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More Twitter conventions would have aided Mumbai coverage

The recent attacks on Mumbai marked a moment when Twitter appeared to reach a critical threshhold. In the UK, various media outlets made use of the 140 character tool to augment their reporting.

In fact, a journalist I spoke to today, said: if journalists hadn't heard of Twitter, then they probably weren't doing their job properly.

Thousands of people were using Twitter to talk about Mumbai. Some twitterers were in the city. Others just commenting from far flung places around the globe. Some were relaying information they had watched on television. Others trying to get blood donors down to the hospital in Mumbai.

But as Twitter use becomes more widespread, so it becomes increasingly difficult to pinpoint the type of information you are looking for. A vast of sea of tweets with #Mumbai quickly developed, and if you were a journalist trying to find eyewitness accounts you found yourself painstakingly wading through them all. Those who did probably found it was time well spent, but is there a better way?

I think one possible partial solution would be the development of more Twitter conventions. After all, Twitter already has some. The '#' is already used as a useful way of sorting information. Other conventions such as 'RT' for retweet have also cropped up.

If you're a journalist using Twitter it would be really useful, for example, if people had used 'EW #Mumbai' for eyewitness accounts. The twitterers calling for blood donors, or people offering to help relatives trying to find out what had happened, might have used 'SOS #Mumbai'.

Maybe these could be developed as 'tags', rather than having to be included in the main body of the update, so that twitterers still had their precious 140 characters of space. Twitter could provide a set of default tags, but why not just allow people to tag their tweet how they wish as they would on a blog post.

That way people could search for various angles on a topic, helping them to access the type of Mumbai updates they were looking for rather than having to trawl through every single thought on Mumbai.

For those interested, I'm sure they'll be more posts on Mumbai in the future - I'm in the process of collecting a lot of information which I hope to distill at some point.