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Twitter as Mainstream Media for Israeli/Gaza Conflict?

It was 18 months ago that I first wrote about the extension of real, shooting wars to the social media battleground.  This past week saw a return of cyberspace prominence in the Israeli/Gaza blockade.   The first story that flooded Facebook, YouTube and Twitter was the violence that occurred on the Mavi Marmara.  As this story exploded across the traditional press outlets, videos were available on YouTube showing the actual helicopter boarding of the ship and the attack on the soldiers, which was followed by deadly violence. In this case social media added some perspective to a very volatile issue.

What I found particularly interesting was the coverage of the next ship that attempted to land in the Gaza, the “Rachel Corrie”.  The name of the ship is a reference to an American woman who was killed in Gaza in 2003.   This ship was due to meet up with the Israeli navy early Saturday morning.  I was quite interested in what would happen and tried to get information from traditional media websites throughout the evening in New York.  Much of the information I found was old.  Old in this case means at least 12 hours.   Around midnight NYC time ,  Twitter seemed to become the major news source.  This was fascinating.  Tweets were coming in fast and furious.  This is the first time I experienced the “fog of war” in real time social media.  Reports came in about the ship being boarded, stopped, not stopped, trailed by naval ships, proceeding to Gaza, going to Ashdod, being inspected by International representatives, and so on. Rumors followed Rumors.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the ship had been boarded three hours before the actual event.  This report seemed to be in response to an earlier Tweet that seemed credible.  A credible Tweet as a source?  The Jpost eventually retracted their story, but not before their report was Tweeted 1000’s of time as credible.    The problem is what is a credible Tweet?  Twitter is an environment where anyone can broadcast anything.   The need for instantaneous news on any world event has put news organizations in the position of trying to sift through 1000’s of Tweets to determine what may or may not be happening.  Most Tweets about the Rachel Corrie were re-Tweets of other rumors that were then reinforced by their sheer volume of messaging.  As the trending stats of the Rachel Corrie become higher and higher, it attracted the spammers and the truly crazy people.  Yet through all of this,  I was updating the Twitter role of info on the Rachel Corrie.  The information pipe became even more stuffed with offers for good, services, merchandise and other threads about the ship that described  what was or was not happening.

For the record, the ship was eventually boarded and led to the port of Ashdod where the crew and passengers were deported from Israel and the goods inspected, before shipment to Gaza.  The ruling Hamas Party in Gaza has subsequently refused to accept the aid from the Rachel Corrie becuase it was trucked through Israel. This ship made less worldwide headlines because there was no attack on the naval boarding party and the ship sailed peacefully to an Israeli port.  However, this crisis is far from over as Iran now proposes to use its Navy to escort blockade running ships.

Will we continue to rely on Twitter as the front line of information gathering if this situation escalates even further?  The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) maintains a Twitter account to answer journalists questions and give them real time information on fast moving stories.  During the Rachel Corrie event they responded to a false story in the Jpost as follows:

Twitter is a mix of first hand accounts, rumors, government accounts, and just plain  propaganda.

In the case of the Rachel Corrie what would have happened if Twitter had been flooded with purposeful and coordinated false information?  Suppose Tweets circulated that the Israeli navy blew up the ship?  These false Tweets get re-tweeted thousands of times.  Mainstream media picks up the story and then reports the false reports.  Riots occur, real people get killed; Politicians take public stances that are difficult to back down from.  Fantasy become reality.  By the time the truth is known, it is too late and a real war has begun.   Sound fantastic?   This has happened, almost….

It was October of 1939 when Martians invaded the State of New Jersey.  Panic ensued.  Orson Wells and his epic War of the Worlds was of course just radio fantasy.  We could only imagine what might have happened if he had a Twitter account at the time.

Here is Russian Television’s Report on the Rachel Corrie Ship

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Filed under Aljerzera, facebook, Gaza, IDF, Iran, Israel, mobile, New York, politics, Rachel Corrie, Social Media, social networking, Twitter, You Tube

HTC Incredible – The Bright Side

After getting lots of comments on the frank discussion of my new Droid, I decided it was time to give the other part of the story.  In general, I really like this new superphone.  Yes, I’m still having battery issues.  I  recently had a day in NYC, away from my home office, and I was down to 15% by noon.  But lets not dwell on that.

I have downloaded about 30 free apps for my phone.  I have kept about half of them and trashed the rest.  My advice is to stick to brand name content and carefully reviewed apps.  If you just browse and download whatever you like, you will have many apps that don’t work or worse…

While the HTC Friends widget gets lots of publicity, the individual Facebook and Twitter Apps are better for me.  For the record I use “Peep” for Twitter.  The Foursquare app works well, the LinkedIn app – not.

Many of the most useful apps are targeted at managing your Droid phone.  Among these I recommend “Lookout”.  This is a combined virus scan, backup and lost phone locater – and is presently free.   As I mentioned in my first review a Droid is more like a PC.  When you download  “Caveat Emptor”   For the lost phone feature, you can locate your phone on a Google Map on the Web and even have it emit a siren sound.  Warning- don’t give your web lookout password to anyone or you will likely have a siren in your pocket at the worst possible time!

The widgets that come prepackaged for managing Bluetooth, WIFI , GPS and mobile networking are very useful in managing battery life.  Just keep everything off that you really don’t need.  I have found the GPS is a particular battery hog.

For syncing music, I finally got SallingMedia to work.  The trick is to create playlists for anything you want to sync and then to just sync those lists.  For video you can just drag an mp4 into the video folder on your phone.

One of the pleasant battery surprises was that I was able to watch a 2-hour movie on my phone and still have over 50% battery left!  There are a couple of decent free video players in the app store.  You should try mvideoplayer or stream media player. ( A free shout out to anyone who correctly guesses which movie I debuted on my droid –  there is a hint in this article)

A key to the usability of my Droid is mastering the notification pull down.  Just slide down your finger from the top Verizon logo and you bring down a list of recent emails, messages, program alerts, etc.

For sheer fun there are many “soundboards” in the app store.  These soundboards provide famous sound clips for many movies and TV shows.  I downloaded several and keep them in a folder.

Another app that I like is “barcode”.  It is a build in barcode reader that auto generates a search and shopper price comparison.  Don’t know if I ever will really use it “in real life”- but it’s pretty slick.

I also downloaded “SkyDroid”.  This is the one paid app I have.  It cost 99 cents.  It provides a GPS function linked to golf courses.  I am playing a round on Friday, so I’ll let you know how it works.  The website has a nice interface to map out any golf course that is not yet in their database, and of course it uses Google maps.  It took me about 30 minutes to enter the local course.  I am sure it will not help my golf game, but it is a cool thing to have.

There are apps that are un-Verizon-like in the store.  These include porn, a way to download “free” mp3s and a program to turn your Droid into a broadband modem for your laptop.  The former is surprising for the normally protective Carrier, the later 2 are ways to violate your contact TOS and bypass Verizon’s own broadband connect service.  The world of openness has its consequences.  You have to exert personal responsibility – just like the real world.  Just be careful if you give one of these to a minor.

Lastly, my absolute favorite feature on my Droid is the voice recognition with speech to text.   This is really great.  I thought my biggest issue would be with the virtual keyboard – however I respond to most messages and emails by speaking into the phone.  Imagine – a phone you can speak to!  What a concept.  The voice recognition can be used for almost any text input field. I have used it for emails, SMS, Google searches and contact searches.  Its accuracy is very good – although it needs a little work on its Yiddish!

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