First Tweets After the Christchurch Earthquake

earthquake tweetsAs I mentioned in my blog post yesterday about the Christchurch earthquake, I used Twitter as my sole source of information during the disaster.

I jumped on Twitter about 20 minutes after it happened, as did many people throughout Christchurch and the rest of New Zealand. But what amazed me was that some Christchurch tweeps managed to jump onto their Twitter account DURING the quake itself and tweet from under their tables and doorways.

The fact that people were putting their Twitter addiction above their personal safety is a bit alarming, but it’s also an incredible endorsement of Twitter and brings home the impact of social media as a whole on our psyche.

I think back to the last earthquake I witnessed first-hand, the 1989 Newcastle, Australia earthquake (which was only a Richter magnitude 5.6 by the way, making this week’s earthquake 15 times stronger!) and the only connection I had to other people affected by the quake was over the neighbor’s fence until the power came back on a few hours later and the TV reports started dribbling in. Phones were jammed, information was scarce and nobody seemed to really know what happened for hours and hours.

The ability for us to receive news and summon emergency resources instantly is one of Twitter’s best, albeit accidental, advantages. It goes beyond the boundaries of social media and becomes a vital communications tool. Even with all the clever applications that have been developed using the Twitter API, the impact of Twitter’s original functionality in emergency situations like the Christchurch earthquake cannot be underestimated.

I’ve been collecting the first 3 tweets from people after (and even during!) the quake. Emotions were running high, so the f-bomb features in some. If you’re a prude, you might want to look away now. I have linked to the actual tweets as well so you can see their time stamps.

First Tweets After Earthquake at 4.35am, Saturday 4 September 2010:

From: @kalena

  • QUAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  (http://bit.ly/davzRM)
  • Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck 7.2 earthquake 30 km from here. We are camping in car right now (http://bit.ly/aEtwO4)
  • Quite a bit of damage to our house I fear. Glass breaking, lots of things falling as we ran out. What a horrible way to wake up #earthquake (http://bit.ly/bvkdCO)

From: @polarbearfarm

From: @swiftynz

From: @kylierichardson

From: @zurtle

From: @lilGin

  • And the one day I don’t charge my phone we lose all power. Fuck you Murphy and your laws! #earthquake (http://bit.ly/cTYp4u)
  • My living area/kitchen smells like a mixture of peaches, pickles, some sort of vinegar type substance. #earthquake (http://bit.ly/d7H5H2)
  • Bet people are wishing they had thought about how to “get thru”. I am. We don’t even have batteries! #earthquake (http://bit.ly/cISpTa)

From: @serenity22

  • just got power back in Riccarton/Ilam #nzeq (http://bit.ly/aoH1ge)
  • @MsPraxis  – all ok, no damage to the house apart from some hairline cracks in ceiling. bit of breakage, nothing major. shocks still coming (http://bit.ly/bf7oG0)
  • had to go find the old fixed line phone to save the cell (http://bit.ly/cpg84W)

From: @crashhelmet

From: @benkepes

From: @kevinnz

From: @Aupajo

From: @kiwiscotsman

From: @bronmarshall

From: @Craig_Forster

From: @rachel_a

From: @mrsgooding

From: @kiwichrish

From: @NatashaUtting

From: @matt_dempsey

From: @Motmunter

From: @kcolbin

  • @rachel_a Thanks, girl! You ok after this morning’s adventures? (http://bit.ly/b6kFLq)
  • Power back on now. Holy moley, that was scary :(  (http://bit.ly/bWFghd)
  • @rachel_a Dang, I should go to Fava! Good idea! We’ve got power back now, had been cooking up a storm in our campervan :-)  (http://bit.ly/csQL5q)

More will be added as they come in.

What were your first 3 tweets after the quake? If you want to contribute, please @reply me links to them at @kalena with #firstthreetweets as your hashtag or simply add links to them in the comments below.

Share this post with others

July Search Light Newsletter: the *at least it’s not August* edition

Search LightIssue No. 3 of the Search Light newsletter for 2010 was published today.

Yes, I’m well aware that we are in month 7 of the year and this is supposed to be a monthly newsletter. But at least I got it out this month and didn’t let it become an August issue :-)

This edition includes an article about Twitter and the US Library of Congress. What prompted the Library of Congress to decide our tweets were of historical value? How will the archiving of public tweets impact you?

It also contains some of the more interesting FAQs answered in this blog and even details of a sweet marketing gig going at Google for someone with the right stuff.

If you’re not yet a newsletter subscriber catch it here and then quickly go and subscribe before I find out and kill your hampster (just kidding).

Share this post with others

Twitter and Privacy: History Never Retweets

Ever had a case of the *tipsy tweets*?

You know what I’m talking about. The type of tweets you’d never post to Twitter sober but that seem highly amusing after a couple of alcoholic beverages. The ones you rush to delete on Monday morning in a coffee-induced panic when you remember what or who you tweeted. Yeah those.

Well, the next time your fingertip hovers over the send button after you’ve had a few, you might want to think twice about letting it make contact with the keyboard.

It turns out that the Library of Congress has decided to digitally archive EVERY public tweet that has been posted to Twitter since the site launched in 2006. With 50 million tweets processed by Twitter every day, that adds up to billions of messages.

The Announcement

The news came in mid April, first via the Library of Congress’s own Twitter account and then via public announcement during Twitter’s first Chirp conference for developers. This was followed up by blog posts from both the Library and Twitter.

Why Archive Tweets?

So why the interest in digitally archiving tweets and is it really necessary? Staff at the Library of Congress think so:

“Twitter is part of the historical record of communication, news reporting, and social trends – all of which complement the Library’s existing cultural heritage collections.  It is a direct record of important events such as the 2008 U.S. presidential election or the *Green Revolution* in Iran. It also serves as a news feed with minute-by-minute headlines from major news sources such as Reuters, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

At the same time, it is a platform for citizen journalism with many significant events being first reported by eyewitnesses,” said Matt Raymond, the Library of Congress’s Director of Communications.

“Individually tweets might seem insignificant, but viewed in the aggregate, they can be a resource for future generations to understand life in the 21st century.”

Don’t Panic

Now before you panic about your entire Twitter history being laid bare to a grubby public, you should know that there are some protections in place.

Twitter has insisted there be at least a six-month window between the original date of a tweet and its date of availability for internal library use, non-commercial research, public display and preservation by the Library of Congress. Private account information and deleted tweets will not be part of the archive. Neither will linked information such as pictures and URLs.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington also doesn’t see a problem with it:

“I think folks understand that whatever they post on Twitter is meant to be searchable”, says their senior counsel John Verdi.

“I don’t see a big issue here.”

That might change, he says, if the US government tried to identify individuals through their tweets or by cross checking user tweets with their information from other federal databases.

Personally, I can see this happening unless further protections are put in place. It’s probably happening every day.

Gift Wrapped

It’s important to note that the Library did not purchase the archive. It was gifted from Twitter and the original legal document outlining the donation [PDF link] is publicly available via PDF.

“Recently, the Library of Congress signaled to us that the public tweets we have all been creating over the years are important and worthy of preservation. Since Twitter began, billions of tweets have been created”, says Twitter co-founder Biz Stone in their official blog post about the donation:

“Today, fifty-five million tweets a day are sent to Twitter and that number is climbing sharply. A tiny percentage of accounts are protected but most of these tweets are created with the intent that they will be publicly available. Over the years, tweets have become part of significant global events around the world – from historic elections to devastating disasters.”

“It is our pleasure to donate access to the entire archive of public Tweets to the Library of Congress for preservation and research.”

About the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States and it is the largest library in the world, regularly researched by government staff, law enforcement agencies, law firms, authors, scholars, scientists, students and academics. The Library receives more than 1.75 million readers and visitors annually and employs a staff of more than 3,600. According to Twitter, it’s a logical home for their archive.

What Does it All Mean?

So with billions of tweets added to the federal archive, how can we expect the data to be used? With Twitter’s entire history archived, it shouldn’t be long before we see tweets being used as evidence in criminal trials and various lawsuits.

Tweets have already been cited in defamation cases such as the one between 25 year-old Chicago resident Amanda Bonnen and her landlord, Horizon Group Management LLC. Following a disagreement with Horizon Group about mold allegedly found in her apartment, Bonnen posted on her public Twitter account:

“Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay”, to which Horizon Group responded with a defamation case to the tune of USD 50,000.

Although a Google-cache of her now deactivated account shows she had just 17 followers, Horizon claimed Bonnen’s tweet severely damaged their good name because it was published “worldwide”. Ironically, the publicity the case received probably did more damage to Horizon’s public image than Bonnen’s limited tweet. The case was thrown out due to lack of specific context in the tweet, but it does set an interesting precedent for other potential cases.

Whatever the legal and privacy implications, knowing your tweets are being preserved for historical significance and stored in the same building as priceless documents like the Declaration of Independence, should be somewhat humbling.

Who knows, future generations may one day point to your “OMG you guys! @justinbieber just walked into @starbucks!” tweet with the same awe reserved for George Washington’s copy of the US Constitution.

Share this post with others

Twitter to Become Your Online GPS

This week Twitter announced a new feature for twitter.com and mobile.twitter.com called Twitter Places.

The idea is to allow users to tag their Tweets with their specific location, acting like an online GPS of sorts. The geo-location data is made possible with the help of Twitter partners TomTom (manufacturer of in-car GPS navigation systems) and Localeze (a search marketing firm specializing in local search).

Apart from tweeting your own location, the new feature allows you to click a Twitter Place within a Tweet to see recent Tweets from a particular location. Users of geo-social networking services Foursquare and Gowalla will be excited, because the new feature now integrates with these services. If you click on a registered Twitter Place, not only will you see standard tweets from that location, but you’ll also see recent check-ins from Foursquare and Gowalla.

The timing of Twitter’s new feature launch deliberately coincided with the kick off of the World Cup, to encourage people to tweet from and view tweets from World Cup stadiums in South Africa. From the official blog post about the launch:

“When turning to Twitter to keep up with the current game, it helps to know where a Tweet is coming from – is that person watching the game on TV or is he actually in the stadium? To help answer that question, we’re excited to announce Twitter Places”

Unfortunately, Twitter engineers did not account for the popularity of such a feature during a major sporting event and demand actually crashed their own servers for a few hours this week. More about that in another post.

Twitter Places is designed to work with the existing “Tweet with your location” functionality. Instructions for activating Twitter Places using the location function can be found in Twitter’s Help Center.

The new feature will be rolling out to users in 65 countries this week. You’ll know the feature is activated in your country when you see the “Add your location” link below the Tweet box when you’re logged in at Twitter.com

Share this post with others

The Ability to Twitter From @anywhere

At the recent SXSW Conference, Twitter Co Founder Ev Williams announced a major framework they have in the pipeline called @anywhere.

The idea sprouted from the difficulty people have when they browse web sites and want to follow particular persons or businesses they come across on Twitter. At the moment, if you want to do this, unless there is an obvious “Follow me on Twitter” link, you need to conduct a search for the person or business on Twitter, locate their account and then login to your Twitter account to add them.

@anywhere will apparently enable web surfers to interact and follow people directly from their web sites with a single click. From the official blog post :

“Soon, sites many of us visit every day will be able to recreate these open, engaging interactions providing a new layer of value for visitors without sending them to Twitter.com…

When we’re ready to launch, initial participating sites will include Amazon, AdAge, Bing, Citysearch, Digg, eBay, The Huffington Post, Meebo, MSNBC.com, The New York Times, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!, and YouTube. Imagine being able to follow a New York Times journalist directly from her byline, tweet about a video without leaving YouTube, and discover new Twitter accounts while visiting the Yahoo! home page…”

Participating site owners won’t need an API to make this happen either – apparently @anywhere will run via a few lines of javascript added to their HTML code. Already, 13 of the biggest web players have signed up for @anywhere, including sites like Amazon, Bing, Yahoo! and YouTube.

No launch date has been announced yet, but Twitter’s blog hints it will be *soon*.

Share this post with others