Several hours before my classmate J. Nathan Matias first showed me his new tool Dataforager Sunday, Pakistan blocked Twitter apparently because some tweets were urging people to join the third “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” campaign on May 20, 2012. While I was playing around with Dataforager, I applied it to five news reports about Pakistan blocking (then unblocking) Twitter and came up with the table below:
|newspaper||Washington Post||BBC||New York Times||Global Voices||Guardian|
|title||Pakistan blocks, then restores, Twitter access||Pakistan restores Twitter after block||Pakistan Blocks Twitter Over Cartoon Contest||Pakistan: Twitter Goes Through Weekend of Censorship||Pakistan blocks Twitter amid blasphemy fears|
|data forager results||@Innovations||@SenRehmanMalik||@nytimesworld||@FizaBatoolGilan||@GdnPolitics|
|missed Twitterers||Rehman Malik||Fizza Batool Gilani||Farieha Aziz|
|Cyril Almeida||Arif Rafiq||Imran Khan|
|Rehman Malik||Emrys Schoemaker|
|Ali Dayan Hasan|
The Washington Post and Global Voices do the best job of coding links in the story to interviewees’ Twitter accounts. The New York Times and Guardian cite sources as having Twitter accounts, but forces the reader to search for each Twitter account.
One of J. Nathan Matias‘ original intentions for Dataforager was to help users compile a list of experts to learn more about a particular subject or topic. Since I know very little about Pakistan besides the fact that it borders India and it’s where Osama Bin Laden was living for the past six years, I tested J. Nathan Matias‘ theory to see if I could find enough information to write a story about Pakistan using the list of Twitterers compiled using Dataforager.
For this experiment, I used Dataforager to compile a list of experts on Pakistan on Twitter from Washington Post’s Pakistan blocks, then restores, Twitter access article by Richard Leiby and Storify’s Flurry of tweets in wake of Pakistani Twitter ban article by Annie Ali Khan.
Going through the list of tweets compiled from Dataforager Tuesday morning, both mention some kind of unrest in Karachi. Entrepreneur Mohammed Sumair Kolia tweeted that 8 people were killed and 30 injured in the unrest in Karachi. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S. and former journalist Sherry Rehman tweeted that two journalists were injured during the firing at the Awami Tehrik rally in Karachi.
By themselves, the tweets aren’t enough to piece together what happened in Karachi. We know how many people were injured, but we still don’t know what happened, who did it, how it happened, and why it happened. Fortunately, the tweets use a #Karachi hashtag. Doing a “#Karachi” search on Twitter, I get a list of tweets about what happened in Karachi.
Two and a half hours later, the Express Tribune posted on its web site and Twitter a live blog/news article about the riots that unfolded in Karachi after unidentified gunmen open fire on a Awami Tehreek and Peoples Amn Committee rally.