Friday, March 6, 2009

What is happening Now and Where? - Twitter knows

The last couple of weeks made me realise the journey twitter went through and the value it offers to us in times where information needs to travel fast. In times where we ask the questions "What is happening Now and Where?"

Twitter 1.0 - What are you doing

twitter as a platforms is very generic and it gets more and more shaped by the way people are using.

In the early days of twitter they had a huge problem explaining what it is. What are you doing? was a good attempt to explain it. 

Twitter 2.0 - What is happening now

With the introduction of the @user and #tag twitter made a huge leap. Re-tweeting (RT) and via are another etiquette that emerged in twitter. All these concepts were organically introduced by the users. Twitter just provides the platform and infrastructure and, above all, came up with the awesome concept of twitter.

Since the #bushfires in Australia I really did realise the power of twitter. One of the problems and one of the reasons so many people died was that information could not travel fast enough to the people in the effected areas. The official channels like radio, television did fail. The fire just travelled too fast. I live close to the area that was destroyed by the bushfires and we were very nervous looking for information about the situation. Unfortunately, I lost trust in the official channels very soon. No reliable info anywhere. Actually, the best quality information was provided by twitter. 

Last night we had an #earthquake in Melbourne, Australia. And I did not notice it myself because we just left a concert venue and walked on the streets. However, I checked my twitter account (while walking on the street on my iPhone - I know that's sick) and 4 seconds after it happened people twittered about it already. People 10,000 km away knew it seconds later (@scobleizer). It took the radio stations 15 - 20 minutes to send out the news. The government website that reports on earthquakes (http://www.ga.gov.au/urban/projects/20011024_35.jsp) was down 2 minutes after the event (as @bootload said, it was slashdotted). So we cannot rely on governments (web) services to give us information. We start to rely on twitter. But how reliable is twitter infrastructure?

Hey, that is impressive. News travels so fast on twitter (seconds after the event happened). And the whole following approach ensures that in most cases "noteworthy" information is passed through twitter. 

As good as twitter is to propagate crucial news as unreliable it is. Search works very unreliably. The service must improve because twitter is now becoming an "essential service" a service we all will rely on to get information fast. Such a service must be reliable. It must be as realiable as service from Google or Amazon I dare to say it must be even more reliable than Google and Amazon. Because it can save lives. In the bushfire situation the fire travelled with up to 120 km/h - on twitter information can travel faster. I definitely used twitter during the bushfires to get high quality, up to date information. And users like @bushfires did an awesome job in consolidating the information (a service whipped up by @BeauGiles)

Twitter 2.1 - "What is happening now and Where"

Last week I did write an iPhone app that integrates Geo location with twitter and brighkite. But I think I need to go back to the drawing board. Twitter 2.0 - hmm. There must be a way to extend that with the help of geo-enabled mobile phones. A way to say

"What is happening Now and Where"

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