Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send “updates” (or “tweets”; text-based posts, up to 140 characters long) to the Twitter website, via short message service (e.g. on a mobile phone), instant messaging, or a third-party application such as Twitterrific or Facebook.
Twitter was used by the Los Angeles and San Diego Fire Departments as well the Red Cross: “Cell towers and communication lines were being burnt, [so] SMS and websites were the best ways to get info, and Twitter was perfect in that sense because it published directly to SMS” (1). Particularly telling is the following comment by the LA Fire Department: “We can no longer afford to work at the speed of government. We have responsibilities to the public to move the information as quickly as possible… so that they can make key decisions” (2)
So just how fast is Twitter? Earlier that year, “Twitters beat the US Geological Survey by several minutes” when they were first to report the Mexico City earthquake on April 17th (3). The Twitter alerts, or microblogs, are all documented and time stamped on the Twitter website and also available on TwitterVision.
Is it just a matter of time before Twitter or a similar GeoChat interface gets used for conflict early warning and response?