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War in the Middle East Pt 2: Moving at Twitter Speed

This is the second part of a series I’m working on that is tracking the unfolding Gaza/Israel military conflict from a New Media perspective.  You can see Part 1: Conflict in a Connected Age here.

Twitter was really a major driver for me during this event for several reasons:

  1. It helped me stay completely up-to-date on breaking news and follow developing situations
  2. It gave me access to people who were actually THERE in both sides, before the press could report.
  3. It captured real moments and gave an indication to just what was going on
  4. It allowed me to engage in conversation with people from both sides of the conflict from all over the world.

I’m going to talk about these points in detail below, but before we get started just what the heck is Twitter?

1. Staying Updated on Breaking News – Hashtags

Hashtags are words that people can attach to their messages, called tweets, that help aggregate and organize content so that users can quickly search and find messages about a particular topic. During the past four days several hashtags have been used to help the discussion for example:

#gaza

#askisrael

#israel

2. People who where there:

I met people like @gazanews who was updating on Israeli target strikes, while @Qassamcount shared where rockets were landing in Israel. (Part three will have a more comprehensive list of people to follow)

3. Moments captured from all over:

Users were sending in mobile pics from everywhere including this one from a hospital:

http://www.aqsatv.ps/arabic/pic/1_793670_1_34.jpg

4. Conversations Back at Home

Thanks to the Hashtags, I met a lot of people who had wide and varied opinions on what was going on. Some of us started on completely opposite sides of the issue:

And then all of a sudden, we became two people having a conversation, and wouldn’t you know it a friendship was born:

Even MORE interesting, was that the Israel Consulate, in a Twitter First, held a “citizen” press conference where it answered people’s questions between 1 and 3pm EST. I for one, was full of them, and I did get one answer about their definition of terrorism:

Users were asked to tag their questions with #askisrael and the conversation can be seen below:

They were a little overwhelmed with questions and so wisely decided to answer all questions on a blog post that will be released in a few days. I thought this made a lot more sense because the overflow made the thread hard to follow, and people were getting a bit frustrated that their questions weren’t being answered or that the consulate was picking and choosing questions. I think the blog post will alleviate those feelings since everyone’s question (the reasonable ones) will hopefully get answered. We can also see the foundation of social media in official roles within government. Eventually, there will probably have to be a dedicated person whose job it is to engage and answer questions. Awesome.

This conversation is great to see on Twitter, it shows the potential of what can happen when government engages with people, ushering in a new era of transparency and accountability. All in all, great first steps were made today.

UPDATE: First round of the Q&A are up and can be found here.

3 Responses to “War in the Middle East Pt 2: Moving at Twitter Speed”

  1. ADR says:

    I agree with your observations and echo the hope that these technologies will serve to bring people from both sides closer together. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for participating in our Citizen Press conference, and thank you for this blog post.

    You can find more of your questions answered in part 2 of the “Q&A” in our blog: http://www.israelpolitik.org/2008/12/30/more-qa-from-twitter-conference/

    We appologize for the mispelling of your username (t instead of f).
    Typing quickly has its drawbacks.

  3. infoeduc8r says:

    Thank you for your series. As a newbie to Twitter, your posts have helped me to understand what an important tool it can be in following real-time conflicts such as the Gaza crisis. I am now much more educated on the conflict than I would be simply following traditional media. Keep up the good work!

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