The Problem With Real Time News

The Terminator album cover
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This evening I was confronted with a perfect exam­ple of what is wrong with real time news. The guilty party was Twit­ter, frequently touted as a wonder­ful source of the latest infor­ma­tion. The prob­lem is that people are in such a rush to pass on this infor­ma­tion, they don’t apply any form of crit­i­cal review.

In this case the news was a story that a woman had been awarded huge damages for her plagia­rism case against the Termi­na­tor and Matrix fran­chises. Natu­rally there was a link: http://​www​.dannyjohn​-jules​.com/​n​e​w​s​.​a​s​p​x​?​n​e​w​s​I​D​=10.

One of the scifi news sites picked it up and posted it to Twit­ter. I’m not going to name them because that’s really not the point of this post. Besides they were hardly the only one who got caught out by this.

Twit­ter being Twit­ter, this link was rapidly retweeted. I saw one of the retweets and read the orig­i­nal arti­cle. Some­thing just ring true about this. How could I possi­bly not have heard anything about this previ­ously. I’m kind of obses­sive about my science fiction. And why hadn’t the main­stream media or even websites picked up on a court case of this scale?

So I did what any self respect­ing geek would do. I Googled it. And look what I found: http://​www​.snopes​.com/​p​o​l​i​t​i​c​s​/​b​u​s​i​n​e​s​s​/​m​a​t​r​i​x​.​asp. It took me a couple of minutes to dig this up and confirm my suspi­cions. But of course by doing this I was step­ping out of the real time news stream. Don’t waste time attempt­ing to under­stand the infor­ma­tion you’ve been given, just pass it on.

Having iden­ti­fied the prob­lem, I then made some efforts to correct it. First I posted a sugges­tion that this story might not be real to the same hash­tags that I had seen it on in the first place. That didn’t work. Within 5 minutes some­one else had retweeted the story again to the same hash­tag. Are people so busy pass­ing infor­ma­tion on that they’re not actu­ally read­ing the places they’re send­ing the infor­ma­tion to?

So then I tried to contact the retweeter. That didn’t work. They didn’t respond and seven minutes later some­one else retweeted it again. I sent a further tweet to the orig­i­na­tor in the hopes they would even­tu­ally correct their error, but who knows how far this story will have spread before that happens, if it does.

Maybe the people who are cham­pi­oning Twit­ter as the future of news, might want to take a seri­ous look at why real time is not auto­mat­i­cally a good thing. Lists won’t stop this sort of thing, they’ll just make the bad infor­ma­tion spread faster. You need to step away from the instant grat­i­fi­ca­tion, now… now… now… mind­set. You need to step back and take time to digest the infor­ma­tion you’re being given.

I’ll take good infor­ma­tion in an hour over bad infor­ma­tion right now. And that’s why I don’t use Twit­ter to get my news.

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About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of eoghann.com. You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?