wanted: more Twitterers

Brent Finnegan -- May 21st, 2008

We started the Twitter feature in early March. So far, it’s been relatively successful. It’s served as a tip for several blog posts, tracked the fire at Dave’s Recycling, and served as a live blog for a political debate. But what can be done to increase its usefulness?

Media blogger Jeff Jarvis calls Twitter “the canary in the news coalmine.”

Last Monday, when an earthquake struck China’s Sichuan province, word of it spread quickly from witnesses on the shaking ground via Twitter, the mobile-and-web microblogging service where users share brief, 140-character-long updates with friends. Prolific blogger and Twitterer Robert Scoble at scobleizer.com insists he saw news of the quake on Twitter minutes before the US Geological Service posted the temblor and an hour before CNN and other news sites reported it.

Twitter works, and it’s fast. However, unlike Facebook or Gmail, Twitter is really only set up for one account-per-person. If someone already has a personal Twitter account, they can’t use their cell phone for their hburg Twitter account (at least, not the way it’s currently set up). Local bloggers like Scott Rogers are currently excluded from the hburg Twitter because they also post non-news related content.

The bottom line is: more hburg Twitterers means greater coverage on-the-ground. If hburg started following other local Twitter users like Scott, there would likely be more users (more “eyes on the ground”), more posts about all sorts of stuff, but a much lower percentage of news-related content overall.

This is still an experiment in progress, so let’s hear your input. Should we leave it the way it is, open it up to all local Twitterers, or something else?

14 Responses to “wanted: more Twitterers”

  1. I have been stumped as to how to better engage with the hburg Twitter group, because many of my Twitter updates aren’t related to Harrisonburg or Harrisonburg news. I think it makes sense to keep it Harrisonburg news related — even though that limits it somewhat. I’ll keep trying to figure out how to somehow have two Twitter accounts!? :)

  2. finnegan — I’d suggest looking into hashtags. You can register a hashtag such as “hburgnews”, and then Twitter updates that include “#hburgnews” in the update are compiled and can be accessed via a feed (rss, I think). This would probably be the simplest way to get more people involved — as it would allow people to use Twitter however they may use it, and still contribute (periodically) to the hburgnews Twitter steam. Let me know if you want help setting up or testing it…

    (I believe you register the hashtag at hashtags.org, though their site seems to be down at the moment…

  3. Joey Groah says:

    I’m in the same boat as Scott. I’ve had a personal account for over a year and I’m considering a work account, but it would be a combo of “We just did this awesome thing!” or “How can we make this thing do an awesome thing?”

    The crowd sourcing aspect of Twitter is great, and incredibly useful. Seems we should be able to figure out something…

  4. finnegan says:

    I like that hashtag idea, Scott. I’ll look into that.

  5. Frank J Witt says:

    Ok, OK ok…after that Jott message, I’ll stick to texting while pulled over…sorry if upset anyone.

  6. I am impressed with your community initiative and think you’ve got a good handle on Twitter.

    For plenty of news on how the reporters use Twitter, check out http://www.ReporTwitters.com and http://blog.reporTwitters.com. We are a platform for journalists/marketing professionals using Twitter.
    In addition to streaming the TWeets of around 100 media professionals around the world, we brainstorm about using Twitter professionally on our blog and on Facebook.

    It seems to me that since the Chinese Sichuan earthquake took place ten days ago, newspapers have woken up to the use of the tool. Perhaps it will result in them employinging the tool in their newsrooms. Twitter users were the first and most proficient to report the news when the disaster had just happened, something which alerted various editors. Both Reuters and the BBC have put developers on streaming Twitter with their newsroom news alerts. Check out my blog for more news about that. BBC/Reuters are not only out to get important Tweets about breaking news events first by using services like Hashtags and Twemes.com. They also aim to get in contact with Twitter users who happen to be close to the news when it breaks. That’s the idea of citizen reporting!

    Angelique van Engelen

  7. David Miller says:

    The only downside to Twitter in Harrisonburg is that I never have anything to Twitt about (sorry, I love that word).

  8. David Miller says:

    That and the twitter for hburg seems to be down at the moment.

  9. Frank J Witt says:

    See David, you DO have something to Twitt about ! I may have to change my last name (again).

  10. Frank J Witt says:


    Now you can follow your Jott Feeds thru your phone !

  11. Frank J Witt says:

    The true boredom has set in at work but HEY, I found a new site that was started by a guy from TWITTER…


    Hopefully it is self explanatory.

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