What a Storm

Last saturday an absolutely wicked storm blew through the Edmonton area. It was truly one of the most damaging storms I have ever seen. It was matched only by the massive storm that caused flooding few years ago. And while there was little to no rotation in the clouds, to many, the storm reminded them of Black Friday, when a Tornado touched down in the city in 1987.

The Clouds were easily the darkest I have ever seen. I had a wonderful view of the storm. I was over at a friend's condo that night. He lives in the river valley on the 7th floor of a condo building. He has a beautiful view of the river valley from which we could see the storm. The lightning was intense, and the wind was fierce. On the 7th floor balcony it was quite intense. I could feel the wind pushing me. I could see large tree limbs being pushed across the parking lots like they were pieces of paper. The first front passed by quickly.

The second front, about 45 minutes later, was not quite as windy, but it brought the rain. Easily the hardest rain I have seen in years. It came down very hard, very fast, and very large drops. Even with the patio doors closed while we were inside, we could hear the rain. That lasted for about 30 minutes. We never lost power there, but the lights flickered numerous times. While I was driving home, large portions of my trip home were dark, and without power. When I got home, it was obvious that the power had been out, probably for about 3 hours, and had just recently come on.

I did not take any really good pictures, however, many edmontonians did. Linked is the photo gallery from iNews880 of the damage that was done. Thousands of trees were destroyed, buildings damaged, the pictures really are amazing.

Once again, Twitter played a large role in this storm. There were many, many tweets during, and after the storm, pictures being relayed in real time, and first hand accounts being displayed in real time, as it was happening. This allowed coverage of the storm that simply would not have happened in the past, and is truly amazing. Also linked is Mack Male's blog where he talks more in depth about social media than I would. It's a must read.

[Read] - iNews880

[Read] - Mack Male's blog

Twitter and the media

Yesterday Lynda Steele of Global TV Edmonton posted to Twitter asking for suggestions on how the media can effectively use Twitter, and asked for anyone to email her with suggestions to take to a newsroom meeting today.  This, along with the recent rush of Edmonton media flocking to Twitter really got me thinking about Twitter, Media, and the news in general.  I spent some time thinking about it, and did send her my thoughts.  I thought that I would put some of them down here.

Twitter is about the community. specifically in Edmonton there are people from all walks of life, from every corner of the city, and even the entire Capital Region that use Twitter.  that is a powerful tool that, if used correctly, can greatly enhance the media.  I personally believe that the key to using Twitter is not to simply use it as another medium for delivering the same news, but to make it actually part of the news process.  Currently, Global TV Edmonton uses Facebook effectively in that many news updates and clips are posted there, as well as user feedback on the fan page being read on the air.  However, Facebook does not have the same instant connection feeling that Twitter has.  Facebook is a good tool, and I hope that Global can continue to develop it as a tool and exploit it’s strengths to enhance the quality of their broadcasts.  I think they can do the exact same thing with Twitter, however in a different way.

My main suggestion to Ms. Steele was to exploit the Twitter community as much as possible.  Use Twitter not just as a tool for delivering the news, but use it in the information gathering process, use it in the reporting process, and use it in the dissemination of the news.  Make the Twitter community an active participant in the news.  There is such a diverse group on Twitter that is ready, willing, and able to be used.  Some of the specific suggestions I had were:

  • Use twitter to ask for quick, immediate feedback on a story
  • Use Twitter to have users submit interview questions
  • Utilize the fact that there are people from the entire Capital Region on Twitter by monitoring what is going on in the city
  • Find News stories on Twitter
    • If a user posts something interesting on Twitter, have a reporter investigate.  Ask questions to see what is going on.  Maybe a simple 140 character post can turn into the top story of the day.
    • If a user on Twitter sees news happen, use that person who is there as it is happening in gathering information on a story.
  • Make Twitter an active part of the news broadcasts.  Reaction to a news story can be gauged even before the story is over on the broadcasts.  make the comments part of the story.

What I don't want to see is Twitter simply being used like RSS.  Twitter is a powerful tool that connects people together unlike Facebook likely ever will.  It should be used, and exploited to improve the quality of the news, and the quality of the media.  I believe that, if used properly, Twitter can be a tool to improve the quality of the product that the Media delivers.  I cannot wait to see what Lynda Steele and the rest of the Global TV Edmonton team can come up with.  As someone who has been using Twitter since November of 2007 it is very exciting to me to see how much it has grown.  I think the media can further it’s growth even more.