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Is Twitter a news system?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 by Dave Winer.

A piece came out in yesterday's LA Times that quoted from my podcasts with Jay Rosen and blog posts here. The piece was a bit all over the map, the author was having trouble coming to grips with a premise that I take for granted. Twitter is a news system, today, it will be more of a news system in the future, and whatever becomes of Twitter the company or their web service, the essentials of what Twitter does is an integral part of the news system of the future. Permalink to this paragraph

Let's try turning the question around -- if Twitter isn't a bootstrap of or a dry run at the news system of the future, then what is it? A fad with no significance? People said that about CB radio, something that I never did myself, but it seems vindicated now -- it was a dry run at Twitter. People said the same things about blogging, but I don't think anyone doubts that blogging is part of the news system of today and the future. Permalink to this paragraph

An example... Permalink to this paragraph

The other day I was shopping at Target in Berkeley, and noticed that the parking lot was full, and wondered how this could be, if there was a recession going on. I noticed that the parts of the store that sold supermarket-like products were jammed, and the parts that sold durable stuff, clothes, luggage, toys, sporting goods, electronics -- were empty. When I got to Starbucks after my stop at Target, I reported this on Twitter, along with a picture I had uploaded from the parking lot (it goes to Flickr and is automatically pushed to Twitter). Soon after reports came in from around the country about Target parking lots where other people lived. Now here's the point -- that's what network news used to simulate, by sending reporters to all the locations to find out what's going on. Instead we got the reports from the shoppers. Not a whole lot of difference. And Twitter was both the newsroom and the delivery medium. Permalink to this paragraph

I'm sure some willl argue that what's going on in the parking lots of shopping centers during a recession isn't really news; then I would point those people to the first reports of the USAir flight that landed in the Hudson, which didn't appear on CNN or ABC -- it appeared on Twitter, with a picture, in much the same way my picture of the Target parking lot did. The technologic channels can report small stuff or sensational stuff, with equal alacrity. Permalink to this paragraph

I wonder why press people have trouble seeing that news is what's happening there. Sure there's a lot of other stuff on Twitter -- they focus on that instead. I leave it to the investigative journalists to figure out why. Permalink to this paragraph


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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.


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