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Twitter news. Twews?

25 February 2009 by superlative

I’ve been getting more into Twitter lately. I’ve started to follow more people and have picked up a few more followers of my own, and once you do that the whole thing starts to make more sense. I’ve also experienced twice in just the last couple of days something which I’d heard people talking about: being on the edge of the information curve thanks to Twitter, and finding things out well before they appear on any news website.

The first was yesterday and was fairly banal. I heard that Gmail was down, it stayed down for a couple of hours, and then I knew within minutes of it being back up again, without needing to try to log in once.

The second, today, was a bit more consequential. A ‘breaking news’ line came up on the BBC News website saying a plane had crashed in Amsterdam. Their breaking news thing can be quite annoying because it’s just a single line, and it’ll sometimes take them ages to replace the ‘more soon’ with an actual article. Twitter, on the other hand, was immediately awash with information. Someone was tweeting right from the scene (thanks @nipp), and I was able to read his eye witness reports of what had happened, and even see photos of the site. The news corporations got wise to this pretty soon, and I gather he was overwhelmed with agencies like CNN and the BBC calling him for information they could report, while their own correspondents were stuck on trains trying to get there. He was also incidentally a bit disturbed at how easily they got hold of his phone number.

I’d say I knew what was happening there at least half an hour before the BBC were able to put any proper details on their website. Some of the information like confirmed casualty numbers took longer to come through, but that was because no-one knew those things until the rescue services had done most of their work.

It was really fascinating, and made me wonder what else I might hear about first on Twitter. In some ways it’s more interesting than Facebook; you find out things you didn’t already know, rather than hearing what your friends have been up to that day. I like them both, but they’re really different. And Twitter only starts functioning properly after you’ve been using it a while.

(Days healthy – 6)

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