Sunday, March 8, 2009

Aggregated realtime keyword search results = local news? [Getting there from here]

In an interview, Twitter CEO, Even Williams said (translated by Google from German): "We are currently thinking about an extension that notifies the user what is happening in its immediate vicinity is happening. Depending on where I am staying, I could then learn about that a few streets away a fire is burning."

TechCruch writes an article titled Twitter To Start Serving Local News To Users?


This morning, there was a fatal and shocking shooting incident at a church near my hometown. More specifically, the church is 2 small towns over, the victim is from my hometown and the perpetrator is from 3 small towns over. The shooting happened around 8:30am. I heard about it for the first time around 11:30am via Facebook. Once it was brought up, my mom mentioned that it had been announced in church - probably around 9:30. By the time I checked Twitter around 12:30pm, Maryville (the name of the town where the shooting happened) was the 3rd trending topic (popular keyword). The first appearance was around 9:30am.

All this to say that as much as I am still mostly annoyed by most things surrounding the existence of Twitter, at its core it has its uses - and if understood and harnessed correctly, maybe even the majority of the press wouldn't be able to miss them.

If Twitter had a tool that "notifies the user what is happening in its immediate vicinity," I would have known about the national news that happened a few miles from my hometown within an hour of it happening instead of 3 hours later. A good number of the early tweets in the Twitter search string link to CNN, the local CBS station (KMOV), etc. - actual news outlets. So I'd get to the local news via Twitter, and I guess I'd technically have received "news" of it from Twitter, but the actual reporting come from where I'd expect it to.

Am I arguing semantics? Some may say yes, but in this environment of the constant overblown discussion of whether or not bloggers will replace reporters, the TechCrunch headline is worth calling out, the semantics are worth being understood.

Within 3-5 hours after the shooting, the tweets started to get less helpful. Tweethounds were using the keyword with truncated urls that would appear to be to a news story but really led to their Twitter profile. Aggregators got in on the keyword by reporting its rank in hopes of newbies deciding their feed is "the place" to keep up with what's trending. Random people were using the keyword just so their account would show up in the search string. Basic Twitter uselessness.

But now, some 12+ hours later, interesting links are starting to show up in tweets - pastor responses, personal accounts, etc. Takes a little more mining to get to the interesting stuff, but it's there for the seeker.

And there you have the data rainbow of Twitter. Harness the first hour or so of that into an alert and that's a service I would find useful. Would I want it to serve as my "local news?" No. Would the alert be as useful without the links to local news stories? Maybe not? Would local news reports get more (free) play if there was an alert system like that? Likely.

See kids? Appropriate usage and teamwork. Fabulous concepts.

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