Thursday, 26 February 2009

Twittering exploding in U.S. Congress (and everywhere else)

I spent an hour this morning watching U.S. president Obama's speech to the Congress. And as the cameras sweeped across the aisles and benches I noticed something strange: every now and then, you would see a Congressman staring, not at the president, but at the display of a mobile phone.

Who were they texting? The answer was as obvious today as it would have been incomprehensible a couple of years ago. They were twittering.

From the Washington Post:

"Then there was Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), in whose name this text message was sent at about the time the president spoke of the need to pull the country together: "Aggie basketball game is about to start on espn2 for those of you that aren't going to bother watching pelosi smirk for the next hour." A few minutes later, another message came through: "Disregard that last Tweet from a staffer."

It's bad enough that Americans are paralyzed by economic jitters. Now the president has to deal with lawmakers paralyzed by Twitter. At a time of national emergency, when America needs the focused attention of contemplative and reflective lawmakers, they are dispatching rapid-fire thoughts in 140 characters or less."

Twitter exploded in Sweden during the first two months of 2009. Pioneers in microblogging were social media fanatics, a few journalists and some bloggers. Jaiku was the most popular microblogging service in Sweden and Finland for a long time, although with a small number of users. And then, for some reason, lots of people switched to Twitter, at the same time as newcomers flooded in.

And now, 60 days later, it's mainstream. Politicians and corporations feel the need for being present at the platform - although, as usually, not everyone knows exactly what to do with it.

Hans Kullin predicted in early January that Twitter would be a crucial tool in the Swedish elections in 2010. We shall see. And I will take a close look tha next time I watch a Riksdag debate. Is that Leif Pagrotsky texting?

Oh, and I'm twittering as liv99ngu.

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