Friday, 28 November 2008

Twitter in Mumbai

I wrote this for my Reuters AlertNet blog on 28 November 2008. When I look back at it now, in April 2011 after having relied on Twitter quite a bit to follow the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, I can say I'm far less sceptical now. And actually, I launched Crisis Group's Twitter feed shortly after my early expressions of doubt. Twitter is a useful source to add to the mix as long as you know how to use it and and understand its limitations.

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I will try to make this blog entry 140 characters long, since that is the longest possible message on Twitter, which some are raving about as a source of news during the Mumbai attacks. I'm not exactly convinced. And I'm already over 140 characters.

I am someone who has previously equated "citizen journalism" with "citizen dentistry", so Twitter heads were obviously going to have a hard time convincing me. There have been a few interesting articles trying to make the case with the attacks in Mumbai, however, including one from Mathew Ingram, who boldly claims, "Yes, Twitter is a source of journalism".

Reuters also has had a good piece on "citizen journalism" in the Mumbai case, as does France 24, CNN and others.

I remain sceptical, however. Looking through the Twitter search stream for "Mumbai", I see so much useless information, I quickly get the feeling I am wasting my time. There are some personal notes -- very welcome no doubt if you have family or friends caught up in the madness and would like to know if they're OK, but it's not information that offers anything anyone can act upon.

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