Friday, June 19, 2009

tt4t_090 The revolution is digitized, Twitter, the new News source

It’s Friday, June 19th, 2009 and welcome to episode 90 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. This week the world has witnessed the ongoing struggles of Iranian citizens as they work through the aftermath of their recent election. What is interesting is that Twitter has become a new News source and its users have actually mocked traditional media and chided the old media for not covering what was happening in Iran immediately after the Iranian election this past week.

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I first became aware of this by noticing a tag in Twitter named #CNNfail last Saturday night as it was becoming a trending topic in Twitter. Many people on Twitter that night wanted to see live coverage of the aftermath of the Iranian election and expressed their displeasure with CNN for not broadcasting live coverage by using the #CNNfail tag. CNN instead was broadcasting re-runs, and in the opinion of many on Twitter, were not covering an international event of interest to them. In fact many are still using the #CNNfail tag today one week after the Iranian election is over.

Twitter has in a sense become a new News source for many. Twitter users are experiencing real-time news from fellow Twitter users that completely bypasses the old media. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing can be debated. Journalist are struggling to find a balance with real-time news coverage while at the same time checking sources for validity and trying to provide a rounded view of coverage. Of course this introduces the reporters bias into the reporting but this has always been the case.

I have posted a link in the show notes to an article by Robert Niles titled, Lessons for online journalists from #CNNFail and the Iran uprising, this article explains the conundrum journalists are currently facing as technologies are disrupting expectations of those that consume the news. Why bother with traditional media if you can get real-time tweets from individuals who are directly experiencing the news event?

Lessons for online journalists from #CNNFail and the Iran uprising

If you are interested in this topic this article is worth your time to read and ponder the age we are currently living in and how this episode may impact future News coverage as old media like CNN learn their lesson from the Iranian election coverage, or lack thereof. I must pause a moment and re-read that last sentence as I just called CNN old media, not so long ago CNN was the new kid on the block and established the first 24 hour cable network news (CNN) channel on June 1, 1980. That was 29 years ago and for those of us old enough to remember many were skeptical that the public would be interested in a 24 hour news station covering news from around the world.

Fast forward 29 years to the present #CNNfail debacle and it appears CNN has strayed from its roots at a time when more people than ever are interested in international news. I have also provided a link to an article in the show notes that describes a brief overview of CNN if you are interested in learning more about the history of CNN.

CNN – A brief overview

As I write this episode today the number one trending topic in Twitter is still #iranelection. Twitter has now reached a critical mass of users and the collective conscious of its users is becoming a very powerful thing. Many people on Twitter have changed their Twitter icon to a green tint to show their support for Iranians protesting the election results. When something is trending on Twitter I am sure that its impact has exceeded the expectations of the original founders of this service. Many times these trends are frivolous but sometimes, as shown by events this past week, a revolution may be in the balance.

I am sure that Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone never expected in their wildest dreams that they would get a call from the United States State Department asking them to delay routine maintenance on Twitter servers because of an election half-way around the world. A link from a Reuters article is provided in the show notes reporting that the US State Department did indeed ask Twitter to delay maintenance because they were concerned that it would disrupt one of the few remaining communication methods that Iranian citizens were using to get the word out about Iranian election protests.

U.S. State Department speaks to Twitter over Iran

Having been in a previous position of life and death responsibilities as a computer systems administrator for a hospital I know first-hand the burden this level of support requires. Raising the bar of expectations that a service may be responsible for a revolution must be most humbling to its founders. Given Twitters track record with the Fail Whale and reliability problems in the past it must be a bit frightening that its services may be becoming mission critical to many users of its service.

People do tend to get upset if the service is not available and most have little understanding of the need for periodic server maintenance. Since Twitter is now a global service there is never a time that will not impact some users of its services so they do their best to minimize maintenance disruptions. The irony is that if they did not do this routine maintenance from time to time the entire service could go down. So here we are in a real-time world where the expectations of always connected services have become the norm.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a reading recommendation called the Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning by George Siemens and Peter Tittenberger. Since many teachers are on or will soon be on summer break this handbook should be put on your summer reading list as it provides an excellent educational perspective on learning technologies and their uses in the classroom and online.

Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning (HETL)

While the target audience is for higher education faculty, teachers in the K-12 environment will also find it equally valuable as it mixes both pedagogy and technology to provide a foundational level of knowledge for transformational learning empowered by technologies.

That wraps it up for episode 90 of TechTalk4Teachers. Transcripts and show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the Eastern Illinois University Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

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