default to being in your Downloaded files area but you may wish to move it into a particular location first before ‘unboxing’ it and seeing what’s in there.
Unzip the (compressed) .zip file – on a Mac this appears to be an automatic thing using a built-in unzipping program. If your computer doesn’t unzip the file you may need to download a free unzipping utility program but here are Windows instructions on uncompressing .zip files.
You’ll end up with a set of folders and an index.htm file.
That index file will open up into your browser window (it is not ON the web, it is a local copy that only you can see, doing this has not published it anywhere – you’ll see file://Users or something like that where the ‘link’ or ‘URL’ would normally be). You can very easily interact with the information by clicking on the menu options on the left. Alternatively you can drill into each folder and open up individual pages.
You can download a fresh copy of your data as often as you like
Be careful about sharing the data within your download, as you ‘ll have other people’s info in there too, not just yours.
It’s entirely possible that this is unnecessary. Apparently Facebook blocked apps that your friends were using from accessing your data back in 2014 (I only discovered this last week) so doing this now may be pointless, but I did this a few years ago, as well as blocking apps individually, and here’s how you do it.
Go to your App Settings page: https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=applications (or use the on-screen menu to get there, using that little white arrow to the right of the question mark, then click on Settings, then Apps in the menu that will appear on the left).
Click on each of the Edit buttons to change your settings to your preferences. As you can see from mine my preference is to switch things OFF.I have ‘Apps, Websites and Plug-ins’ disabled…
I have ‘Apps, Websites and Plug-ins’ disabled – that’s the Platform Apps one, and when I click on ‘Edit’ here’s what my settings look like.
For ‘Apps others use’ I would have previously unticked any option that might have been ticked, though to be honest this is probably superseded by having switched off the platform apps option anyway. But I am a bit ‘belts and braces’ when it comes to Facebook.
by @JoBrodie – who hopes you’ll tell her about other alternatives you know of 🙂
This post is a work in progress as I am currently trying out the different tools available.
Storify is closing its doors on 16 May 2018 and all content will become unavailable. Any time before that point you can download your own (and other people’s stories). To avoid having to keep writing Storify stories I’m just going to call them Stories for now.
Table of contents
Capturing Storify stories (aka Stories)
… your own
… or anyone else’s
Other capturing options
Re-publishing your Stories
Alternative tools for future use
The search continues…
1. Capturing Stories
Storify‘s cheerily named ‘End of Life’ FAQ can be found here: https://storify.com/faq-eol – follow the instructions in the section called “How do I export content from Storify?”
1.1 Capturing your own Stories
You can save your Stories as .XML, .HTML or .JSON files. When I tried with the HTML I was expecting a page of code but ended up with something that wasn’t quite that, and which I couldn’t embed into a new post. However you can still use the Save As option to save it as a web page (or as a PDF). You’d need to do this for each of your Stories.
You can also save as a web page by sticking .html at the end of any Story URL, then saving the resulting page.
Wakelet, a free tool, will very helpfully let you export all of your published Stories to its platform and it will automatically publish them for you once done. This works very well. I had 43 published Stories and I set it running last night and woke up to all of them being migrated (I think it probably didn’t take the whole of the night to happen!). So far it has the Jo seal of approval*.
To use it you need to sign up (free, I logged in through Google). You’ll be given a bit of text to add to your Storify profile (a sort of handshake) then you can start the process and select the published Stories you want to import.
For unpublished / draft Stories you can either publish them and do the above, or just get the draft on-screen and save it as a web page.
Sutori, also a free tool, that lets you export your Stories to them too. Here’s their blog post responding to the news of Storify closing. Once you’ve registered you can create a new Story and one of the options is to import from Storify.
Here’s the same content, imported from Storify, on Wakelet and Sutori. I think Wakelet wins this particular test because it shows the text of a deleted tweet. I created the Storify in 2011, included in it a tweet that I later deleted to see what happened (the tweet persisted) Storify original | Wakelet import | Sutori import
1.2 Capturing someone else’s Story
Sticking .html at the end of any Story URL, then saving the resulting page. I don’t think you can use Wakelet to capture other people’s Stories, but you can with Sutori (however if they receive a ‘please remove’ request from the person who originally wrote it they will delete it).
1.3 Other capturing options
With short Stories you could copy the link for each ‘atom’ that makes up your Story (tweets, YouTube video links etc) and insert them individually into a WordPress dot com blog, but this would be ridiculously labour-intensive for larger Stories. Screenshotting / screencapturing is also an option, or using tools like Freezepage etc.
2. Re-publishing your Stories
Wakelet will automatically take care of that, your Stories now have a new web address (which brings its own annoyance but at least they’re published).
For Stories saved as web pages (or as text, then perhaps as a PDF) you could either upload the PDF to your website (eg a free WordPress dot com blog, like this one) or put the file in something like free Dropbox and share the link wherever you like.
3. Alternative tools for future use
Wakelet – this seems to be the most similar to Storify so far (I have not tested it for creation of new Wakelets, only for importing old Stories)
Sutori – (how to create a Sutori story guide) I have created an example Sutori with four of my tweets. I think it looks nice but seems to be too labour-intensive for collecting larger volumes of tweets. Possibly I need to spend a bit more time with it.
Shorthand Social – I’ve not tried this yet but clearly it lets you embed tweets. I don’t know if it lets you add them at the same volume that Storify did though (several hundred at a time). Here’s their ‘guide to Shorthand Social‘ post.
Participate – I have not tested this but it a colleague mentioned that it can save old Storify posts.
Twitter threading – if you’re just interested in collecting together a bunch of tweets then create a thread, encouraging people to reply to that (you can use the Unroll tool to get all the participating tweets in one collection). Admittedly this doesn’t work as well if you have a bunch of conversations going on based around a hashtag.
Twitter Moments – I think this only works for tweets, don’t think you can add in YouTube links (but I haven’t tried so maybe you can).
WordPress dot com blogs – many things will embed into WordPress blogs. I use the free .com version so am a bit more restricted than the .org versions (where you have to download software and you’d have your own server) but you can easily add a tweet’s link and it will autoembed as the full tweet (it will remain if deleted too).
4. The search continues…
I wanted to find out what people on Twitter were recommending as an alternative and searching there for Storify alternatives brought up Wakelet as the clear winner, in part because they have been very proactive in contacting people tweeting that they’re seeking alternatives – a sensible use of targeted marketing! There are also lots of people recommending it.
To find additional options I ran the same search but added -wakelet to remove tweets mentioning that to let me see the other options more clearly, that highlighted Sutori and Shorthand Social. Chatting on Twitter let me hear about Participate.
*Re: Wakelet importing
Obviously some things are lost in the transfer – eg the view count, the date of publication and any embedded Stories within a Story will eventually be lost. I tried and failed to add a link to the Wakelet version of one of mine. The Wakelet URL for an imported story is alphanumeric rather than following the pattern of Storify which has its domain / the user name / the name of the Story – that would have been helpful but fairly minor compared to losing all the Stories and the effort involved in capturing them!
Musical accompaniment is ‘She’ (live) by Alice Phoebe Lou – this is used as the end credit song for Bombshell: the Hedy Lamarr story, about the inventor and film star, and has been Oscar-shortlisted for Best Original Song.
For all its faults Facebook is pretty good at helping you to decide who can see the posts you put on your timeline and it lets you adjust your privacy settings easily.
Below are screenshots of the most common options –
On the left, the globe = public – anything you post to your timeline with this option means it’s available to everyone (whether or not they’re logged in to Facebook, it’s very public). The middle one that looks like two heads = friends and this will be visible to any of your friends. The gear icon on the right indicates the post has been shared with a restricted group of your friends, or some other custom setting.
Note that if you tag a friend (by writing @ theirname [without the space] in the post) then your friend’s friends will ALSO be able to see your post (the icon looks the same as the friends one though).
To access and amend these options when writing your new post click on the grey option in the screenshot below. Mine says ‘Friends’ as that’s my default setting, yours might be different. When you click on it it will go blue and all the options will appear.
There are lots of options to pick from – if you want to throw a surprise party for someone pick the ‘Friends except…’ to hide it from them, or you can choose the Custom option and select which friends will be able to see the post. You can also create preset groups here too (I think I created a ‘Gig’ one, looks like it, bit surprised if I created a theatre one though [though I do recommend Travesties at the RTC if you’re in New York]).
You can check any previous post you’ve published to see what its options were.
I think that once you change your posting settings for a single post then Facebook may tend to default to that option for your next post – so you may need to keep an active eye on things.
I’m afraid I have no idea what happens if you comment on someone else’s post – it may depend on the privacy settings they’ve set for their post (you can see the relevant icon at the top of their post, next to the timestamp). If you’re commenting on a page then I think your comment’s ‘reach’ or visibility will be the same as the default setting for the page. If anyone knows…