Friday, October 17, 2008

Election 2008 at Twitter

A while back I wrote about Twitter and mentioned my feeling that its potential journalistic value was not so much in a flow of individual messages from a single reporter as in the way that a "constant flow of messages from a posse of reporters, bloggers and even rank-and-file attendees at an event [can create] a sense of the ambient flow and mood of the gathering." This could be sports events, conventions, conferences, even riots. This can happen with live public access, or off the record record to keep everyone in touch in a group such as a newsroom, a team of salespeople or the like.

It's not really journalism (OK, it's not journalism at all), but some sense of ambient awareness can be derived from looking at Twitter's selective feeds on current topics, such as Joe the Plumber, ACORN, or Colin Powell. But you can get a really intense sense of Twitter's potential s at their Election 2008 center, unveiled at the end of September, where the tweets just keep on flowing in what's essentially a national conversation about politics. (Make sure you keep that Pause button unpaused to keep them coming; it seems to be triggered by mere cursor movement.)

For political junkies, this is pretty cool, but again, imagine this kind of flow from a convention or sports event audience. Or during a World Series Game. Or on how the stock market's doing. It appears to be the only such streaming topic on Twitter right now, but I'm guessing we'll see a lot more of this. See also ohguido's thoughts on all this at Masters of Media. The lingo is a tad stilted (it's a Dutch group blog by master's students at the University of Amsterdam), but I think he's on the right wavelength with regard to Twitter.

Incidentally, the other day Dave Lee at daveleejblog posted "How should we be using Twitter." He mentions only individual Twitter streams such as that of Jemima Kiss, who is a very savvy British blogger, now at the Guardian (sorry, she's apparently on vacation, so check back in a while); and "organisation" feeds such as the BBC's, which seems to be just an automated feed of stories as they go live. No mention of group twittering to create ambient awareness. (And yes, that term I'm using is from Clive Thompson's New York Times Magazine piece.

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