Tag Archives: Osama Bin Laden

Two Ways Twitter has Changed the Way We Consume Information

The way Osama Bin Laden’s Death broke on Twitter gave rise to new questions about its role  as an informational hub and the role of the audience in generating news. In my opinion,

  1. Twitter has changed the way in which people search for information
  2. It has also provided certain individuals with the power to influence and generate news

The truly innovative aspect of Twitter is that people are able to search for and find news that have not yet been broadcast, written about or published.This was the case with the news about Osama Bin Laden’s death.

According to Fast Company the interest of the public was sparked when the White House announced an urgent presidential address. Amongst this demand for information  Keith Urbahn’s news breaking tweet about Osama Bin Laden’s death was spread freakishly quickly.

Urbahn’s power to create  news came because his information responded to the public demand.

It was only because his tweet coincided with the most talked about topic and the time at which it was delivered that it had such prevalence. This demonstrates is that unlike traditional media that used to ‘push’ news towards the consumer, Twitter provides a place where people can ‘pull’ the right information from their network.

Just want to show you a Twitter visualisation that demonstrates how information networks are created on Twitter. I know the topic has nothing to do with what I’m talking about but I thought it was a good visual example!

It seems that information is trusted when it either comes from a variety of unrelated, unbiased sources or if it is provided by influential and credible individuals.

This guy’s quote, published by Arnnet perfectly describes how info trust is built:

“After first seeing one or two tweets on the subject, I quickly did a hashtag search to verify that what I was reading was being referenced by a large number of people and linked to a reputable news source. After that little process, I felt as though I could trust what I was reading and that I had been informed of the news from many different vantage points, each with independent motivations, backgrounds, national histories. I find that process much more trustworthy than listening to a single TV station.”

The way the news broke also makes it possible to suggest a profile of the twitterer who can successfully act as an influential citizen journalist. The key individuals in the OBL case were Keith Urbahn, the former Chief of Staff in Donald Rumsfeld’s office and Brian Stelter, a digital media reporter for the New York Times, who re-tweeted Urbahn’s tweet.

Both were professionals in their respective fields and both were active on Twitter during the crucial time. Although Urbahn had a relatively small following of 1016 people, according to Social Flow he “had the right combination of influential people reading his tweet and confidence in the accuracy of the information.” This of course included Brian Stelter who was not only a reliable source but also had a huge Twitter following of 57 535 people. When he re-tweeted Urbahn’s tweet it was spread by his following, making the news viral.

Based on this information I am suggesting that the successful citizen journalist on Twitter must be credible and reliable, he or she must be timely in providing information and they must have the right twitter following. This can either be a very large following but most importantly it must contain the right people.In other words the twitterer must have influence.

Here is a list of most influential twitter users.

You can use Twitter Grader to find out how influential a particular twitter user is.

I found this tool really cool too. It lets you search for influential people who are interested in the same things you are.

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Osama Bin Laden and Twitter

At this point we are all familiar with this:

I could rave on about Osama Bin Laden related issues for the next five hours. I could tell you that I want to write a letter to the American government saying something like “shhhhh, please be quiet and stop celebrating the murder of a terrorist master lord! You might hurt Al -Qaeda’s feelings!” I could ponder the pros and cons of releasing the photos of OBL’s dead body or re-watch old September 11 documentaries in morbid fascination.

Instead I’m going to say what Osama Bin Laden’s death has done for Twitter. In the international relations/war on terror scheme of things, the way his death broke on Twitter is a trivial matter BUT it is important for the future of news and information spread. It’s important for us, the people who have never had much control over news, to recognize that we can all create news now, one tweet at a time.

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?

Because if you know how information spreads on Twitter, you can spread information on Twitter. Fast. Like wildfire. Like the ripple effect. Like a Lamborghini on the freeway.

But it ain’t easy.

How did people find out about Osama Bin Laden’s death and when? May 1st around an hour before the official presidential announcement by Barack Osama (oops Obama). Here’s good timeline.

People are naturally inquisitive and people who use social networking are neurotically inquisitive. They are addicted to information and they hunt for it like…hunters…SO speculation about what-the-hell-is-going-on began as soon as the White House announced that there would be a presidential address. It was after a bit of a wild guessing game that people began to mention Bin Laden. But at that stage it was still just the blind leading the blind.

FINALLY Keith Urbahn (sorry people, not the singer/husband of Nicole Kidman) tweeted the tweet that made the difference.

Urbahn was a reliable source because of his position as Chief of Staff in the Office of Donald Rumsfeld. The trustworthiness of his information meant that it was re-tweeted by 80 people in the new minute.

His tweet also got re-tweeted by Brian Stelter, a very influential tweeter (he is a machine. I’ve never seen anyone do that many tweets in one day).

And that’s how it took off. The crazy tweetering, digital river of information. And then Obama gave his speech.

For the twitter universe, he was a bit too slow (and a bit too triumphant for my liking).

But you know what? I’m glad that he was too slow. Down with the controlled media. We don’t need it to tell us everything anymore. We can tell each other whatever the hell we want. As long as we have access to information and the right twitter following, we can break news. Of course a lot of elements come into play, but that’s the essence of it.

Social flow did an awesome analysis of how OBL’s death broke on twitter zoomed through the wired world (I just like the pretty graphs). Actually I gonna insert the pretty graph;

Based on what I’ve read and the Social Flow analysis this is the way to break news on Twitter:

  1. Have the information
  2. The news has to be timely. No one will care if it happened a week ago (unless its something massive) or if no one knows about it or its significance.
  3. Be well connected on Twitter. That doesn’t necessarily means have millions of followers, just have the right ones.
  4. People must trust that you’re not the boy/girl crying wolf. Reliability is the key.

I actually think that by using Twitter as an information hub, we are making a statement about the world we live in and about our own role in it. We are shrinking the world and growing our individual significance. News is no longer decided by journalists and the media, nor should it be.

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