Richi Jennings

Osama bin Laden dead; Twitter-body broke the story

May 02, 2011 5:47 AM EDT
Osama bin Laden (CIA)By Richi Jennings. May 2, 2011.

Updated: Osama bin Laden is dead -- yeah, you knew that already, but did you know that Twitter broke the story first? Is this a body-blow to the mainstream media, or a mindless search for a technology angle from Monday-morning bloggers? In IT Blogwatch, we search for the truth.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention Facebook and China - The Joy of Tech...

Sohaib "ReallyVirtual" Athar liveblogs events in Abbottabad, Pakistan:
Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM ... a rare event. ... A huge window shaking bang. ... I hope its not the start of something nasty. ... A friend heard it 6 km [3¾ miles] away too.
The few people online at this time of the night are saying one of the copters was not Pakistani. ... Taliban (probably) don't have helicpoters ... so must be a complicated situation.
[It] was shot down near the Bilal Town area ... People are saying it was not a technical fault and it was shot down. ... Another rumor: two copters that followed the crashed one were foreign Cobras.
Uh oh, there goes the neighborhood. ... Leave Abbottabad alone, Osama and Obama. ... Now I'm the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it.   M0RE

Charles Arthur fills in the blanks:
Athar ... an IT consultant living in Abbottabad ... about 250m from bin Laden's compound - put out his first tweet ... 1am local time, when he noticed a helicopter hovering overhead.
The Pakistan army put out suggestions that the helicopter crash was "accidental". ... But the misdirection didn't fool many. Reports that the army had cordoned off the crash site arrived. ... That it was conducting a door-to-door search suggested the crash was no accident.
Sohaib Athar ... awoke to discover "interesting rumours" ... The realisation hit him at about ... 10am Pakistan time ... [he'd] inadvertently livetweeted [the] attack on Osama bin Laden's compound.   M0RE

Alexia Tsotsis also notes the leaky Twitter traffic before Obama's announcement:
The first credible sign ... of Bin Ladin’s death came from Keith Urbahn, the [ex-] Chief of Staff for ... Donald Rumsfeld, who tweeted “I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden.” ... [It was] re-tweeted hundreds of times and Twitter itself experienced traffic spikes of 4,000 tweets per second.
Unsurprisingly, “Osama Bin Laden” is now a Twitter trending topic.   M0RE

But what does this mean, Matt Rosoff?
Remember CNN when the Gulf War started in 1990? ... Suddenly CNN was everywhere. ... That's what's going to happen with Twitter after tonight.
Twitter was the first place to report that President Obama would address the nation on a national security issue. ... President Obama didn't speak until 11:35. By that time, the Twitter stream had already moved ... to strange observations (Hitler was confirmed dead exactly 66 years before) to criticisms of Fox News ... to inappropriate jokes and fake accounts.
Brian Williams resumed his solemn platitudes and the TV suddenly seemed very old and boring. ... Twitter was faster, more accurate, and more entertaining than any other news source out there.
The next time my dad asks me why anybody would use Twitter, I'll finally have a good response.   M0RE

4,000 per second... is that a lot, Stephen Shankland?
For comparison, that was more than the peak rate of 3,085 tweets per second of the 2010 NBA finals ... [and] 3,283 tweets per second of Japan's World Cup soccer victory. ... It's in the same range as 4,064 tweets per second for the 2011 Superbowl.
Peak tweet rates don't just depend on the magnitude of a news event. They also depend on when the event happens, and in the case of bin Laden's death, it was late on a Sunday night on the East Coast.   M0RE

Meanwhile, Larry Dignan says it's all a load of media tosh:
If it’s a world event we break out our “just add Twitter” story formula. ... U.S. Airways plane goes down ... naturally, it’s a Twitter moment. Egypt uprising ... a big moment for Twitter. And now the U.S. conducts a raid overnight to kill ... bin Laden. You guessed it.
Yes Twitter probably trumped the mainstream media. ... But for me it’s downright silly to call [it] a moment for Twitter ... or any other tech hook. ... [It's] a moment for all of those troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it’s justice for ... Sept. 11, 2001. Finally, it’s a good day to the ... CIA paramilitaries and Navy SEALs that whacked bin Laden.
I’m wondering more about what comes next with al Qaeda. ... Let’s not go overboard. ... We may want to spend a few moments peeking out of our little tech bubble.   M0RE

And Joe Coscarelli is runnin' scared:
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson ... seems to have known about the news as early as anyone. Seriously. ... "Just got word that will shock the world ... DAMN PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!" Though he didn't go as far as Urbahn ... he did tease it at exactly the same moment leaving us to wonder ... Did Keith Urbahn and The Rock have the same source? ... How in the hell is The Rock receiving secret government news? ... Our best guess ... comes from the fact that his subsequent tweets praise the Navy SEALs and he's been known to visit troops overseas.
Meanwhile, plenty of people are ranting about ... the news breaking on Twitter, though The Rock has been underrated. ... Upon actually confirming the news ... the New York Times "literally" stopped the presses and changed its front page.   M0RE

And Finally...
Facebook and China - The Joy of Tech
[hat tip: "The Dude" Dean Bairaktaris]
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Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcherRichi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. He's also the creator and main author of Computerworld's IT Blogwatch -- for which he has won American Society of Business Publication Editors and Jesse H. Neal awards on behalf of Computerworld, plus The Long View. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.