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MIKE WENDLAND

Is this a photo showing plane splashing down?

BY MIKE WENDLAND • FREE PRESS TECHNOLOGY COLUMNIST • January 16, 2009

UPDATE
There's a new, albeit blurry, mobile phone picture circulating that supposedly shows the plane splashing down. It was purportedly taken at henry Hudson Parkway and 51st Street and is being shown on the iReport site at http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-182512?ref=email
- Mike Wendland, Jan 16, 2009/ 4:13PM

Thursday's sensational Hudson River plane crash was yet another case when old media got scooped by social media.

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Twitter, the short message update service that millions use to share opinion, activities and sometimes news briefs, beat the TV networks with news of the crash. A ferry boat passenger "tweeted" the first photo of the crash via a service called TwitPic and it spread around the social networking world so fast that it crashed the site when 7.000 people tried to view it at once.

And this happened before even the first rescuers reached the plane. It got such widespread notoriety that 500 additional requests were coming in every 15 seconds.

And this was as the rescue boats were still on the way.

Twitter has an information source like this for well over a year now, spreading reports about hurricanes, the election, sports, breaking news, corporate layoffs and gossip faster than those old media "breaking news" bulletins incessantly hyped by the happy-talking, blow-dried TV anchors and anchorettes could ever dream of.

I've been at meetings where audience members tweet the speaker's words almost as fast as he delivers them. And with many now linking their twitter accounts to Facebook, Myspace and other social networking sites, Twitter is such a potent information source that I can only shake my head at its speed.

At yesterday's plane crash, Janis Krum, a Florida guy on a business trip to New York, was on one of the ferry boats that went to rescue passengers. He saw the plane go down. He whipped out his iPhone, took the picture you see at the upper right and tweeted this message:

"http://twitpic.com/135xa - There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy."

Is that a slick pic, or what?

Now Twitter is not really the news media. It's like a giant telephone party line. A lot of it is silly and unreliable and junk talk. For example, go to http://search.twitter.com and type in Hudson River and you'll see what I mean.

Start sorting through the posts, though, and you'll find all sorts of interesting information, some of it relayed from the news reports that started being broadcast but a lot from people on the shore or looking out windows in the skyscrapers along the Hudson offering first person descriptions.

Twitter tweets can be pretty neat.

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