Even as the BBC and AP news alerts came in over the weekend, I found myself constantly behind the times — at least in terms of catching the initial reactions and isolating the on-the-ground perspectives among the innumerable retweets, news posts, and distant reflections.
Monday morning, I happened to catch a relatively smaller-scale story of a car explosion in Berlin only a few minutes after it was posted. Although it was still some hours after the occurrence, it was the best chance yet that I had to parse the social media ‘verse before it ballooned beyond all recognition. This Storify was the result.
Of course, the exercise was not without its challenges. A few reflections:
- I purposefully chose an international news story because I wanted to experience the language translation issue. As I don’t speak German, I certainly was limited. Jumping back and forth between Storify’s more flexible search tools and the native Twitter site where rough translation is available was less than convenient.
- I thought images would be a helpful shorthand given the language barrier, but this was less useful in this context since many were sharing the same 10 or so images that appeared to be originally distributed or picked up early by news agencies.
- To that end, looking at Getty’s image feed on Storify was a helpful comparison tool. So was seeing the patterns of retweets and duplicated images in Storify’s chronological format.
- In this case, at least, early reports — especially video — were heavy on the news reports. Perhaps the story was too small, in the scheme of things, or perhaps I was still too late to the API.
- At least on Storify, Twitter was by far the most prolific source of content — by 100-fold, at least. It would be interesting to see what types of stories get more content generation more quickly on other platforms (and how that content might be leveraged).
- Figuring out the right search terms and parameters to cut through the chatter on Twitter was a start — though never completely helped to avoid some of the more confusing hashtags (where did #russia come in??). Likewise, it does become increasingly apparent how little you know who the users on social media are, or where the line forms between actualities that are accounts vs. reactions.