The terror attacks in Mumbai on 26 November was inarguably the worst terrorist strike on the country. The images and videos were in our face whether you were in Mumbai or half way across the world in New York.
The internet played a big part in spreading information to people on the ground and all around the world.
Twitter was being labeled as the runaway success story to emerge from the whole episode.
The Guardian UK writes
Twitter meanwhile provided a constant stream of information through its search function, allied to the use of tags – #mumbai being the favourite as the situation developed. The first notes of the attacks came from Indian users of Twitter (though the site’s search facility doesn’t go far back enough to show them).
In fact the Indian government became so concerned about the amount of information being spread through Twitter that it asked for the site to be temporarily blocked.
Sitting here in New York I was following the entire multi day saga through live video on CNN IBN, news websites, blogs and twitter.
And for all the promise of twitter, I found it to be a lot of hype and not much substance.
Citizen Journalism became the buzzword on all the news websites and some of them even went so far as to run live tweets to #mumbai on their TV channels.
Trying to follow #mumbai for information was frankly insane. There was too much noise and very little substance. At its height I felt that only 1 out of 100 tweets had something of value. It was like being in a room of screaming children trying to out shout each other.
A lot of the news coming was unsubstantiated and heresy. And there in lies the problem of all those who gloat about how Social Media and Citizen Journalism is the greatest thing to the internet at this time in history.
The BBC which used twitter reports on their site as sources of information has been caught off guard
BBC News website editor Steve Herrmann has added his thoughts to the debate, including an admission that the corporation will need to take more care in how it uses lightening fast, unsubstantiated citizen posts from Twitter in the future.
He raises a specific failing – regarding the widely-reported tweet that the Indian government called for an end to Twitter updates from Mumbai – which the BBC covered in a "live updates" aggregation page.
"Should we have checked this before reporting it? Made it clearer that we hadn’t? we certainly would have done if we’d wanted to include it in our news stories (we didn’t) or to carry it without attribution," Herrmann says. "But should we have tried to check it and then reported back later, if only to say that we hadn’t found any confirmation? I think in this case we should have, and we’ve learned a lesson." [link]
A lot of the news was of the nature "someone told me…." or "my friend heard…".
I started following twitter #mumbai when I saw Dina Mehta’s status update on Facebook. As someone who I regularly follow in the blogworld, I look forward to her tweets and I wish that somehow there was a way that tweets had the ability to be filtered through an editor. Dina would have my vote on being that editor.
I finally just followed Dina’s tweets on Twitter and I knew I wasnt missing much.
And something very disturbing was how twitter was being used as a self-marketing tool by some people.
An example is a tweet by Gaurav Mishra
From My Blog: My Interview with Indian Daily LiveMint on the Role of Citizen Journalis.. http://is.gd/9iQb 4:34 PM Nov 27th from twitterfeed
And this was not the only one. Every few hours there would be similar self-advertising tweets from him and a few others about how they were quoted in some media or website or appeared on some interview. As someone trying to follow the conditions on the ground, how would I be interested in what a blogger, sitting in the US writes on his blog about how he was interviewed by some newspaper.
As the BBC example and many others have proved, Twitter is a great social media tool, but how it matures and is used will determine its success.
I don’t think all the hype about Twitter and Citizen Journalism is justified in what was actually coming off on #mumbai. Except Dina Mehta and a few others, everyone tweeting was a lot of noise and no sound.
PS….I also think twitter needs a filter where tweets containing links to one’s own blog can be deleted before they reach you.