Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tweets in the Time of Crisis

Its been over 30 hours now since the Mumbai terrorist strikes began. I first learned about the attack through twitter, via an update on TwitterFox. Since then I have been glued to my computer to get information about the Maximum City - or #mumbai as the topic is referred to in twitter-speak.

The real-time results on twitter provided valuable links from citizen journalists on the ground - articles, videos, flickr photosets, contact information, opinions, wishes, prayers. Pretty soon these pictures and soundbites were lapped up by the real media and the #mumbai topic turned into a lovefest of social media and twitter [sic] Love in the Time of Cholera.

The #mumbai topic also turned into a deluge of retweets, rumors and rants. An information/misinformation overload resulted. Elsewhere, Google News ended up with 6,146 news articles related to the terrorist attacks. Social bookmarking sites like Digg and reddit eventually showed the news (after a 3 hour delay on Digg), albeit rendering the breaking news to the backburner, overshadowing it by the rick rolling at Macy's Thanksgiving parade.

Traditional television outlets began their riveting 24 hour coverage. News sources like IBNLive and (gasp) FOXNews were kind enough to broadcast live feeds on the internet. Indian channels had multiple feeds on replay mode till I switched the television off and went back to twitter.

Twitter could really use some improvements to broadcast relevant information in times like this.

Here are some suggestions.
  1. Aggregate statistics about links from tweets and retweets so people know the most popular links in a topic - #mumbai in this case.
  2. Display the actual URL instead of the tinyurl so people can identify the news source
  3. A Digg style voting so the wisdom of the crowds can be incorporated to identify the best tweets/links.
  4. Differentiate tweets from official news sites like bbc, cnn, abc from those of regular tweeters
  5. Identify local citizen journalists accurately using location detection methods such as IP-based lookups

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sign o' the Times

People sure are wearing their yoga practice on their sleeves, their bumper stickers,...

So now an ad campaign by a major health care provider to cash in.
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Sunday, November 02, 2008

On Walden Pond

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the
essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and
not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." - Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854)
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Gremlins in the (Windows) Machine

For the last several weeks, I encountered several networking issues on my windows laptop:
  • My machine wouldn't connect to the network when I switched wireless access points
  • The Apple Airport Utility on my machine wouldn't detect Airport devices and I couldn't print wirelessly using Bonjour
  • I couldn't ping my computer from a different machine
  • I couldn't see any flickr pictures
I was at a complete loss to figure out what was wrong. I tried resetting the winsock catalog, reinstalling airport utility, disabling the windows firewall, uninstalling spybot, unistalling windows sp3 and finally reinstalling windows sp2...all to no avail.

After exhausting all my search queries on the topic, I finally had the answer from an IT guy. I had enabled the option 'stateful firewall' on my Cisco VPN.

Disabling the option restored my machine and my peace of mind.

Hope this post helps someone else out there.