Thanks to Cliff Krieger for doing a post about Twitter. Since Cliff mentions me as one who tweets, my intended comment grew into a post of its own:
As I said in a comment to Paul’s recent post about blogging, history teaches us that new technology becomes available to us long before we understand how to best use it. Twitter is the perfect example of that. To me, it’s the internet equivalent of the Swiss Army knife.
Today, Twitter serves as my primary news feed. The BBC, CNN, ESPN, even the Lowell Sun, all tweet about their big stories and breaking news with embedded links to their own sites. By scrolling through my Twitter feed either on the computer or my phone, I learn what’s going on in the world in just a few seconds.
Twitter also has enormous potential to become the dominant tool in very local news reporting by citizen journalists. Because you can launch a tweet via text message, a phone app, or from some other device or computer, you always have access to it. As you go about your day, whenever you observe something interesting – whether it’s a traffic backup, the onset of rain, or a bit of political news you just heard – launch a tweet and your followers will be kept better informed.
Decades ago my job title in the US Army was “tactical intelligence officer” which meant I was supposed to keep track of what the other guys were doing. Because the military is obsessed with acronyms, I typically worked in a place called the ASIC which stood for “All Source Intelligence Center” (which was either in a window-less room or the back of an armored personnel carrier). “All source” meant just that: we had access to satellite imagery, radio intercepts and all manner of sophisticated collection systems. But often, the most useful information came from the guy on the front line with his “push-to-talk” FM radio. He was the eyewitness observer and his observations always counted for a lot.
To me, a perceptive citizen with a cell phone and a Twitter account is the community equivalent of that front line troop sending reports over the radio. This vision is still a ways off, because it requires a critical mass of contributors who are comfortable using Twitter.
But we have to start somewhere. If you haven’t done so already, sign up for a free Twitter account and then “follow” me at www.twitter.com/DickHowe (my most recent tweets appear in the upper right sidebar of this blog). Once you’ve done that, click on the list of those I follow, and pick the ones of interest to you. And then do a Tweet. You’re limited to 140 characters so it has to be brief, but that’s one of the strengths of Twitter. Try it out. And if you’re already a Twitter pro, share your observations and suggestions with the rest of us.