Twitter beats normal media sources into a cocked hat when there’s a big and fast developing news story, such as the Chile earthquake yesterday. Three or four years ago I would have added a whole bunch of updates to a post, yesterday it was time spent informing people who really wanted to know things of the details as and when they appeared.
It’s not a perfect news source and when raw news is gathered and relayed on a near-instant basis, mistakes get made. For example, at one point there was talk of a big wave hitting the coast North of Iquique which, very happily, turned out to be false (the biggest tsunami wave last night was around 2.1m high, which means it can do some damage to the immediate coastline but isn’t much worse than a storm swell). Another error that did the rounds was that authorities had evacuated the women’s prison in Iquique, when the fact was that some 300 took the opportunity to escape (you get the feeling that the round-up won’t take so long on that one). Use of Twitter as a source during a fast-breaking story that affects a large chunk of population is going to have its ragged edges every time, but overall the medium is worth its weight in gold at times like last night. The speed, flexibility, the range of sources that quickly congregate, and above all the mountain of genuinely useful and reliable information from people who want to help others and have an outlet at hand which helps them do just that; that good info vastly outweighs in quality and quantity the occasional bad rumour that gets propagated or jerk-off who decides to throw some bullshit into the mix.
Nothing of the above will come as a great shock to people who’ve watched Twitter grow, I have no new insights to offer and the events of last night will go down as “another news story, could have been worse, clean up, move on”, so don’t expect candlelight vigils on April 1st 2015 to mark the anniversary. But for those of you who think Twitter is some disposable program that’s only good for people who care about what some TV star had for breakfast, think again.