Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Twitter, TED and terrorists

I've just been watching Evan Williams on TED, recorded in February this year. For those of you who don't know, Williams was one of the co-founders of Twitter and Blogger (both started as side projects, as he explains).

The focus of his talk is the concept of Twitter itself and how its uses have been adapted by its users (now numbering an estimated 4-5 million) since it was launched in March 2006.

Some of the more interesting factoids he mentions are that plants (yes, plants) can tweet for water, and even babies can tweet when still in the womb! Talk about digital natives...

He ends his talk on a hopeful note, saying, "When you give people more ways to share information, more good things happen."

To demonstrate the power of the tool, by end of talk over 50 tweets about the talk itself were already on Twitter, providing an instant feedback mechanism (for better or worse, as you'll see at the end).

I hope he's right about more good things happening when people share information. That's our hope in education, of course.  I'm not so sure the US military shares the enthusiasm, according to this report in the Washington Post, which claims that this very 'information sharing' capability could lead to Twitter being used as a tool by terrorists! They give three examples of how this could occur, which I couldn't help but think was just giving the terrorists ideas!

The nature of web 2.0 tools makes them neutral in the hands of their users. Is this malevolent kind of use inevitable? 


  1. There's so much good stuff to read on your blog, and I don't have the time to get caught up, lol!!! Have to go to work!

  2. Thanks Karin, I really appreciate the feedback, and I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. At least the weekend is just around the corner!

  3. "When you give people more ways to share information, more good things happen."

    Not necessarily, according to recent research by an American psychologist in Britain. His findings ( have caused quite a stir here - and with good reason. Where online contact replaces, rather than supplements, F2F interaction (and this is becoming the norm), biological changes, he claims, make us more vulnerable to physical and mental illness. "Social networking is in many ways an oxymoron ... and is not a substitute for flesh-in-the-flesh relationships." (BBC Radio 4 interview, 19 Feb 09 - the technical shortcomings of prevent me from attaching the 5-minute clip.) His argument rests on the thesis that virtual interaction is actually perceived by the body & mind as loneliness, and this in turn can make us susceptible to a whole range of potentially serious diseases. Well worth considering, if this is what we're actiually encouraging by promoting online interaction. Right, off to take care of my wellbeing. Laptop: off!

  4. Thanks Tony, that's very interesting and certainly has implications worth considering as teachers. Hope you don't mind but I think this line of thought deserves a post of its own!