Twitterquake Heard ‘Round the World

My thoughts and prayers go out to people affected by the quake. There are over 9,000 dead reported in central China and tragically hundreds of school children under a collapsed schoolhouse. Please consider joining me in donating to the Red Cross relief efforts.

After making sure our friends and family are safe, I started to reflect a bit on the earthquake. It never ceases to amaze me how Twitterquaking has become the defacto emergency broadcast system of the web. If you’re new to the term, it simply refers to using Twitter during an earthquake (or any other emergency) and using it to move around information, and find out if friends and loved ones are well. Exhibit A is this morning’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Chengdu, in central China. Twitter is the sole reason I know about it this morning and not the evening’s news.

Logging on this morning, my Twhirl stream was buzzing with activity among the folks I follow living in China. Apparently It was kicked off with Frank Yu’s asking “Earthquake in Beijing?” followed by a momentary comedic interruption of the news with “i twittered as the building swayed…screw running out the door, MUST TWEET !” That’s dedication Frank – or perhaps addiction. According to Marc van der Chijs, “within a few minutes the Twitter community found at least 3 active Twitterers (, and that were reporting live from Chengdu. Quite amazing to see how quickly news spreads on Twitter, because we already had all information before the mainstream media picked it up.”

Marc is absolutely right. In fact, the USGS picked up the quake about 5 minutes after the initial Twitter reports began. Many of us had a map of the quake region before the USGS could post one. Now it’s tempting to chide the experts for showing up late to the party, but frankly Twitter is an unfair advantage for the rest of us (side note: I hope folks at the USGS are following Twitter. They aren’t doing their jobs otherwise). It seems increasingly the web is pushing mainstream news services are in the business of confirmation and analysis rather than actual news dissemination. This missive from Robert Scoble pretty much sums up the role of the mainstream media in the minds of active Twitter users:

For more updates follow the stream of news updates from Twitter users here.

Update 1: From Shanghaiist, Pictures out of Wenchuan. This brings me to the verge of tears.

Update 2: Some folks in China place the toll at 11,922. The BBC’s coverage is here. My friends Jeremiah Owyang and Elliott Ng (CN Reviews) have also donated and stepped up calls for action. Bravo fellas. Elliott’s blog post has a great list of organizations which can use your help. Thank you for the comments and continued support.

This entry was published on May 12, 2008 at 12:47 PM. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “Twitterquake Heard ‘Round the World

  1. Eric, this is a huge tragedy. Thanks for bringing awareness to it. Lets keep each other posted on how people here can help.

  2. Eric, So true. Was linked to your post by a follower after I twittered about the quake this eve. Just started twittering 2 days ago but can already see how it going to change my information acquisition process. It is like the best of both worlds of community word of mouth and lightening fast technology enabled onsite global information transmittal.

  3. Thanks for coming by guys. Elizabeth, welcome to the Twitter community! Elliott, I hope your family and friends are safe and sound. Our prayers are with your family if they are in China.

  4. Pingback: I Donated to Red Cross

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