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

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.