I have been critical of Steve Gilmor's writing style in the past. Something about a person writing in a way that seems designed to confuse people seems downright immoral to me. But today is a day of celebration because Mr. Gillmor has actually produced....wait for it...a completely coherent post.
Yes the logic's still a bit fuzzy and the focus is still a bit rambling but every sentence is profoundly understandable and that deserves a shout out. In order to do my little part to prove that speaking clearly inspires dialogue and to hopefully encourage coherence in the future I felt the need to pass on some link-love.
So without further ado, Steve says...
About noon Friday here in California, I happened to click on a Summize tab substituting for Twitter’s Track functionality and monitoring the use of my Twitter screen name. Someone named Scrabo had tweeted “Rumor here at NBC is that Tim Russert passed away”. A minute later another: “@stevegillmor Brokaw getting ready to go on air.”
Turning on NBC, then MSNBC, then CNN, I found nothing: reports on flooding in the Midwest, breaking news about a bomb attack in an Afghan prison, a strange obliviousness on the NBC outlets. Something about the first tweet resonated - “here at NBC” - and I went back to the computer and Summize, finding another tweet directed at me that said Wikipedia was already updated with the news. Jumping to the New York Times, a single line at the top of the home page. Finally, at 12:33 Tom Brokaw broke into programming with the news.
I've gone over the inaccuracy of Twitter more than once so I won't rehash that. Instead, I wanted to say something about expediency.
Three kinds of News
The way I see it there are three types of news that we all consume. Those are...
News requiring some reaction: Natural Disasters near those you love, disastrous turns in Financial Markets you participate in, and anything else that might require you to act quickly falls into this category.
News requiring your attention: This includes things like the various positions of political candidates, news on stuff that will make you healthier, and other things you should probably know but which don't necessarily require you to do anything.
Idle Chit-Chat: This includes the various goings on of celebrities, heroic things done by Children and/or Puppies, and other entertainment based news events.
The point I'm making with the above distinctions is a simple one: There are different types of news and they require different types of delivery mechanisms. Most people have lives that require them to pay attention to what is happening to them which means they only want their attention drawn away if they need it to be. Like in the case of news needing them to react in some way.
Situations needing a reaction have systems already in place
Here's a funny Twitter fact: Its only been around for a couple years.
Here's a funny life fact: People have needed to react to natural disasters and stock crashes for far longer than a couple years
Here's my not so funny point: Any news that requires a reaction from you already has a system to deliver that information immediately. Financial companies will send you a text message if your stocks are dropping, the USGS has an Earthquake Notification System (via SMS) and every other type of news requiring an immediate reaction from you is going to have a system that informs you immediately.
Oh, and those system's won't require you to comb through tons of people talking about what they had for lunch in order to find that news.
The benefit of ignoring other news
That brings us back to Mr Gillmor's point in regards to the other type of news. The thing to remember here is that you don't need to know the other types of news in real time. In fact, it can be detrimental to do so.
In Mr. Gillmor's example he brags about finding out about the death of Tim Russert before anyone else. In it he says...
But an event such as Russert’s death and the emotional shock wave it produced put the lie to the notion that this stuff is echo chamber or A-List or whatever. 30 minutes before the world knew about this tragedy, someone I don’t know reached out and established a connection based on mutual affinity.
Given that quote I ask you: don't you think it might be advantageous to hold off on learning news that will send an "emotional shock wave" through you until after your work day is over? Rather than spend the rest of it distracted and completely unproductive?
Expediency is not always a good thing which is probably why there aren't already systems in place to deliver that type of news in real time.
So what have we learned?
Twitter is a nice service for those who enjoy it. Nothing more. Trying to attach importance to it by saying it delivers news faster doesn't hold a lot of water.
(oh, and let me finish by saying one more time that the news it delivers is completely inaccurate)
One last thing to regular readers of this blog. I want to apologize for again tackling the whole "Twitter News" thing. I know I promised not to. But I felt the special circumstances warranted a quick revisit. I'll definitely shy away from here on out. I PROMISE!
Addendum: Michael Arrington posts a Qik Video follow up to the post here in which he tries to clarify what Mr. Gillmor was trying to get across. Basically the point he was trying to make, if I'm getting this right (the video cuts off at a weird point), is that Twitter allows people to connect in a personal way over things that happen in real time. I can understand that point on an intellectual level and I think that's a big reason why people who like Twitter use it. For me personally though I don't see it. It takes a lot more than a 140 character summation of events for me to connect with a person who I don't know. I assume when someone famous dies there will be other people who are touched by it so for me to connect with someone over it I need to know that something specific about their sorrow jives with my own experience.