Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Chinese Whispers

I like to think of myself as someone in touch with technology but in reality I am just someone who likes to watch. I like to watch what people buy. I like to watch what people are tweeting and I like to think that I am part of that community of people who talk about internet startups, widgets, web 2.0 and social media, but in reality I am a just a voyeur with a keyboard.

Yesterday I started to watch the discussion on the earthquake in Sichuan. My interest came from my Ayi who has still not been able to contact her parents and her brother in Beichuan. What she knows is that her village was flattened and that the roads are too bad to reach her village and that it is unlikely that her parents survived the quake. To me, this struck a little too close to home. Here is the person whom I employ to look after my child, potentially losing her family. Luckily she was able to get a message from her own daughter and sister via sms and they are okay.

So this twitter phenomenon kind of happened because I wanted to collect as much news as possible so that when I got home I could hopefully bring her some news. Rather than cutting and pasting the links I read, I started retweeting posts from people who had found articles, images or eyewitness accounts so that I could just feed my twitter feed into Google Reader and have all those links in one place.

What I found was that as I was retweeting, people were noticing and then retweeting what I was retweeting. Some people referred to me as live blogging from China and more people started following. I found that strange but then I realised that this was a game of Chinese Whispers where those who heard me and pass on what they heard, so I kept on retweeting people kept on following.

Kaiser who blogs at http://digitalwatch.ogilvy.com.cn/en/ mentioned that there is some discussion about twitter breaking the earthquake story and Robert Scoble also wrote something in his blog about twitter but in reality I was following 3 maybe 4 people actually in Chengdu who were tweeting in English and others who were just scanning the various news sources that actually had journalist at the scene.

I got an email from someone from Aljazeera asking to speak to me about the situation in China and I thought to myself that what I was doing in China today, I could have done in Sydney or San Francisco or from my PDA on a beach in Phuket.

So at the end of the day, It was nice to be noticed for a day but all I really did was emulate what Google Reader already does and that was to aggregate what I was reading and then posting it on another feed. As for twitter, I love what it is, and what it is is just a broadcast sms service delivered over the internet where people share what they are doing, and as a watcher or voyeur, what I have seen is that most people spend a lot of their time just surfing the internet and then letting people know what they have read.

It was an interesting, emotional and thought provoking day today. I'll see you all tomorrow and I will be watching.

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