Tag Archives: twitter

The G20 riots weren’t pretty, and social media was there to capture it all. Still, what we saw wasn’t so much its successes as its limiations. Information about the riots poured down from everywhere – the Globe & Mail’s Live Blog, youtube, blogTO and Torontoist’s bloggers, tweets from everyone and their mother, and even the occasional facebook friend who braved the terror and reported back with cellphone pictures.

Still, for me, it’s CP24 and CTV’s old fashioned, live TV coverage that came out on top every time. For one thing, although the cameras could only cover a small area at a time, TV coverage wasn’t limited to the few-minute-long clips of a cellphone camera, or to Twitter’s 140 characters. You could watch an event from start to finish, see every side’s every move, and for the most part judge the events for yourself. The bias came from the editing choices, the commentary of the journalists and the angle of the camera.

Not so with social media. Although Twitter and blogs were updated live, they were horribly limited. The video that’s been going around in the past half hour or so has been that of protesters peacefully singing “Oh Canada,” and being rushed by police officers, on cue, as the song ended. It’s short, shot from up high, and leaves far more questions than answers: what prompted the order for the police to rush forward? were the protesters given a warning? did they obey this warning? were they really peaceful, or did the protesters you can see walking towards the police at the end of the video threaten them in any way?
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This Time article talks about how surprisingly useful Twitter is – something I’ve recently discovered myself. The article’s main point is that Twitter has become much more than just a way to send people 140-character messages about what you’re having for breakfast: it’s become a way to disseminate information in real time, and to create and follow conversations about things happening right now. Most of these capabilities have not come from Twitter’s creators, Time points out, but from its users, who have adapted it to their needs and interests. Everything from using the @ sign to direct tweets to specific followers to hashtags was introduced by users.

Sound familiar? If you’ve got a WordPress blog, it should. Most of the features that make WordPress useful, including that godsend of a plugin, Akismet, have been developed over time by the platform’s users. Which says to me that it’s not WordPress, or Twitter, or Facebook or Firefox that are outstanding, but the open-source format. All of these things do not come from above, like most of the software you purchase, but from its users. Which means that instead of having to guess what their users (clients) want and then spending money developing a product based on their not-always-correct guesses, companies can simply allow their users to make what they need from the base that the companies supply. Which means that in the end, the users get exactly what they want – and develop something better than they could have hoped for.

Pretty exciting. I wonder what’s coming next.

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