15 things that twitter does, from @arusbridger

I just watched an (older) video of Alan Rusbridger, the Editor In Chief of the Guardian Newspapers. It was brilliant and you should watch it, here. Alan talks about why people should care about open media becoming mainstream (if it isn’t already) and essentially tells his cynical peers to get their heads out of the sand. I really liked his energy and enthusiasm for learning how the new digital media objects work. He’s also an excellent, eloquent speaker – something I always admire.

Alan Rusbridger mp4

This quote was one of my favourites.

“The change is happening much faster. So fast, that we as an industry are collectivley suffering from what deep sea divers call the bends. We’re travelling through periods of extreme change faster than our corporate bodies can cope with”

He also went on to list 15 things he thought twitter did. I thought I’d list them here for discussion, paraphrased into how I heard them and jotted them down. Watch the video for the verbatim version. It’s at 27:40.

1) It’s an amazing form of distribution. It’s an amazing way to spread content. It’s instantaneous and it’s reach spreads far and wide. This matters because we do distribution, too.

2) It’s where things happen first. Not all things…news organisations still break lots of news but increasingly news happens first on twitter. Why? There are millions of human monitors out there who will pick up on the smallest things who have the same instincts as we do and the agencies do; be first with the news. The more people that join, the better that is going to get.

3) As a search engine, it rivals google. In many respects, Twitter is better at finding stuff out than Google. Instead of algorithms, it harnesses the power of human intelligence.

4) It’s a formidable aggregation tool. If you follow interesting people, they will deliver interesting information to you. No news organisation can hope to compete with the combined power of all those workers bees, finding and distributing interesting information.

5) It’s a great reporting tool. Many of the best reporters are now habitually using twitter to find and gather information. You can find people who were in the right place, at the right time, which might otherwise have disappeared.

6) It’s an amazing form of marketing. You’ve written your piece or your blog. You may have involved others in the researching bit and now you can let them know it’s there so they can come to your site. In marketing speak, it drives traffic and engagement.

7) It’s a series of common conversations; or it can be. As well as reading what you’ve written they can comment on it. There is nothing worse than writing or broadcasting something to no reaction at all. With Twitter, you get an instant reaction. It’s communication, not transmission.

8) It’s more diverse. Traditional media allowed a few voices in. Twitter allows in anybody.

9) It changes the tone of writing. A good conversation involves listening as well as talking. Journalists are fast learners. We’ve started writing differently.

10) It’s a level playing field. The energy of twitter gathers around people that can say things crisply and entertainingly, even though they may be ‘unknown.’ Shock news: Sometimes the people formerly known as readers can write snappier headlines and copy than we can.

11) It has different news values. People on Twitter often have an entirely different opinion about what is and isn’t news. Things people are talking about on Twitter will wash back into our newsrooms and have an affect on what we’re reporting.

12) It has a long attention span. The attention span of twitter puts newspapers to shame. They will be ferreting out and aggregating information on the issues that concern them long after the caravan of professional journalism has moved on.

13) It creates communities. Or, communities formulate around issues, people and other things.

14) It changes notions of authority. Instead of waiting to receive the expert opinions of others, Twitter shifts this responsibility to the collective. A 21 year old student is more likely to be drawn to opinions and thoughts of people like her.

15) It’s an agent of change. As this ability to form community around issues and articulate them grows so too will it have a powerful effect on the people in authority.

A hat tip to Michelle Rowan, which is funnily enough where I saw the link to this video this morning. Ah, the power of twitter!

Is your life getting better? (Film review: American History X)

I just watched the film American History X, with Rose. It’s a powerful and moving film. If you haven’t already seen it, it’s well worth adding to your queue.

The film follows the life of Derek Vinyard, a skin head who has been sent to prison for committing a hate crime. The story follows his attempts to stop his younger brother from following the same path as him.

One of the more powerful scenes takes place about two thirds of the way through the film. In the scene, Derek is comforted by his former high school professor, Dr Bob Sweeney. Sweeney comforts Derek, but then confronts him about the hate he feels and why that’s the case. Derek lists all the reasons why he’s still confused, and why he can’t stop hating just yet. Sweeney then confronts him.

“Has anything you’ve done, made your life any better?”

This was one of the core themes of the film and something that stood out to me. The film deals with the power of leadership and how important good leadership is. When we see Sweeney confront Derek with this question, it’s challenges his very basic idea of who he is following and why he is following them. Derek himself then goes on to inspire leadership in the others around him, and leaves prison to attempt to begin and forge his own life with a new found determinism.

Check the film out, when you’re next looking for something good to watch.

We are all leaders

I’ve been thinking a bit about some of the tweets I’ve seen @TomHoward send out recently, mainly about how we can no longer stand by and believe the government will solve all of our problems. (I hope that’s accurate, Tom. Let me know if not.) I tend to agree.

We live in chaotic times. Our headlines are currently littered with rumor and innuendo about the validity of our current leadership and government. But what can we do about it?

I think we are already doing a lot.

The system of government isn’t broken. It just isn’t the useful system that it used to be. Climate change, refugees, and appropriate tax on the rocks we’re currently bringing out of the ground are all issues that flummox our leaders. Not to mention the fact we seem to be in for more of these so called ‘global financial crises’ than we may expect.

Government cannot adapt to all of that. Heck, the only system that really can is society because it has no choice. And because it has no choice, society has leaders. You are. I am. We all have that potential.

Look around you. There are leaders everywhere. Here’s just a very small sample of people I follow:

Leadership isn’t about votes. It’s not even about fixing the system, although that might be useful sometimes. It’s about keeping the light on. It’s about doing things you love and need to do, in the hope that others will join in. It’s about realizing that having people join in is the special part. Because everyone is doing something amazing that is just waiting to be discovered. Just waiting to be raised in conversation and shared.

This was supposed to be a post about how we can fix society if we just stop trying so hard to fix it. Scott Heiferman started talking to his neighnours after 9/11 and 10 years later his company, Meet Up, has facilitated 10,000,000 gatherings. I believe more and more every day that we would all live in this ‘better’ world if we just started asking what people cared about and stopped complaining about our politicians.

That’s why I’m excited to work for Yammer…just as I am constantly excited by Trampoline being on again soon. Because they are places where it’s possible for people to get to know the real people they work and live with. To discover the thesis they wrote, the YouTube clip they filmed, the channel they swum or the goal they scored. Because once we learn those things, society doesn’t seem like such a hopeless place, and everything is possible. It turns out we have leaders everywhere.


**I remember where I was the moment Travis hit that goal. It was a big moment for Australian hockey. If you’re keen to see innovation in action, head to the State Netball and Hockey Centre this Sunday at 3:30pm – it’s Grand Final day and Waverly is playing Doncastor.  It’s the best sport you’ll see all weekend. It’ll cost you $10. Take a hat and sit on the hill.

Crowds are turning into riots and we're not ready

First they ignore you, then the ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win” – Mahatma Ghandi

Ross posted earlier today about how there is now a crowd in every photo, and I commented that we were seeing more and more crowds gathering at government and leadership conventions, such as the recent UN Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. It brought to mind the above Ghandi quote, which essentially provides the tried and true formula for achieve social change in our current paradigm. It was interesting to note that at Copenhagen, people protested, and the police used pepper spray and baton chargers as their response.

Before the event started, I hired the film ‘Battle in Seattle” because I had glanced over it often in the video store, and I wondered whether we would see riots in Copenhagen and wanted to think about that. You can see the trailer below. And I watched it. And I was stunned.

The film follows the days of 6 different people during the WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999, from all sides of the event (citizens, activists, police, mayor and government) and weaves real life footage in with the drama. It was a powerful film, which I’ve taken much from. I first heard about the ‘Battle in Seattle’ a couple of years ago when chatting to good friend Col Duthie about activism in the modern age. He pointed me to probably the most powerful piece writing I have ever read, this diary entry from Paul Hawken – N30: What skeleton woman told the WTO in Seattle. It’s a chilling account of what Hawken (who is a well regarded author and activist himself) saw that day.

But why is this happening more and more? If you look at any global government gathering over the past few years, people have been crowding and rioting (peacefully, in most cases, I might add).

We are a fragile species, who are more and more – people are now gathering at every event. The G5 has become the G8, the G10, G15, G20 and is now the G77! We are seeing more and more government and world leaders coming together to solve problems. This is also seeing more and more people coming together to inform the leaders of what they want. Look for the photos at any leadership forum in the future and see the crowds. Listen for the news reports of riots. Obama used the groundswell to great affect. People are already hitting the streets in large numbers to let leaders know what they think. As a species we are finding more and more harmony in participation, inclusion, involvement and consensus.


Unfortunately, our government and leadership systems are not so adequately built. Police (and Government) have little room to move when trying to control mob-crowds. They have one option, which is to sit back and watch. Or, they can launch tear gas into the throng and baton charge. In Seattle, Martial Law was imposed on the second day – essentially turning the city (a First World nation, law abiding city) into a war zone. Below, you can see some photos from the Big Picture Blog from the G20 Summit held in London, 2009.


We need to work to a place where we are more interdependent on each other, rather than forcing consensus decisions to be made. It’s important we come together to discuss the outcomes required, and group inclusion and cohesion is a crucial fundamental of this – but lets not pretend that we can all agree on all the outcomes required, all of the time.This will continue to happen. I’m sure I myself will be a part of more protests in the future. But lets be aware that this is happening more and more and that it’s continuously proving not provide all the answers and solutions. Let’s get together, but trust that interdependently we will make it happen.

The end of disability?

Last week was a busy week as far as politics goes in Australia. I’m not going to go into detail about the problems the Liberal Party and Malcolm Turnbull have faced this past week, but I do want to comment on what the resultant media storm has done a good job of hiding. It has hidden what may be the beginning of one of the largest social policy reform decisions to be made in the last decade here in Australia. I’m talking about the announcement that Kevin Rudd made in his speech last week at the National Disability Awards in Canberra. He has announced that the Labour government will engage the Productivity Commission to carry out an inquiry into the potential of a National Long Term Care and Support scheme by 2011.

Essentially, he has asked that a review take place into how people with a disability in Australia are provided access and inclusion to life. Imagine a Medicare-type service focused on providing funding for services for people who are disabled.

 Kevin Rudd

In the current system, there are a number of overlaps and gaps in the funding system, which essentially promises that many people who are suffering from a disability are shut out from funding and support. Even in simple terms, someone who has become disabled through an environmental accident (say, you have fallen from your roof) is currently not covered in the same way that someone who has been born into a disability is, or that perhaps someone who has been in a traffic accident is.

This has created the very real situation in which some people who are suffering the same disability are faced with great variances in the access they are provided to society. The person who has fallen from their roof and now can’t walk, is supported less than someone who has lost that ability through a traffic accident.As many of you will know, I’ve been doing some work with the Ai-Media crew up in Sydney these last few months, around the implementation of live captioning services into classroom education in Australia. (For those who haven’t yet seen the video by Tony and Alex discussing the project, do so here.)

I know for me personally, working in that environment, my eyes have been opened to just how much we shut people out without knowing…in my first team meeting I sat next to Alex (who is deaf) and had to move to the other side of the table because a) he was not able to read my lips when I was next to him and b) because I was talking too fast and without my hands. Wow – and that’s just a ‘simple’ team meeting.Can you imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t see your computer screen? Or if you couldn’t hear your phone ring (or, for that matter, the person on the other end of the line). Or what if you couldn’t walk and needed help getting from a to b? These are just such simple abilities that we take for granted every day. Imagine how secluded and ostracized you would feel were you not able to simply do that.

Now imagine that you have such a disability and can’t get any support to help you gain inclusion to a society that often forgets you. I encourage you to read the report Shut Out: The Experience of People and their Families in Australia for more insight into some of the difficulties currently faced by those with a disability.

It’s why I support Kevin Rudd’s initiative, why I hope that the productivity commission comes back with a strong recommendation to set up a National Disability Insurance Scheme, and why I ‘ll be continuing to update you about such progress on this blog as it happens.