I initially planned on reporting Ohio’s primary election results through Tweets, Facebook posts, etc. Then, I did a little soul-searching tonight and realized that politics was the last thing I wanted to talk about, let alone report on. Instead, in a last-ditch effort, I decided to dig through Instagram and Facebook to report on the New York Philharmonic’s performance of Messian’s Turangalîla-Symphonie. I also wanted to try my hand at audio, which seemed like a particularly well-suited medium for a piece about classical music.

Lessons learned: finding actualities is hard for events like classical music concerts. There isn’t a lot to go on, maybe because of the nature of classical music concerts (recording is prohibited) and the demographic of classical music concert-goers. In this particular case, it was also difficult to find dissenting opinions (everyone really loved the concert). In any case, here’s my audio recording:


To accompany, here are a few Instagram images, a few tweets, and a video of the performance mentioned at the end of the piece:


Here’s the ondes Martenot, the electronic instrument in the piece:

#latergram #nyphil #messiaen #turangalila #ondes #martenot

A photo posted by Taylor White (@tdwmdmfa) on


These next two URLs are from the New York Philharmonic: the first is an instagram from one of the librarians who compiles sheet music for the musicians (and in this case got to sit in on a rehearsal) and the next is the video from Quartet for the End of Time — I incorporated the audio into my soundcloud piece.


Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” at the Temple of DendurWe’re live at The Temple of Dendur at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. You’re watching Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time with Music Director Alan Gilbert on violin, Principal Cello Carter Brey, Principal Clarinet Anthony McGill, and Artist-in-Association Inon Barnatan on piano. NOTE: If you don’t hear sound, try going to around 1 min. 40 secs. in. #messiaenweek

Posted by New York Philharmonic on Sunday, March 13, 2016

Curating Breaking News: Explosion in Berlin

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.

Media crackdown in Turkey continues following Ankara attack

A car bomb ripped through the Turkish capital of Ankara on Sunday, killing at least 37 people in a massive explosion not far from parliament. The attack, which comes less than a month after another car bomb in the city left 29 dead, is the latest escalation in violence since a cease-fire between Turkish forces and Kurdish militants broke down in July of last year.


Fighting had been mostly constrained to the southeast, but citizens and outside observers alike fear this is only the beginning on widespread attacks on Turkey’s urban centers. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, however, they found information hard to come by:


Reporters on the ground also had challenges getting information out:

A court order was allegedly given to restrict social media access after images of the bombing were shared online.

While Turkey’s media conditions have been in decline for years, some observers found the lack of information during a crisis particularly galling:

Still, some observers did sound a note of caution against the use of social media during a crisis.

That’s not fair. Social media can whip up a terrible panic unnecessarily. Having been involved in the Great Japan Earthquake I know first hand how unhelpful misinformation is.


Experts say that the question of the next terror attack in Turkey is not if, but when. As the long shadow of violence from Syria and Iraq continues its spread inward, access to independent, verified information will remain critical — even as it continues to deteriorate.

Tsarnaev trial through tweets

This is my attempt to curate the tweets of the many journalists live-tweeting the Tsarnaev trial. After taking quite a while to collect all the data, I tried some pretty complicated things to try to group them about event chronologically. Ultimately the grouping didn’t ever work that well, and it still wasn’t producing a good summary. After trying a lot of different things, I found it was best to simply highlight tweets that had many more retweets than usual for that user, so I stuck with that approach to automatically choose which of the >10k of Tsarnaev trial-related tweets to highlight from these users.

I have had been having a bit of trouble debugging the second part of the timeline feature, but for now at least here is the semi-automatic livetweet summary of the Tsarnaev trial:


The Northern Lights of Twitter

It is March 17, 2015, and a solar storm is brewing. The strongest storm since August 2005. This means one thing: for much of the Northern Hemisphere, a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis.

If you want updates on where in the world you can see the Northern Lights, you can check NOAA’s real-time aurora forecast, but the map is not very intuitive and is hard to translate into “should I go outside and look right now?” So instead, I checked Twitter.

Click here for The Northern Lights of Twitter Map with Timestamps.

Click here for The Northern Lights of Twitter Storify.

According to Twitter users, the Northern Lights are visible tonight in Ontario, Alberta, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maine, and Norway. (I performed the survey by monitoring the search term “northern lights” on Twitter, since it was more popular than the hashtag #NorthernLights, and cherry-picking geographically disparate locations to record. By the nature of the search I’m sure I missed many locations. Just while composing this post I have seen additional posts in Alaska, Sweden, Michigan, and Ireland.)


Twitter curation, not so easy…

After the last class I was still unclear what to think about Twitter and social medias as a way to report news. I was not a big Twitter user and this class made me use it more. I was curious to investigate more and see how good Twitter was to report on some heated subjects where having someone on the ground could be either difficult or could bring significant value and truth. After searching a few hashtags, I found it was virtually impossible to take anything for true unless methodically searching for clues on the veracity of the tweet. Also, many tweets were a vessel for articles and pictures and opening each content was sometime a mess. I thought through a few actions that could be useful to curate tweets and get a larger picture and tried to build that into a simple tool.

This is still more of an example on what could be done than something ready for daily usage but I tried to get a sense of what a curated twitter feed could look like. Being able to search for a subject, get translation (non-latin characters are still an issue in my tool), get attached pictures and article right at the same place, get past tweets of the same user, know his location if available and do a reverse query on attached image to know if it was already present on the web.

The work in progress can be found HERE, let me know what you think and I will continue to improve it as the time constraint didn’t allow me for more advanced features and a bug-proof solution yet.