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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!