Chris Sacca, last night on Twitter:
This is the present of news.
Can’t wait to see the future.
I had my Mac desktop set up in a similar way. I didn’t once consider moving myself to sit in front of the TV.
Twitter was faster, more accurate, and more entertaining than any other news source out there…the next time my dad asks me why anybody would use Twitter, I’ll finally have a good response.
Some of my friends tease me about the amount of time I spend on Twitter. It’s entirely good-natured — I don’t think any of my friends actually give a damn what I do online — but the unspoken sentiment that they “just don’t get it” is always there.
For a while, I would try to explain, usually defensively, why Twitter was different, how the combination of short messages, low-friction following and real-time updates created a unique and engaging experience.
Eventually, however, I gave up. I realized that most people aren’t going to “get” Twitter until they use Twitter. And if they weren’t going to do that, there was no point in wasting their time.
And, if I’m entirely honest, for a long time, I wasn’t sure I “got” Twitter either. One friend joked it was “just everyone tweeting what they ate for breakfast,” and I couldn’t help but cringe whenever a “best bagel EVAR!” tweet arrived in my timeline.
Then came the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.
The Paradigm Shift
Early in the morning on November 26, 2008, a series of coordinated bombings and shootings erupted across the Indian city. I became aware about 15 minutes later, the equivalent of dinner time in Seattle. The first reports, of course, came in via Twitter.
My instincts at the time were to turn first to “the big names in news.” I immediately opened my browser to CNN, then MSNBC and, finally, the New York Times.
In fact, it would be nearly 30 minutes before any of those sites acknowledged the happenings in Mumbai at all. Internet news via Twitter, I realized that day, had gone “real time.”
By the time CNN at last updated their home page, it was already out of date. My desktop was by then filled with an explosion of windows.
In one corner, an impromptu Mumbai Flickr group received new images every few seconds from people quite literally “on the street” who tweeted each one as they were uploaded. Google Maps was placed to the right, displaying pushpins on a city I’d never visited as info on the attacks was updated by strangers on a shared map. Tucked at the bottom was a live feed from local Indian TV, the link shared by one of the numerous Indian Twitter users I followed that day. And at the center was Twitter.com, updates arriving faster than I could consume them.
It all seems de rigeur now, but I marveled that evening as Twitter connected me to events in a city 8,000 miles away not via professional reporters, but the now-celebrated “ordinary people” who, with their cameraphones, buried the web with an avalanche of photographs, videos and first-person accounts of events as they unfolded. The richness and immediacy provided was unlike anything I had experienced in the past. I stayed up late that evening, as much to follow the news from Mumbai as to participate in what I realized at that time was a transformative experience. “The news” would never be the same for me again.
I “got” Twitter that night and it changed the way I participated in news events from then on.
I’ll get to you eventually, CNN
When news breaks, I now turn to Twitter first for immediate details, and expect professional news organizations to “catch up” later with analysis that is impossible to provide in the bite-sized chunks Twitter requires. And there is ample evidence that Twitter breaks critical news events, often long before “traditional” news organizations run their first story1. From the US Airways crash, to the protests in Iran and Egypt and, most recently, the tragedy of the Japanese Tsunami, Twitter beats the competition on speed over and over again.
The other change for me is reflected in my choice of the word participated in the paragraph above. All of us have stopped being merely spectators to these events. We are still consuming news, yes, but we are just as likely to be connecting our network to these events, often covering details that might never receive attention through more traditional news coverage.
One only need consider the story of Sohai Athar, a man from Abbottabad, Pakistan who was discovered this evening to have tweeted about the raid on Bin Laden’s compound yesterday as it happened. Tonight, Athar is a part of the story entirely as a result of his use of Twitter. And, given his chosen medium, he is also accessible to each and every one of us, someone we can connect to directly, without reliance on the media to “get his story” for us. Already, hundreds of those same “ordinary people” are reaching out with questions for Athar. And his responses, again as a result of Twitter, are there for all to see. An “interview in the round,” if you will, one that many people want to hear: from a little over 1,200 followers when I first saw his story, Athar has 47,407 as of this writing.
Last night, Matt Rosoff decided that Twitter had it’s “CNN Moment,” breaking the news of Bin Laden’s death before any other media outlet. I’m pleased that Rosoff acknowledges the role Twitter is playing in the modern news industry, but I think he’s about three years too late: Twitter has had at least five “CNN moments” since 2008, probably even more.
Still, there’s no denying that he’s right about one thing: it definitely just got easier to explain the value of Twitter to my friends. But that’s not nearly so difficult, anymore. What we really need is a “CNN Moment” for Foursquare.
From the 2011 Whitehouse Correspondents’ Dinner
Donald Trump has no sense of humor1.
Haircut notwithstanding. ↩
The Wall Street Journal:
Nokia said it plans to outsource its Symbian software operations and cut its global workforce by 4,000 employees by the end of 2012 as part of an effort to cut costs by €1 billion ($1.46 billion) … The Finnish company said it intends to outsource all Symbian software activities and transfer about 3,000 employees to Accenture. Accenture, meanwhile, will provide mobility software services to Nokia for future smartphones.
As if there was any doubt after the formal signing of the Microsoft-Nokia alliance last week, today’s announcement should make it obvious to anyone that Nokia is a Windows Phone company now.
Symbian is dead. And Microsoft has a phone subsidiary in Finland.