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BLOG: Twitter's role in reporting Boston Marathon bombing shows ingenuity of users

Lorinda Brandon, Director of Strategy at Smartbear Software | April 19, 2013
Who could have expected that Twitter users would use the tool for such important purposes, all on their own volition?

Did Jack Dorsey ever expect people to use Twitter to launch revolutions, broadcast breaking news, or, as in Boston this week, offer up their homes/hearts/money/prayers to victims? No, of course not. His famous notebook sketch shows a definite affinity for the personal update.

As is always the danger and blessing in software, users have a mind of their own. From a simple personal update to a disaster communication tool, it has evolved in ways none of us could have predicted and has commendably let its users steer the way. And it continues to evolve - a recent article in the Washington Post exposed a debate in the medical community about mining the data in tweets to find patterns for the spread of disease, for example.

And now, Twitter faces a future that has enormous ramifications. I don't know if I would have the strength to sit in feature review meetings knowing that the decisions I make there would affect so many people at such important moments in their lives. In reality, the company has to figure out how to manage revenue like any other business or they risk failure, which none of us can afford to have happen now. The current success with their advertising focus is encouraging, so let's hope they can ride that tide well into the future. I, for one, think they have done a great job of maintaining their role as the world's heart in an emergency while still remaining a viable business.

I am often impressed and amazed by Twitter's resiliency and responsibility to the world's infrastructure. I will even graciously accept the occasional #failwhale as a consequence of all the good they've brought us.



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