Twitterquake: Sitting with TechMeme during earthquake

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.

In San Francisco most of us at the dinner didn’t feel it. I immediately left a TwitterGram, so that everyone would hear our voice and understand that nothing happened where we were.

But the more interesting thing was that I was standing next to Gabe Rivera, the founder of TechMeme/Memeorandum, as this was all going down. He predicted, accurately, that the earthquake wouldn’t make it onto TechMeme. He told us that the only way it’d show up is if it started affecting something in technology. He did keep nervously look at his cell phone to make sure that TechMeme wasn’t displaying anything about it.

We did talk at the table, though, that how 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.

Well, that’s the Twitterquake wrap up. Anything from your point of view that we should discuss regarding the changes in how we get our news?

Oh, during the quake we didn’t lose power, didn’t lose cell phones, and didn’t lose access to Twitter. During a really big quake there will be lots of infrastructure down, but SOMEONE will be able to get messages out and that’ll really be interesting to watch how information gets shared if, say, all of San Francisco isn’t able to communicate with the Internet.

UPDATE: Mike Doeff was tracking Twitter for every mention of the Quake. Wow, thanks for doing that!

71 thoughts on “Twitterquake: Sitting with TechMeme during earthquake

  1. I totally agree that services like Twitter (and especially mobile devices) add to the changing way in which info on important or fun or even trivial events gets gathered/shared/consumed etc. This adds more ways for citizen journalism (or even activism) to grow and ferment. But IMHO the Twitter quake was ‘bollocks’ because most of the info flowing from the feed was rubbish – only useful to determine that it was moderate in scale and where it was most felt.

  2. I totally agree that services like Twitter (and especially mobile devices) add to the changing way in which info on important or fun or even trivial events gets gathered/shared/consumed etc. This adds more ways for citizen journalism (or even activism) to grow and ferment. But IMHO the Twitter quake was ‘bollocks’ because most of the info flowing from the feed was rubbish – only useful to determine that it was moderate in scale and where it was most felt.

  3. Well, of course Twitter and same “comunicators” are much faster than phone’ing to our every friend (etc). But in fact that’s good way only if we’re really fine and we’re just able to wrote sth – in other situations mobile phone we’ll see mobile phones are immortals and adapted to extremely situations.

  4. Well, of course Twitter and same “comunicators” are much faster than phone’ing to our every friend (etc). But in fact that’s good way only if we’re really fine and we’re just able to wrote sth – in other situations mobile phone we’ll see mobile phones are immortals and adapted to extremely situations.

  5. Reminds me a lot of the old IRC scene. Remember the thread from Kuwaiti students chatting the invasion by Iraqi forces? That’s where mainstream media got most of their information in the early hours. Twitter puts the concept on the web and expands its reach, but otherwise, not terribly different, is it?

  6. Reminds me a lot of the old IRC scene. Remember the thread from Kuwaiti students chatting the invasion by Iraqi forces? That’s where mainstream media got most of their information in the early hours. Twitter puts the concept on the web and expands its reach, but otherwise, not terribly different, is it?

  7. I can’t stop thinking about Twitterquake. I have an image in my mind of a person being buried under a pile of rubble, then one bloody hand bursts out triumphantly and Twitters a frantic warning to social networkers in SoMa that a chemical cloud is headed their way, hitting ‘Send’ with a Herculean effort before the fingers seize up and finally fall limp. Within a few days, the MSM has quit en masse, Neil Young has released ‘Let’s Tweet!’ in honor of the brave Twitterer, whose FaceBook profile is carved into granite in a monument next to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Bush Administration has launched an invasion of Iran to liberate the country’s mobile devices from the iron grip of the Islamofascists.

  8. I can’t stop thinking about Twitterquake. I have an image in my mind of a person being buried under a pile of rubble, then one bloody hand bursts out triumphantly and Twitters a frantic warning to social networkers in SoMa that a chemical cloud is headed their way, hitting ‘Send’ with a Herculean effort before the fingers seize up and finally fall limp. Within a few days, the MSM has quit en masse, Neil Young has released ‘Let’s Tweet!’ in honor of the brave Twitterer, whose FaceBook profile is carved into granite in a monument next to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Bush Administration has launched an invasion of Iran to liberate the country’s mobile devices from the iron grip of the Islamofascists.

  9. It was comforting to me because if it had more severe consequences at least we could communicate more readily. It was awesome, I didn’t even call my family who all live locally.

    BUT the big thing was that it showed the real problem with TV news and I kept thinking about your video. Ross mentioned that one channel kept talking about the dangers of a big aftershock. News tries to generate an audience by communicating fear. I myself twitted before it was on the us government site, but it just illustrated how archaic the news structure is. They broke into programming but just said the exact thing that we all already knew. It illustrated that there had been a significant shift in the distribution of information. Which is what you’ve been saying all along.

    Thanks for following me.

  10. It was comforting to me because if it had more severe consequences at least we could communicate more readily. It was awesome, I didn’t even call my family who all live locally.

    BUT the big thing was that it showed the real problem with TV news and I kept thinking about your video. Ross mentioned that one channel kept talking about the dangers of a big aftershock. News tries to generate an audience by communicating fear. I myself twitted before it was on the us government site, but it just illustrated how archaic the news structure is. They broke into programming but just said the exact thing that we all already knew. It illustrated that there had been a significant shift in the distribution of information. Which is what you’ve been saying all along.

    Thanks for following me.

  11. If I were caught in a chemical cloud I would definitely Twitter what’s happening. I might be dead within minutes, but that information could warn other people not to come this way …

    And I would totally Twitter that Scoble was a True Twitter Hero for that Tweet! Yay, Twitter! Yay, Scoble’s hypotheticial heroic Twittering!

  12. If I were caught in a chemical cloud I would definitely Twitter what’s happening. I might be dead within minutes, but that information could warn other people not to come this way …

    And I would totally Twitter that Scoble was a True Twitter Hero for that Tweet! Yay, Twitter! Yay, Scoble’s hypotheticial heroic Twittering!

  13. Pingback: FiberGeneration
  14. Yep, the earthquake was the thing to make me finally sign up for twitter. By reading your blog I knew that I would find the most information on twitter, and I did.

  15. Yep, the earthquake was the thing to make me finally sign up for twitter. By reading your blog I knew that I would find the most information on twitter, and I did.

Comments are closed.