Twitter – The Mob As Newsfeed

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TwitterIf you’re not watching what’s said at Twitter, you’re missing the real time news.

Twitter, self described as a “social messaging utility for staying connected in real-time”, has rapidly become a source of real time juicy material for reporters and bloggers straight from the crowd.

Twitter asks people just one question: What are you doing now? You get to answer with up to 140 characters.

The resulting Tweets can be monitored on a web browser or on your phone. The service has proven remarkable popular and become an interesting, real time new sources for news tips. Two very recent examples have the tech industry twittering away.

I witnessed one of these events on Twitter as it happened. At the SXSW conference, an interview of Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg by Sarah Lacy got out of control. The tweets started flying and the press and bloggers piled on here, here, here and a whole bunch more here. The Tweeting just made the event spin way out of control. Here’s Sarah’s response as posted on cNet:

Cnet twitter

And in an unrelated story, Techcrunch referenced some Tweets to point out a somewhat heated back and forth between the Six Apart and WordPress guys.

TC Twitter

Anil Dash, Six Apart’s Chief Evangelist, took aim at WordPress users in a blog post today. Instead of upgrading to the new version of WordPress, he says, consider moving over to their platform.

Now, it’s generally fair game to target your competitors, and Dash’s blog post was so tame that I can’t even find a good quote to pull into this post. But that didn’t stop WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg from going for blood. In a Twitter message, Matt says “six apart is getting desperate, and dirty.” Anil fires back almost immediately with “@photomatt desperation is resorting to name-calling and slander instead of substance — if there’s a factual error, i’m glad to fix it.”

Not only has Twitter become a source for news, it has also become a broadcast channel for people who collect large followings, which results in a strange co-mingling of news with Tweets about everyday activities like “waking up, making coffee”. The phenomenon of Twitter as a source of real time news can only grow as bloggers like Jason Calaconis, CEO of Mahalo, observe the growing importance of Twitter to blog traffic.

While Twitter has some great potential as a source of buzz and news, the real time mob effect is scary. Sarah, of the “train wreck” interview fame, may be getting lots of advice about what she could have done differently, but with Twitter the crowd will be talking about every real time event and it may not be nice.

Anyone doing this kind of interview or a speech better be aware that the crowd is talking, and when disgruntled people realize they are not alone, they tend to speak up like they did at SXSW.

UPDATE: I saw this on Twitter from Tim Bourquin who runs the New Media Expo. It says it all. Anyone running a live event now runs the risk of being Twitterfied :


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