Twitter experiment

Brent Finnegan -- March 5th, 2008

I’ve been aware of Twitter for a while now. Initially, I disregarded it as another waste of time — a place to type mind-numbingly boring narcissistic drivel — along the lines of “what I’m doing” updates on MySpace and Facebook. But something citizen journalism advocate, Jeff Jarvis, recently posted on his blog made me give it a second look.

I’d like to try an experiment using Twitter on hburgnews, but I need the help of lots of readers to make it work.

I can’t possibly know everything that’s currently going on in the city and county. Individually, we all occasionally witness events like car accidents, fires, high wind damage, flooding, power outages, police raids, and other “breaking news” as it occurs. I think the sum of those eyewitness accounts could be very useful on a local news blog like this. Collective efforts like that are sometimes called crowdsourcing.

And that’s where Twitter comes in. Readers that would like to participate can register for a Twitter account specifically for hburgnews. If you already have a Twitter account for keeping in touch with friends, set up a second account for contributing to hburgnews. Then email your Twitter user name to hburgnews [at] Anyone can follow hburg, but only the people hburg is following will show up on the blog.

Hopefully that’s not too complicated.

Why Twitter? Why not just use the Happenings page? Because Twitter has the added capability of texting an update from your basic cell phone. Generally, when you’re an eyewitness to something, you aren’t sitting in front of your computer. You can set your cell here, and save the number for Twitter (40404) in your cell contacts list. That way, when you see something you think might be newsworthy, send a short text message to Twitter, and it will show up in the sidebar of the blog.

If the experiment works, a network of hburg twitterers will post pithy news items like “A house on X Street is on fire” or “There’s a wreck on the corner of X and Y street. Glass everywhere” or even “it’s snowing!” The emphasis here is on pithy (you only have 140 characters to work with, so make them count). Also, make it something local that other people would be interested to know — not stuff like “I’m bored.”

Why am I calling this an experiment? Because it might not work right. People might not use it, or they may misuse it. Legal concerns may arise. However, if it’s a success; if people find it a useful way to find out what’s going on, we’ll keep it. Let’s give it a couple months and see how it goes.

Reader Tweets

For this Twitter Tracker search widget to work you need to authorise with Twitter in "Dashboard" -> "Settings" -> "Twitter Tracker Auth".

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