Working for a Multinational company means I have colleagues from all over the globe, some of whom I’ve developed a friendly relationship with, friendly enough to ‘friend’ them on facebook. Today I received the tragic news of the Oslo bombings not from CNN or BBC, not even from the Google news, but over a facebook status update from a colleague of mine in Norway. The sad news of such an atrocity was heart-wrenching, but in the midst of this I decided to do a small study to see how twitter was reporting the news as opposed to the usual mainstream internet news companies.
So going online I searched twitter for Norway and saw the very first tweet on the list, a condolence message from BO himself:
Scrolling down most of the news on twitter was on how the mainstream media like the Washington Post & CNN got a bunch of experts that were quick to point the finger to Islamic Terrorist:
Finally I see a pictures emerging with links to BoingBoing and regular news sites like reuters
Then I see a tweet from Hans Rosling (the Mick Jagger of Ted talks), pointing a link not on BBC or CNN or NYT, but to wikipedia
And it’s only from the wikipedia entry that the data is sorted into a straight-forward format that you can see, that the OSLO event isn’t just one bombing or one shooting, but 2 events occurring almost simultaneously and conducted (suspected) by Right Wing Christian Militia that is for all intents and purposes Anti-Muslim. How Anti-Muslims go about killing non-Muslim Norwegian to prove a point is beyond comprehension.
The difference between twitter and the rest of the news source is aggregation and the WAY that data is aggregated. Previously I would rely on Google News to aggregate my news feeds and rely on Google to point me to the right news sites/feeds/channels. Google however is inherently inferior to twitter in one vital aspect, twitter is mostly human, whereas Google is ALL algorithm. With twitter, real people are reading the news and tweeting, and the more the tweet the more prominent it will appear. What that means is that rather than relying on a Google algorithm to aggregate all this data from CNN/BBC/Al-Jazeera..etc, I’m relying on a whole bunch of people who are actually reading the data, processing it and then re-tweeting it. So in effect its man vs. machine, and I’d rather have humans aggregate the newsfeed rather than Google.
A search for Norway on Google News revealed the following:
No information about how CNN and Washington Post experts jumping the gun to blame Islamic Terrorist for the bombing, and less comprehensive than the wikipedia entry. All in one, twitter (and wikipedia) are changing the way I read the news through crowdsourcing the news feeds and getting real people to process that data so that only the good content is viewed. It the face of such a tragic outcome, I’ve learnt that twitter is probably a better source of news than CNN, and crowdsourcing your news isn’t such a bad idea. In fact not crowdsourcing it means it could probably end up with bias (and sometimes accurate) information.
I will end with one tweet (of my own), which is simply a repeat of my colleagues facebook status that sums up my feelings about this: