Citizen Journalism at the Bleeding Edge

So I was sitting at my computer today, feverishly coding some revisions for BlueSwarm.org, when I got an IM from a friend in Colorado asking if I had heard about the closing of the Golden Gate bridge. I pulled up cnn.com and searched but didn’t find anything. news.google.com gave me a short snippet from a local source that was very short on details but said that a massive pileup had caused the closure. But the crazy thing was that it had just happened 30 mins ago.

Now, my Colorado friend who brought this to my attention is not the type to watch the newswire or sit in front of the tv all day, watching the 24-hour news channels, so I was curious as to how he found out about it so fast. Apparently, he picked this up from twitter.

For those of you who don’t know, twitter is a service that let’s users post short updates (up to 140 characters) on their status throughout the day. Stuff like “having breakfast with the wife”, or “going to the dentist…ugh.” Critics said it would never succeed, but it’s become massively popular over the last year. I’ve been getting into it myself, and I find it a very unique mode of communication. It’s not intrusive, as you only check it when you want to, you can post using IM, SMS, email, web, programs on your computer, etc. You only see the updates of people that you’ve followed, so you’re in complete control. It provides a unique window into the lives of people around you. Anyway, the uses for it are incredibly diverse, from people asking for advice from the cloud, to companies monitoring feedback, to citizen journalism, apparently.

This twitter user posts constant updates on breaking news throughout the day, giving people a quick way to keep up on what’s happening out there in the world. They already have several thousand users and I predict that will grow. I also predict that we’ll see a lot more of this kind of stuff in the future around niche topics and areas. For example, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch posts updates on what he’s doing throughout the day and what’s happening in the tech blogging world, giving those interested a surprisingly intimate view of his day and thought process.

No real conclusion here, but if you haven’t checked out twitter, I recommend it. You can follow me here…just don’t expect anything too interesting 🙂