Steve Jobs' bad news heralds the real-time web age

UPDATE: yes, I’m insensitive, but this post isn’t an editorial opinion about Steve Jobs, just a note about how his news spread and how his announcement brought into focus the real-time web. Tragedies and bad news tend to focus our attention and bring into relief how our world has changed. I remember how 9/11 did that for blogs. Today the bad news surrounding Apple’s CEO and co-founder brought a new development into our focus: the real-time web.

As I said in my earlier post, I wish Steve and his family all the best.

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I’m sure that Steve Jobs didn’t want his announcement to be one of the seminal events that ushers in the real-time web age, but what just happened today will be remembered for years to come.

What happened? While CNBC was reporting it on TV the real-time-web was going nuts. Passing along little tidbits. Stories. Links. Rumors. And all that. It was interesting, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

There were 40 Tweets coming in every three or four seconds on Twitter search. And it stayed up!

Friendfeed was going nuts (that’s where I saw the news first).

While I wrote this post, which only took about a minute or two, 191 new Tweets came in.

But this points to some dangers and problems:

1. If you aren’t online there’s no “warning” system that something is happening. I wish I could tell Twitter to SMS me whenever a “high flow” event is underway.

2. It’s hard to separate out the real facts, from the fiction. I have a better filter than most people. I know who is credible based on past experience with them. Quick, who is more credible, Allen Stern or Ralph Sanders. I am following both and know who Allen is. Ralph? Not so much and I’ve never seen him involved in a breaking news story.

3. Our mechanisms for tracking stories and important tweets are really lame. Right now, hours after the news has broken, there are TONS of tweets coming through the system. Hundreds every few minutes. But, in that stream of “noise” is there any “news?” Yes. I’ve been clicking “like” on the best ones that I see, but I can’t see them all, so we need an even better system that lets the crowd expose the best tweets and friendfeed messages. I like friendfeed a lot more because it shows blogs and photos and youtube videos and other things instead of just tweets. All of those will play a major part in many news stories (like, say, a big fire or an earthquake).

Anyway, thank you to Steve Jobs for demonstrating to lots of people that real-time news is indeed important and that blogs are not the only way to go. Now you understand why I invested so much time in friendfeed and twitter last year.

Published by

Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, Scoble travels the world looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology for Rackspace's startup program. He's interviewed thousands of executives and technology innovators and reports what he learns in books ("The Age of Context," a book coauthored with Forbes author Shel Israel, has been released at http://amzn.to/AgeOfContext ), YouTube, and many social media sites where he's followed by millions of people. Best place to watch me is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble

Comments

  1. Just in the time it took to read your article I got 36 new messages popped up from the Twitter search (5 more now). I do wish that (11) there was a way to know that ‘X’ happened (17), and get an alert on it. Thats (21) what most of this is about.(24)

  2. Just in the time it took to read your article I got 36 new messages popped up from the Twitter search (5 more now). I do wish that (11) there was a way to know that ‘X’ happened (17), and get an alert on it. Thats (21) what most of this is about.(24)

  3. Robert, you’re thanking Steve Jobs for announcing that he’s seriously ill because it will help people learn about how important Twitter is? Really? Words fail me. Well, almost…

    Today, if people feel compelled to talk about Steve’s very sad news publicly, pretty much the *only* acceptable response is to wish him and his family all the best… and then shut the **** up about the subject for a while. Like all human beings, the man deserves some damn respect; and making a completely facile link with your favorite topics of Twitter and FriendFeed is some way from constituting respect, whichever way you cut it.

  4. Robert, you’re thanking Steve Jobs for announcing that he’s seriously ill because it will help people learn about how important Twitter is? Really? Words fail me. Well, almost…

    Today, if people feel compelled to talk about Steve’s very sad news publicly, pretty much the *only* acceptable response is to wish him and his family all the best… and then shut the **** up about the subject for a while. Like all human beings, the man deserves some damn respect; and making a completely facile link with your favorite topics of Twitter and FriendFeed is some way from constituting respect, whichever way you cut it.

  5. This Steve Jobs example is a good one in terms of the real-time Web, but it’s not alone. If you were following the weekend’s football action, you would have seen the same on Twitter (less on FriendFeed). The Super Bowl should be a very interesting test, assuming two teams anybody cares about might make it.

  6. This Steve Jobs example is a good one in terms of the real-time Web, but it’s not alone. If you were following the weekend’s football action, you would have seen the same on Twitter (less on FriendFeed). The Super Bowl should be a very interesting test, assuming two teams anybody cares about might make it.

  7. Simon: if you look at it that way, OK, but this was a huge news event and I report on what I’m seeing happen on the web whether it was a good event or bad one that caused it. Mostly it’s bad news that causes news and causes people to talk. I wish him and his family well, but his announcement will be remembered as the day the real time web took off just like 9/11 is remembered as a seminal day in blogging as well.

  8. Simon: if you look at it that way, OK, but this was a huge news event and I report on what I’m seeing happen on the web whether it was a good event or bad one that caused it. Mostly it’s bad news that causes news and causes people to talk. I wish him and his family well, but his announcement will be remembered as the day the real time web took off just like 9/11 is remembered as a seminal day in blogging as well.

  9. This is the most insensitive post I think I have ever seen by a semi-mainstream blogger. It was “fun”? And then you thank him for providing that entertainment? There is a human being facing serious health consequences at the other end of this.

    More importantly, to your point about “demonstrating to lots of people that real-time news is indeed important”. Really? I think it demonstrates the opposite: that real-time news fuels hysteria, speculation and misinformation.

  10. This is the most insensitive post I think I have ever seen by a semi-mainstream blogger. It was “fun”? And then you thank him for providing that entertainment? There is a human being facing serious health consequences at the other end of this.

    More importantly, to your point about “demonstrating to lots of people that real-time news is indeed important”. Really? I think it demonstrates the opposite: that real-time news fuels hysteria, speculation and misinformation.

  11. Much as I love to call Robert out, I have to take issue with anyone suggesting that’s he’s ever been less than compassionate, when it comes to issues of people’s personal health or well-being. He’s a tech dork, and perhaps a social misfit, but, malicious? I haven’t seen it. Robert, you go boy!!!!

  12. Much as I love to call Robert out, I have to take issue with anyone suggesting that’s he’s ever been less than compassionate, when it comes to issues of people’s personal health or well-being. He’s a tech dork, and perhaps a social misfit, but, malicious? I haven’t seen it. Robert, you go boy!!!!

  13. Did you really gain any useful info from all these tweets?

    Would you really have lost out on much if you found out later in the evening?

    Twitter is the reincarnation of the news broadcasters that spend 10 hours straight covering an event with only 5 minutes worth of actual content.

  14. Did you really gain any useful info from all these tweets?

    Would you really have lost out on much if you found out later in the evening?

    Twitter is the reincarnation of the news broadcasters that spend 10 hours straight covering an event with only 5 minutes worth of actual content.

  15. Robert, I do understand your interest in what you call the “real-time web”, but there’s a time and a place. In terms of news, the story *today* is that Steve Jobs is seriously ill. That’s all. Trying to make the story about anything else is crass.

    In any case, an *analysis* about how this news was reported really doesn’t need to be real-time. It would have kept a while, and pausing to take stock would have given you time to choose your words more carefully. For example, saying, that Twitter made it “fun” to read about the news about Steve Jobs… I mean, come on… surely you can see that isn’t appropriate…

    Finally, with respect, it will be for historians to judge how this day is remembered. They will have the benefit of knowing how things turned out. Like I said, today, the only thing to do is to wish Steve and his family all the best, and then shut up. Which is what I’m going to do right now…

  16. Robert, I do understand your interest in what you call the “real-time web”, but there’s a time and a place. In terms of news, the story *today* is that Steve Jobs is seriously ill. That’s all. Trying to make the story about anything else is crass.

    In any case, an *analysis* about how this news was reported really doesn’t need to be real-time. It would have kept a while, and pausing to take stock would have given you time to choose your words more carefully. For example, saying, that Twitter made it “fun” to read about the news about Steve Jobs… I mean, come on… surely you can see that isn’t appropriate…

    Finally, with respect, it will be for historians to judge how this day is remembered. They will have the benefit of knowing how things turned out. Like I said, today, the only thing to do is to wish Steve and his family all the best, and then shut up. Which is what I’m going to do right now…

  17. Simon: fair enough. I wish I hadn’t used the word “fun” and have pulled that out of the post. But, I remember meeting a group of doctors at a party and they enjoyed telling themselves stories of “weird diseases” that they had seen. To me I’m a news junkie. Keeping up on the news is fun. Yeah, it’s pathetic too, but whatever, we all have our pathologies.

    Andrew: I’m in the news and technology business. I want to be first and being first is important. News includes the word “new” for a reason. Old news is NOT news anymore. So, yes, I do learn valuable things. I’ll bring that value forward to my blog when I can.

  18. Simon: fair enough. I wish I hadn’t used the word “fun” and have pulled that out of the post. But, I remember meeting a group of doctors at a party and they enjoyed telling themselves stories of “weird diseases” that they had seen. To me I’m a news junkie. Keeping up on the news is fun. Yeah, it’s pathetic too, but whatever, we all have our pathologies.

    Andrew: I’m in the news and technology business. I want to be first and being first is important. News includes the word “new” for a reason. Old news is NOT news anymore. So, yes, I do learn valuable things. I’ll bring that value forward to my blog when I can.

  19. Robert, I beg to disagree. The seminal event happened on 26/11 in Mumbai. Sure, there wasn’t much action on friedndfeed. But i was monitoring twitter search through the night. A two minute break to the restroom meant, sifting through 442 updates.

  20. Robert, I beg to disagree. The seminal event happened on 26/11 in Mumbai. Sure, there wasn’t much action on friedndfeed. But i was monitoring twitter search through the night. A two minute break to the restroom meant, sifting through 442 updates.

  21. Ravi, you just don’t get it. Until it happens to someone *you* care about, it hasn’t happened.

    Okay, that’s just a little unfair. But Robert, you do sound a little like the 24-year-old weatherman talking about the worst storm ever, when it’s really just the worst one since he started paying attention to weather back in college. Modern media — and TV in particular — is full of examples of historical superlatives being applied to events that are at best the most $something in that reporter’s personal experience.

    Before saying something it the first … biggest … most … it would pay to see if it really is. Or just the first one you saw first-hand.

  22. Ravi, you just don’t get it. Until it happens to someone *you* care about, it hasn’t happened.

    Okay, that’s just a little unfair. But Robert, you do sound a little like the 24-year-old weatherman talking about the worst storm ever, when it’s really just the worst one since he started paying attention to weather back in college. Modern media — and TV in particular — is full of examples of historical superlatives being applied to events that are at best the most $something in that reporter’s personal experience.

    Before saying something it the first … biggest … most … it would pay to see if it really is. Or just the first one you saw first-hand.

  23. Robert,
    You last sentence – “Now you understand why I invested so much time in friendfeed and twitter last year.”
    No, I still don’t understand. Maybe you can expand on that? What more did you learn (facts, not conjecture) from Twitter or Friendfeed that wasn’t in the press release? Again, verifiable facts about Apple or Jobs.

    Really, what did Twitter (at 140 characters) offer that couldn’t be found anywhere else? And again, real info, not supposition, speculation or conjecture. What do either Twitter or Friendfeed bring to the table to other than providing a forum for an arguably insular community to talk to themselves.

    And this is an honest question, not baiting. Perhaps I’m just part of the “over 40″ demographic that doesn’t get it, but I’m curious and trying to understand and find a benefit. And simply being “First” to hear.comment doesn’t count.

    Thanks
    Trevor

  24. Robert,
    You last sentence – “Now you understand why I invested so much time in friendfeed and twitter last year.”
    No, I still don’t understand. Maybe you can expand on that? What more did you learn (facts, not conjecture) from Twitter or Friendfeed that wasn’t in the press release? Again, verifiable facts about Apple or Jobs.

    Really, what did Twitter (at 140 characters) offer that couldn’t be found anywhere else? And again, real info, not supposition, speculation or conjecture. What do either Twitter or Friendfeed bring to the table to other than providing a forum for an arguably insular community to talk to themselves.

    And this is an honest question, not baiting. Perhaps I’m just part of the “over 40″ demographic that doesn’t get it, but I’m curious and trying to understand and find a benefit. And simply being “First” to hear.comment doesn’t count.

    Thanks
    Trevor

  25. Regarding point #1… I went searching for such a way to get such an “alert” and the closest thing I found on twitter this morning is to follow @TweetingTrends. Just started following them this morning but they do appear to tweet the “new” trending topics and I just set it to SMS my phone. Perhaps this is the solution?

  26. Regarding point #1… I went searching for such a way to get such an “alert” and the closest thing I found on twitter this morning is to follow @TweetingTrends. Just started following them this morning but they do appear to tweet the “new” trending topics and I just set it to SMS my phone. Perhaps this is the solution?

  27. I think it’s been pointed out here how Twitter was just lot of noise for this. The news broke on a mainstream source, and the best analysis of was found on blogs and the news publications. Twitter’s good for near real-time communitcation, but I really think it’s getting pushed too hard as a super legit news source. Oh, and what did the yogurt guy twitter?

  28. I think it’s been pointed out here how Twitter was just lot of noise for this. The news broke on a mainstream source, and the best analysis of was found on blogs and the news publications. Twitter’s good for near real-time communitcation, but I really think it’s getting pushed too hard as a super legit news source. Oh, and what did the yogurt guy twitter?

  29. >I have a better filter than most people

    Hilarious. This from a guy who put some yogurt store employee’s opinion of Jobs health out as fact. Like the guy would say he looks terrible and lose Apple’s business. Terrible.

  30. >I have a better filter than most people

    Hilarious. This from a guy who put some yogurt store employee’s opinion of Jobs health out as fact. Like the guy would say he looks terrible and lose Apple’s business. Terrible.

  31. Is no one already working on this?

    >1. If you aren’t online there’s no “warning” system that something is happening. I wish I could tell Twitter to SMS me whenever a “high flow” event is underway.<

    Not just alerts for specific terms but a gauge of what is the biggest thing going on at any moment?

    This idea could be huge.

  32. Is no one already working on this?

    >1. If you aren’t online there’s no “warning” system that something is happening. I wish I could tell Twitter to SMS me whenever a “high flow” event is underway.<

    Not just alerts for specific terms but a gauge of what is the biggest thing going on at any moment?

    This idea could be huge.

  33. I worked with and for Steve Jobs at PIXAR from 1991-1997. An incredible time for everyone there. We made this thing called Toy Story together.

    It was almost like hearing that a relative was ill. For him to take 6 1/2 months off…is monumental. When he’s on a project, he’s never away for more than a little bit and he’s always in touch with it, so seeing this was a big shocker.

    I also think that having the media/investor community magnifying glass stuck on you has a lot to do with it as well. Everyone is so focused on Steve that he’s seeing that it’s distracting Apple, the employees and literally the entire industry. That would drive anyone nuts. It used to be when he went out he could walk around Palo Alto and people would just nod or wave and he’d walk on. He was always approachable. Now…probably not so much.

    Personally I wish a lot of people would just take a step back and let the guy heal. Let him be so that he can get well. I sure hope he beats whatever it is that’s bringing him down and I have faith that he will.

    Mike Murdock

  34. I worked with and for Steve Jobs at PIXAR from 1991-1997. An incredible time for everyone there. We made this thing called Toy Story together.

    It was almost like hearing that a relative was ill. For him to take 6 1/2 months off…is monumental. When he’s on a project, he’s never away for more than a little bit and he’s always in touch with it, so seeing this was a big shocker.

    I also think that having the media/investor community magnifying glass stuck on you has a lot to do with it as well. Everyone is so focused on Steve that he’s seeing that it’s distracting Apple, the employees and literally the entire industry. That would drive anyone nuts. It used to be when he went out he could walk around Palo Alto and people would just nod or wave and he’d walk on. He was always approachable. Now…probably not so much.

    Personally I wish a lot of people would just take a step back and let the guy heal. Let him be so that he can get well. I sure hope he beats whatever it is that’s bringing him down and I have faith that he will.

    Mike Murdock

  35. I thought the major news outlets gave it the attention that it deserved. Steve Jobs is sick, may need a liver transplant and is taking a medical leave. PERIOD. The rest is internet noise and doesn’t deserve attention. Get well Steve. I bet Scoble loves TMZ….

  36. I thought the major news outlets gave it the attention that it deserved. Steve Jobs is sick, may need a liver transplant and is taking a medical leave. PERIOD. The rest is internet noise and doesn’t deserve attention. Get well Steve. I bet Scoble loves TMZ….

  37. If the “real time web” is represented by the noise generated on Twitter and Friendfeed regarding Steve Jobs’ health, then I have to question its value as a medium. What I saw was a ton of “noise” and no real substance. Sort of like the worst aspects of print and television media, only in far greater volume and somehow even less actual intelligence.

    Personally, I would much rather read an intelligent, well-considered assessment a day or two later then a massive flood of crap and random speculation. An interesting thing to me would be if you could build an intelligent “miner” of all the useless twitter-type spewings that would somehow aggregate the noise down into a handful of actual intelligent concepts and their relevant rankings.

  38. If the “real time web” is represented by the noise generated on Twitter and Friendfeed regarding Steve Jobs’ health, then I have to question its value as a medium. What I saw was a ton of “noise” and no real substance. Sort of like the worst aspects of print and television media, only in far greater volume and somehow even less actual intelligence.

    Personally, I would much rather read an intelligent, well-considered assessment a day or two later then a massive flood of crap and random speculation. An interesting thing to me would be if you could build an intelligent “miner” of all the useless twitter-type spewings that would somehow aggregate the noise down into a handful of actual intelligent concepts and their relevant rankings.

  39. Is there any difference between Twitter and Heroin?

    I’m also trying to figure out whether there is any noteworthy difference between an Internet blogger writing about Steve Jobs health and a typical Paparazzi.

    It seems as if they would follow him into his doctors office if they could. Of course they’d be shoving and jockeying for position. Then they would hastilly be typing into their blog on a laptop as the doctor gives Steve his diagnosis.

    Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs but he’s going to be supported by a much stronger team than will Steve Ballmer, Michael Dell, and whoever is running HP this week.

  40. Is there any difference between Twitter and Heroin?

    I’m also trying to figure out whether there is any noteworthy difference between an Internet blogger writing about Steve Jobs health and a typical Paparazzi.

    It seems as if they would follow him into his doctors office if they could. Of course they’d be shoving and jockeying for position. Then they would hastilly be typing into their blog on a laptop as the doctor gives Steve his diagnosis.

    Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs but he’s going to be supported by a much stronger team than will Steve Ballmer, Michael Dell, and whoever is running HP this week.

  41. @scobleizer – Today the bad news surrounding the terrorist nuking of Cleveland brought a new development into our focus: the real-time web. Yes, it’s wholly insensitive and galling beyond all human comprehension, but this tweet/post isn’t an editorial opinion about global thermonuclear war, just a note about how news spreads.

    (note the sarcasm)

  42. @scobleizer – Today the bad news surrounding the terrorist nuking of Cleveland brought a new development into our focus: the real-time web. Yes, it’s wholly insensitive and galling beyond all human comprehension, but this tweet/post isn’t an editorial opinion about global thermonuclear war, just a note about how news spreads.

    (note the sarcasm)

  43. More and more I realize that Twitter is for twits, and Friendfeed has little to do with friends and friendship. All such nonsense is designed distraction, created and promoted by rascals–not unlike ‘Mr. Scobleizer.’

    The truth of your useless twittering comes from your own inane remarks: You actually THANK Steve Jobs for being deathly ill, so he can show us the wonders of twittering like twits!?! Absolutely a new low in tasteless crudeness. Then, you proceed to validate why you wasted so much time writing, or rather, twittering (for months) about the glories of twittering. Of course, 99.9 % of those reasons are wishful thinking or just pure BS.

    Please explain to me (again) how twittering is NOT a complete waste of time, and anything other than a huge distraction. Furthermore, please show me how business productivity is enhanced by such obviously self-indulgent, self-sabotaging activities… So many, who see (now worthless) dollar signs in their eyes, willingly sell out all common sense for some hopes of profit… Judas Goats all.

    ‘Scobleizer’ has devolved from somewhat relevant, to hyper-commercial, to annoying, to just a plain old twit. Perhaps your niche has finally been found… While Rome burns,… Twitter on.

  44. More and more I realize that Twitter is for twits, and Friendfeed has little to do with friends and friendship. All such nonsense is designed distraction, created and promoted by rascals–not unlike ‘Mr. Scobleizer.’

    The truth of your useless twittering comes from your own inane remarks: You actually THANK Steve Jobs for being deathly ill, so he can show us the wonders of twittering like twits!?! Absolutely a new low in tasteless crudeness. Then, you proceed to validate why you wasted so much time writing, or rather, twittering (for months) about the glories of twittering. Of course, 99.9 % of those reasons are wishful thinking or just pure BS.

    Please explain to me (again) how twittering is NOT a complete waste of time, and anything other than a huge distraction. Furthermore, please show me how business productivity is enhanced by such obviously self-indulgent, self-sabotaging activities… So many, who see (now worthless) dollar signs in their eyes, willingly sell out all common sense for some hopes of profit… Judas Goats all.

    ‘Scobleizer’ has devolved from somewhat relevant, to hyper-commercial, to annoying, to just a plain old twit. Perhaps your niche has finally been found… While Rome burns,… Twitter on.

  45. Wednesday, January 14, 2009 10:51 PM…

    Robert Scoble: Steve Jobs’ bad news heralds the real-time web age. “Our mechanisms for tracking stories and important tweets are really lame. Right now, hours after the news has broken, there are TONS of tweets coming through the system. Hundreds……

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