So another year has come to an end. We’ve seen democracies fall, celebrities mourned, tsunamis tracked, terrorists killed, volcanos erupt, the end of the NASA space program, terrorist attacks in Norway, floods in Thailand and earthquakes in Turkey. A quiet year, I think you’ll agree…
What’s been interesting to note is how this news has been delivered to us. We no longer rely on the 6:00 news to deliver us day- or hours-old content; the news is happening right now, and we, the people, are the content providers. So, let me take you on a tour of the top tools of 2011 that are helping news to spread faster and quicker than ever before.
I’m going to start with a fairly unknown, but hugely useful service by the team at the Hungarian National Association of Radio Distress-Signalling & Infocommunications (RSOE) who operate the Emergency & Disaster Information Service (EDIS). Wow; that’s quite a name. We can call it RSOE-EDIS for short!
This map (http://hisz.rsoe.hu/alertmap/index2.php) allows you to see a real-time overview of every disaster that is occurring right now at a global level. If a terrorist attack, earthquake, volcano or public uprising were to occur, this tool will let you know as soon as it happens. You can be the source of breaking news by using this map to learn about a disaster and tweeting it before the mainstream news agencies even have the chance to publish it!
What’s a real-world example of sharing breaking news through Twitter? Let’s look at the hashtag #Jan25. When the people of Egypt started the movement to overthrow their government, the news agencies shut down, but Twitter remained active (against the best attempts of the Egyptian government). The hashtag #Jan25 became the source for breaking news related to the uprising and ultimately assisted in overthrowing the government because it acted as a source to arrange protests and crowd-source data into an easy-to-follow interface.
BlackBerry (RIM) saw its tools used in a similar fashion during the London riots last August. Rioters flew under the radar of public IM by using BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) to arrange riot locations and spread updates. The police were slow to respond as they were tracking the mainstream social networks for information (Facebook and Twitter) instead of investigating how the rioters interacted (data which was readily available before the riots).
Twitter serving as a breaking news source can sometimes happen unexpectedly. Sohaib Athar became an overnight sensation thanks to his tweeted observation: ‘Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1am (is a rare event)’. Little did he know that he was uncovering the first stage of the top-secret mission to kill Osama Bin Laden. Once news broke about the death of Bin Laden, Sohaib tweeted, ‘Uh oh, now I’m the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it’.
This is one of the fantastic features of social networking. What would have previously been obscure observations are suddenly catapulted into the spotlight. After exposing the Bin Laden mission, Sohaib’s Twitter following increased from 1471 followers to an amazing 89,099! Sohaib’s closing comments? ‘Bin Laden is dead. I didn’t kill him. Please let me sleep now’.
One Twitter hashtag that I followed very closely occurred on 4 March 2011. A powerful 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck the coast of Japan, generating a huge tsunami, up to 10 metres high in places. Pretty quickly Japan’s phone system was knocked out, and Twitter became the go-to service for pushing information about the earthquake and tsunami. Within one hour of the earthquake, tweets from Tokyo were topping 1200 per minute.
American tweeters on the west coast began predicting an ETA for the tsuanmi on U.S. shores, way before the U.S. government put out an official statement. On the Hawaiian Islands, the tweeters were posting updates about the status of their islands since they would be the first to be hit. One user I followed tweeted, ‘Just watched the ocean completely suck out and disappear and then come roaring back in. Makes me feel as [weak] as a sweet little baby…Minutes away from the first wave to hit Oahu. No reports from Kauai yet. Hotels halls packed with people….30 minutes between waves. 200-300 feet of reef exposed & then the waves come ripping back higher each time….’ Thankfully Hawaii didn’t get hit hard by the after-effects of the Tsunami, but again, the power of Twitter still amazes me!
Being in the conferencing and communication business, I’m always interested to watch the trends in how people share news and information. Holding a conference call is one way to talk to people, but as we’ve seen, Facebook and Twitter take it to a whole new level. That’s why you’ll see these types of social media tools integrated with our services, like we’re already doing with InterCall Streaming Services and InterCall Virtual Environments.
What do you expect to see happen with social media in 2012? Have any predictions about hot topics in the coming months?