Wednesday, October 31, 2007

More on the mass coverage of last night's earthquake


THIS NOTE WAS ADDED ON FEBRUARY 27, 2008. ON THIS DAY I FOUND A HUGE SPIKE OF TRAFFIC FOR THIS POST, WRITTEN ON OCTOBER 31, 2007. UNFORTUNATELY, BACK IN OCTOBER, "LAST NIGHT'S EARTHQUAKE" REFERRED TO AN EARTHQUAKE IN CALIFORNIA. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THE EARTHQUAKE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM ON FEBRUARY 26, 2008, I STRONGLY SUGGEST THAT YOU READ JESSE STAY'S POST LONDON EARTHQUAKE AND TWITTER. UNLESS YOU HAVE A HUGE INTEREST IN AN EARTHQUAKE THAT HAPPENED SEVERAL MONTHS AGO, IN WHICH CASE YOU CAN CONTINUE READING THIS OLD POST AS YOU PLEASE.

NOW BACK TO MY ORIGINAL POST FROM OCTOBER 31, 2007.



You'll recall what I said about the earthquake in my previous post:

[N]ote that within the first set of tweets someone could start picking out the breadth of the earthquake - notice that someone felt it in Modesto - and that we were already getting magnitude guesses.

My post relied on the information collected at Mad Dog in the Fog.

It was interesting to see what Robert Scoble said about earthquake twittering:

Last night I was hanging out with a small group of people when Shel Israel told us “there was just an earthquake.” His wife had called him and he happened to pick up the phone. I instantly looked at my phone and saw Maryam had already called me. Turned out that 80% of the people at the table had the same experience — that a wife or significant other had called them and checked in.

But what was fascinating was what happened next: we all went to Twitter where the earthquake was causing its own “Twitterquake.” Damn, were the posts flowing fast. What a lot of people on Twitter realized was there was MUCH BETTER information flowing through Twitter than on any other media. Quickly we realized no one was hurt, no real damage had been done, so we went back to our dinner....

[H]ow we get news has dramatically changed. First of all, the word-of-mouth network was the fastest out there. Loved ones are going to probably tell you news like this before anyone else. Twitter is damn fast, too. Beats the USGS Web site with data. And that’s saying something because the USGS sites report quakes within minutes.

Lots of chatter on Twitter discussed that Google News, CNN, and other mainstream outlets weren’t reporting the news. The local newspaper wrote a story, but this demonstrated how inadequate local journalism is: Twitter had far more information than this story had and had it FAR faster and thanks to things like Twitter, Flickr, Kyte.tv, Seesmic, Twittergram, and Utterz, we can cover the story with micromedia in a way that the San [Jose] Mercury News simply hasn’t gotten a clue about.


I can't speak for the San Jose Mercury News, but I think I can say why the international services were slower. Simple reason: it wasn't newsworthy. If there had been death and destruction, you can bet that they would have been all over it. And if there HAD been death and destruction, there's a chance that the international services may have been faster, since a catastrophic event could very well disable the cell phones that many of us use to Twitter away.

But there's one thing that both the Twitterers and the major networks will have to deal with when such an event occurs - a lack of information. Oh, sure, there's a lot of data, but not a lot of information.

You may notice that when I quoted from the Twitter feed, I did not present all of the data that was available. A ton of data was flowing through at the time, but in retrospect, most of it wasn't true information. If you don't believe me, here's a small chunk - just a small chunk - of the unedited data.

(oscarjr): omg! did u feel the quake?
(sallypnut): Whoa. Hello, earthquake.
(krob): Earthquake in the Bay Area!
(tychay): Earthquake. Sweet.
(CraigB): EARTHQUAKE!
(vglshn): An earthquake has my cat on edge.
(chipotlecoyote): Earthquake. Fascinating.
(trevor_m_wilson): earthquake in Berkeley
(jimgoldstein): Earthquake in SF
(rcrowley): Earthquake!
(jonk): earthquake!!!!
(MizLit): Earthquake!
(Golabutron): Earthquake!
(malerin): EARTHQUAKE
Nymo: OMG, Earthquake
(jakeludington): Anyone else feel an earthquake in the South Bay about now?
(lloydgomez): Modesto just had an earthquake! Yikes…..
(shawnbot): Whee, earthquake!
(sct): earthquake??
(homesliced): a little shaken from my 1st SF earthquake
(Fenchurch): Whoa, violent earthquake. Not the rolling kind, but a shaky one.
(stevepm): Hello earthquake, welcome to my dinner party.
(hizKNITS): earthquake?
(bernie): wow. best quake yet!
(synergist): Earthquake!
(deebeedee): WOW, we just had an earthquake!!
(aliciarenee): Earthquake! and haus still stands. huzzah.
(abhaykumar): Whoah. Anyone else just feel that? My first earthquake!
(CathyE): ZOMG! FIRST EARTHQUAKE!
(mjyazzie): Earthquake!!!!!
(head_zoo_keeper): that was a pretty big earthquake — a fore-shock?
(lhalff): Quake!


You have to wade - no, nearly drown - through a lot of data (even in that small snippet) to get to the meat. (Apologies to vegans.)

The data on the earthquake was acquired via Twitter's "track" command, which lets you look for particular keywords (in this case, "earthquake" and "quake"). However, the track command doesn't support any type of filtering, such as

track +earthquake +quake -omg -d00d

to filter out certain tweets.

[1 NOV - BUT WHAT IF THE PROFESSIONALS AND THE TWITTERERS WORKED TOGETHER?]

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1 comments:

nate said...

hahhaa.... I love the filters.