Today’s Earthquake: The Day China Entered the Twitter Era

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the earthquake that hit Sichuan today. It was so big that we even felt it in Shanghai.

When it happened I was sitting at my desk working on my computer. I felt a little dizzy and I thought it was just from some eating some bad food at lunch. Only when my colleagues rushed by saying in Shanghainese that something had happened did I know it wasn’t just me. Within a minute my Twitter Feed jumped to life with people asking if anyone else felt the earthquake in Beijing. It was then that I knew something was up. A few minutes later we evacuated the building.

But we were given the all clear 15 minutes later. When I got back to my desk I was able to follow everything on Twitter and answer questions from different colleagues as the people on my feed fed information on the earthquake from all over the country. And we were able to help each other and filter out rumours. People who had access to televisions were able to keep people like me, who were in offices and working, up-to-date with the latest developments.

I can really tell that Twitter is coming into it’s own in China. Today really proves it, especially since the Chinese media did not release news right away and there is very limited access to foreign news sources such as CNN — I’m lucky in in that I have a satellite dish that gives me foreign programs but it’s on the fritz at the moment. Twitter filled the gap for me today and thanks to crowd sourcing I think that it’s pretty accurate. Two articles on the situation can be found on Danwei and China Herald.

As much as I feel happy for the role that Twitter played in the event, I fill sorry for all those dead and injured in the quake. My heart and prayers go out to them.

J.

Update (May 17th 2008): I sent a note to Jesse Brown, the host of CBC Radio’s Search Engine about Twittering the earthquake. They featured me on their blog here and here.

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Filed under China Society, Cubicle/Nerd Culture, Music, Personal, Television

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