Since it's launch, Twitter has led many people to shrug and say: 'I don't get it. Why?' But it's a fantastic example of something Bill Thompson wrote about in his BBC column:

Networks become more useful the more people there are on them, and people are more likely to share news snippets and links when there are enough people listening to what they say to make it worthwhile.

Twitter is useful to the extent that people are using it. And they are. Lots of them. The events in Mumbai offer a pretty compelling demonstration of how its being used.

Just watching the 'tweets' - little notes, thoughts or comments - unfold about what was happening in Mumbai is exhilarating. Especially as many of the Tweeters are in the city. Some of them are being featured on mainstream media outlets. CNN reffered to Twitter as a source for the most up to date news on what was going on. These people are offering some direct feeds from the scene of a major news eventt, using a plethora of new online tools. (See for example gsik's 'Qik' live video stream).

It was even more intriguing, however, to see a story (at 1108 on their updating page) on the BBC website that the Indian government had requested all live tweets about the Mumbai attacks stop - as they may be doing more harm than good. It caused a bit of a stir on Twitter itself. But then, it seemed just as quickly to have emerged that the BBC were quoting a rumour from Twitter. And Twitter was then quoting the BBC.  I've yet to find out what the truth is. Twitter quoting the BBC quoting Twitter. Or so Twitter says.

It is clear that some journalists, BBC included, are looking for Tweeters to comment. It's an intriguing story - a mix of new, old and merging media. It's impact on the story itself, and how it is perceived and framed, is just as fascinating. Will all this extra chatter and commentary - live from the scene, direct to others - change how the story develops, and whose opinion is heard?

Like my thoughts about Twitter generally, this seems genuinely exciting, new and significant. And I have no idea what to make of it.

Gilbert W

Regarding the "I don't get it. Why?" crowd, this is applicable to any tool.Use a specific tool as solutions to a problem. Don't go finding problems to fit a tool.If you don't get it, that's fine, you probably don't have a need for it.

Pete Bradwell

Good point. I do wonder how much we understand what problems we are solving when we start adopting tools like Twitter. I don't think these are immediately just instrumentally valuable. I guess instead we've more recently started to figure out and understand how (or whether) these things can be really helpful, rather than just kind of cool and fun.There's a good outline of some of the other online tools being used during the Mumbai attacks at the Guardian website here.

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