Monday, 3 January 2011

Why Twitter is the new rock'n'roll

Many years ago when I worked in newspapers you always had to write some 'highlights of the year' to fill the column inches when everyone was on holiday.

I didn't think I'd still be doing it years later, without getting paid, but some things are too good not to share. My media highlights of the year were all on Twitter.

Bad things about Twitter: armchair TV critics (although I love the concept of the 'hashtag hit'). People clogging up my timeline with the X Factor (opiate of the people or just bread + circuses? You decide).

Good things about Twitter. I get news quicker than watching telly. I get news you don't get on telly. Actually, read this 'love letter to Twitter': it says what I wanted to so I don't need to.

I also love Twitter's potential for situationism, activism and general subversiveness. So here are my top Twitter things from 2010.

(For those who aren't on Twitter, you'll need to know about hashtags for this. They're tags you put on Twitter posts. With a hash in front.)

In January 2010, a 27-year-old bloke made a flippant comment on Twitter: "Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"
Amazingly, he was taken to court (under an obscure law about nuisance calls). In November, he lost an appeal against his conviction and was fined £1,000.
It didn't take long before the hashtag #IAmSpartacus was trending on Twitter as thousands of people published a word for word copy of the original tweet. (Apart from one person who translated it into Finnish.) Brilliant.

Organisers of an EU summit in December 2010 decided it would be a good idea to have two giant screens showing twitter feeds using the hashtag #EUCO. A lot of people who don't like Silvio Berlusconi thought it would be a good idea to use the hashtag to say so.

A great campaigning stunt, and a great case study for corporates on how not to trip yourself up using social media. Vodafone decided to get 'down with the kids' and run a promotion based on the hashtag #mademesmile. The best tweets would win prizes, and all the tweets with the hashtag would automatically appear on the Vodafone website. That was the bit they didn't think through...

#ukuncutTwitter is known for 'followers'. So it kind of makes sense that UK Uncut has, so it is claimed, no leaders (although it does have a website). Just people using the hashtag #ukuncut to spread the word about demonstrations against corporations avoiding taxes that might balance some of the government cuts. I know I'm showing my age quoting Bob Dylan but this seems strangely apt. 'Something is happening and you don't know what it is...'

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