I was immersed in a project when the Earthquake hit last week and honestly I'm glad I was. Otherwise I might have been tempted to post on the topic of twitter on a day where 35,000+ people lost their lives which I honestly feel would have been inappropriate.
But now that a week has passed I feel the need to address this article published by the BBC. Here's the quote...
When I logged on to my desktop Twitter application (sad, I know) it was alive with Tweets about the earthquake in China. Most of them were from the celebrated technology blogger Robert Scoble, who is famous, perhaps notorious, for receiving a Twitter message every second of the day.
He is based in California, but thousands of miles away from the quake he was providing breaking news about it, linking to sites like the BBC and the New York Times, even providing a first picture - though how authentic that is remains to be seen. He now claims that Twitter had the breaking news even before the United States Geological Survey, which provides early warnings of seismic events.
Now let's look at Scoble's Twitter Feed...
As you can see, while the BBC article is technically true it's written in a way that is designed to mislead. Twitter could not have gotten the news more than a few minutes before the USGS.
Further, as I pointed out in my last post on this topic, the information reported by Twitter was incorrect and misleading. The initial twitter report was "earthquake in Beijing"
Beijing felt the quake but its epicenter was in Sichuan which is a full 950 miles away. If someone with a relative or friend in Sichuan hears there was a quake in Beijing they'd probably be relieved which is the exact opposite reaction they'd have if they had an accurate report.
(To give a U.S. example this would be like someone in Portland, Oregon reporting an earthquake whose epicenter was in Los Angeles, California)
Bottom line, Twitter is not the news service of the future and it never will be. Rushed first hand accounts are almost never accurate, complete strangers are rarely ever trustworthy, and thoughts in 140 characters are almost never profound
People who feel the need to argue Twitter's importance as a news source are reacting to one thing which is that Twitter is all about self importance. When you use Twitter you're saying "I think my random thoughts are important enough to publish" and a lot of people feel uncomfortable with the perceived arrogance of that statement. So they try to make the service into something earth shatteringly important to justify themselves.
To those people I say this: GET OVER IT! There's nothing necessarily wrong with self-importance. If you enjoy posting your random thoughts and other people enjoy reading them that's all you need. So rather than trying to justify yourself with ridiculous arguments why don't you just enjoy the service for what it is?
I'm going to go out of my way not to post on this in the future but I wanted to give this one last example to show how people who want to believe something bad enough can twist the facts to suit their conclusion. This news wasn't significantly early nor was it accurate yet advocates still held it up as an example of Twitter's superiority as a news source.
They cared more about making their point than they did about their point being true and that's something to remember when evaluating their claims in the future.