Twitter’s urban roots

Courtesy Jack Dorsey

Courtesy Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey has been talking to the LA Times about his early sketch (from 2000) for STATUS, a service that would eventually be launched as Twitter.

What’s interesting is that urban resilience was a core part of Twitter’s inspiration:

Twitter has been my life’s work in many senses. It started with a fascination with cities and how they work, and what’s going on in them right now. That led me to the only thing that was tractable in discovering that, which was bicycle messengers and truck couriers roaming about, delivering packages.

That allowed me to create this visualization — to create software that allowed me to see how this was all moving in a city. Then we started adding in the next element, which are taxi cabs. Now we have another entity roaming about the metropolis, reporting where it is and what work it has, going over GPS and CB radio or cellphone. And then you get to the emergency services: ambulances, firetrucks and police — and suddenly you have have this very rich sense of what’s happening right now in the city. 

But it’s missing the public. It’s missing normal people. And that’s where Twitter came in. 

Hoekstra on Twitter: I’m in Iraq, come get me

Peter Hoekstra, Iraq and Security

“A congressional trip to Iraq this weekend was supposed to be a secret,” reports Congressional Quarterly. “But the cat’s out of the bag now, thanks to a member of the House Intelligence Committee who broke an embargo via Twitter.”

The leak came from Peter Hoekstra, “a former chairman of the Intelligence panel and now the ranking member, who is routinely entrusted to keep some of the nation’s most closely guarded secrets.”

Best twitter reaction: “Me in Baghdad. That’s Rep. Hoekstraover my shoulder, head-down cause he’s tweeting our location.”

Twitter: your partner in panic facilitation

The vast potential of social networking technologies to aggregate people and effects is something that we’ve been interested in for a while now here at Global Dashboard.  In the blue corner: Linux, Wikipedia, anti-FARC protests organised over Facebook.  In the red corner: insurgents in Mumbai using Twitter to help them to co-ordinate their attacks.

Well, the last two days have brought another couple of examples.  As David noted yesterday, one of them is the current spate of wildcat strikes in the UK, where strikers have been using bulletin board sites like BearFacts and informal text messaging networks.

The other was to be found yesterday on Twitter.  As the strikes gathered pace and as heavy snowfall brought much of the UK’s transport system to a standstill, one Twitter user whose updates I subscribe to posted this:

I can confirm that the Co-Op in Forest Hill is out of stock of Heinz Tomato soup #uksnow #blitz #panicbuying

Now, if you’re not familiar with Twitter, then you won’t be aware that the practice of putting ‘#’ in front of a key word is designed to help users to search rapidly for all tweets related to the same topic. So during the Mumbai attacks, for example, you could immediately gather all tweets on the subject simply by searching on #Mumbai.

Image Author: Flickr user ~Molz~

Image Author: Flickr user ~Molz~

What was interesting to me about this particular tweet was the fact that it was the first on the subject.  The user who made the post was not commenting on an existing subject of chatter on Twitter, nor merely observing that tinned soup was moving fast at his local supermarket, but intentionally turning his observation into a new meme designed to spread infectiously.

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UK strikes online

UK jobs for British Workers

Wildcat strikes have gone viral in the UK – oil, power and nuclear workers have all walked out and the government is scrambling to get the situation back under control.

No panic buying as yet, but if the strikers push a little harder, we might see signs of a systemic disruption.

Of course, no 4th generation strike would be complete without an online presence – Twitter doesn’t seem to be playing much of a role as yet, but there are a number of bulletin boards out there. Bear Facts is one that’s providing coordination for an otherwise highly distributed action:

This site has been specifically designed for engineering construction workers i.e. Welders, Platers, Erectors, Pipefitters, Mechies, Scaffolders etc for the purpose of improved communication and the sharing of information.

We all know how hard it is to keep in touch with what’s going on in this game when we all work on different sites across the country.

Action is now taking place nationwide. Demonstrations are taking place outside sites from Teeside to Wales. Scottish workers have downed tools and taking part in demonstrations in support. The government is being lobbied by the trade unions, in other words…the gloves are off and the fight is on!!!

Of course, half of those registered on Bear Facts are probably infiltrators (both journalists and spooks) – informal SMS networks are probably carrying most of the sensitive information, as they’re so much more secure.