Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Olbermann, Iran and "TWEET" power

I love Keith Olbermann. His coverage is smart, opinionated and revealing. Do we have a Canadian version? George Stroumboulopoulos? Jian Ghomeshi?

In this segment of his show Countdown, he discusses what is happening in Iran and the way Twitter is affecting the movement for greater democracy there. I have to admit, I have not followed this story very closely as I just couldn't get my hopes up to have them crash when the inevitable hammer of the Supreme Leader (and I'm not talking Diana Ross here) Ali Khamenei comes down.

Although the government had done its best to suppress communications by blocking the internet and silencing supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, who insists that he had won the recent election, people have turned to Twitter to get the message of what's happening in the country out to the rest of the world.

There was a very interesting article in the New York Times on Monday titled: Social Networks Spread Defiance Online.

"A couple of Twitter feeds have become virtual media offices for the supporters of the leading opposition candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi. One feed, mousavi1388 (1388 is the year in the Persian calendar), is filled with news of protests and exhortations to keep up the fight, in Persian and in English. It has more than 7,000 followers."

And a very amusing and insightful take on this phenomenon can be read on BoomTown: - Inane and Half-Baked Twitter Is the Forrest Gump of International Relations:

"Stupid is as stupid does, of course, but what it does illustrate quite smartly is that word of mouth–a concept as old as humanity–remains the most powerful way of distributing information."

It is easy for Twitter feeds to be echoed everywhere else in the world. The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked are what make it so powerful.”

I have been a recent convert to Twitter. Like many, I just couldn't see the point of letting people know within a limit of140 characters what I was doing. To be honest, it's one of the applications of Facebook that I had the greatest problem with also. Unless your saving a life, writing the great Canadian novel or winning a lottery ticket, I'm just not that interested in hearing what you had for breakfast or that your shopping for shoes.

However, I have come to the epiphany that like so many other tools that we humans have at our disposal, social media applications like Facebook and Twitter can actually improve the way we communicate and do business. Through a continual flow of "small talk", friends and those that we follow (as in Twitter) can actually attain a sense of who we are by seeing and sharing our interests.

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