Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

When the shooting happened on Ft. Hood in 2009, I was in a classroom less than twenty minutes from the base. Immediately, all nearby campuses went on lockdown, but no one knew why. Teachers eventually received an email with some vague information, but no specifics were given. Of course, we have internet connection within our classroom, so once students were receiving news of a shooting on base from texts, I started searching. Surprisingly, twitter gave me quicker and more accurate updates from people on the ground. Countless times CNN was behind or incorrect in information. Granted, some people spouted false information in order to gain recognition, but with some investigation and fact-checking, it was incredibly useful to follow events. Between students texting parents (those on the base and those hearing news from friends involved) and tweets coming from ft. hood, I gained all the information I needed.
This isn't the first time I've used twitter for information, either. Last spring, a huge storm blew through my city. My husband was gone and I was alone on the third floor of an apartment. The sky quickly turned green and the news turned to watching a supercell grow as it approached our area. Eventually, the weather turned nasty enough I had to retreat to the bathroom. So with my laptop, phone, pillows, blankets and dog snuggled (un)comfortably within the tub, I tried to listen to the news on the TV in the living room. It didn't work. The storm was too loud, my dogs nervous whines too persistent. I turned to twitter for information. I knew before the station's livefeed when a cell touched down less than a mile away. I also knew when it wasn't necessary to take cover. A friend let me know the coast was clear - and sure enough - when I left the bathroom there was a small break in the clouds.
There was also a huge fire in a local neighborhood last year - through twitter, people were mobilized and within hours a system was set in place for donations and crisis volunteers. Those who lost everything had places to stay, food, clothing and other essentials. All because of tweeting.
These are just a few examples of the reliability of twitter. The revolution in Iran proved twitter capable of changing not only people's minds about Britney's sex life but also politics - so much so that users were asked to change their locations to Iran in order to protect those actually there. And many did! Because of this, I feel if something were to happen in Austin, my best bet would be to check what people were saying on twitter. Safe houses? People would be tweeting locations. Spots to avoid? Same. Again - fact checking is necessary, but I follow enough reliable people I would more than likely trust what they had to say.

Views: 27

Comment by Nathaniel Fruchter on April 25, 2010 at 5:15am
A vote from me, especially because I'm also in central Texas. =)
Comment by Elora Ramirez on April 25, 2010 at 5:22am
thanks! :)
Comment by Sarah Shaw Tatoun on April 25, 2010 at 8:13am
Great post, Elora, and I agree, Twitter is awesome! I wish it had been around after 9/11-- the regular news programs-- particularly the local ones were just filled with misinformation. Even the metro website said that our line which went past the Pentagon was being rerouted, when in fact it was running as usual. Ironically, although some of the US news media did a good job afterwards, I got the best and most timely information from the Czech news. That was partly because they were six hours ahead of us and so had been on the job most of the day by the time I got up, but partly also because of wonderful reporting by people like my 'hero', Petra Prochazkova.

Anyway, twitter's a great resource. I've used it to follow everything from the health care debate to the volcano eruption in Iceland.
Comment by PJE on April 25, 2010 at 9:07am
Thank you for this Elora, I didn't know that twitter worked like this so for me this is very interesting. I don't have a facebook or twitter account.
Best wishes
Comment by nomadHAR on April 25, 2010 at 9:54am
twitter is a very interesting source of 'stream of consciousness' information. i can definitely see how the instantaneous news would be helpful in times of crisis and emergency.
Comment by Turil Cronburg on April 25, 2010 at 11:14am
The main problem with Twitter is that it's 99.999% crap (or maybe more! :-). There needs to be some better way (other than hashtags, which are mostly randomly created) to sort through the mess.
Comment by Sarah Shaw Tatoun on April 25, 2010 at 12:06pm
I disagree, Turil. Try some of the following: @juneholley @hrheingold @mwesch @CreatvEmergence @timkastelle @lindegard @avantgame @mbauwens @RichardWiseman @zephoria @brainpicker @timoreilly @umairh - Read some of the links they post for a few days, start to follow some of the more interesting people they've found to follow. Twitter can be a little hard to really get into, but once you do you'll quickly discover it becomes an indispensable source of information.

Oh, and I'm @eclectopedic.
Comment by Turil Cronburg on April 25, 2010 at 12:19pm
Clearly there is good stuff on Twitter, which is why I said that there is a need for a better way to sort through the stuff. Right now, there is no organization to it, and no easy way to find the kind of information that you're looking for, and no easy way to avoid the majority of the stuff that is a waste of time and energy.

It's nice for you to personally suggest people to follow, but word of mouth not a sustainable, thorough, or quick enough solution. If Twitter is to be successful in really becoming a great solution to communication problems, it needs to incorporate some kind of organization and filtering process.
Comment by Elora Ramirez on April 25, 2010 at 2:12pm
@Turil for me, the filtering process has been intentionally following people I know who live within the same area as well as following people who have built credit around my area. I think the reason I like twitter so much is that it's what you make it. YOU as a user are responsible for filtering. I know Justin Beiber has been a trending topic for weeks, but who cares? I don't even pay attention to what's trending unless it's relevant to me. (the Ft. Hood shooting, last year's Invisible Children event The Rescue, different conferences I've been a part of, etc.) The concern you have is valid: there is certainly crap out there (otherwise Beiber wouldn't be trending!) ;) But, I think if you want to use it as a resource, finding people you trust is essential.
Thanks for the comments, guys!
Comment by M. on April 25, 2010 at 3:18pm
You are right, when real trouble arrives you want whatever information you can get as quickly as possible. We had a lot of ice storms this winter, and Twitter & Facebook were usually better sources of info on the conditions of specific roads than the news.


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