January 22, 2010


This just seems really dumb to me:

Five journalists will lock themselves away in a French farmhouse with access only to Facebook and Twitter to test the quality of news from the social networking and micro-blogging sites.

Twitter and Facebook’s use as news-breaking tools has been highlighted over the past year, particularly during opposition protests in Iran that many media described as a “twitterised revolution”.

This month, Twitter played a key communications role in quake-hit Haiti, with users sending harrowing personal accounts, heart-rending pictures and cries for help.

But how will the world look if viewed only through the prism of these sites, whose phenomenal growth has been fuelled by smartphones and, for Twitter, online bursts of 140 characters?

Are these social media – which between them have nearly 400 million users – really the serious threat to established media they are often said to be?

OK, this sounds interesting until you get to this part:

They will be relieved of their smartphones and be given mobiles that cannot connect to the internet, and be reminded television, radio and newspapers are banned.

“We will give them five computers with blank hard drives,” said Francoise Dost of the RFP French-language public broadcasters association, which organised the event.

“They have agreed to be linked to the outside world only through Twitter and Facebook. No web surfing is allowed,” Mr Dost said.

I’ll pause while you ROFLMAO.

This “experiment” fundamentally (willfully?) misunderstands how these social media sites work. Let’s agree that, yes, both Facebook and Twitter can and are used by many people for the most trivial nonsense. And that’s OK. But there are people out there (example) publishing interesting and useful information.


None of it means squat without the lowly link. Remember that? It’s the product of something you might have heard of called HTML.

Surely one can report firsthand using both platforms, i.e. “I’m here right now watching this tornado tear apart my town.” But the real value of Twitter is the link that you comment on and share. Facebook allows even more: pictures, sound, and video.

To restrict these journalists to nothing more than Facebook and Twitter — no ability to link out — is to rig the game.

I’ll wait and see, but I’m initially skeptical that much of value will come from this.

5 Responses

  1. Sven 

    An experiment, said I, which succeeds in the air, will not always succeed in a vacuum. When men depart from the maxims of common reason, and affect these artificial lives, as you call them, no one can answer for what will please or displease them. They are in a different element from the rest of mankind.

  2. I agree, Andy. The whole concept of social networking is muted when you limit the social sources. I expect the results will be whatever the framers want it to be.

  3. Guess I agree, it’s just that it all seems so obvious, my brain refuses to think they are THAT obtuse. Maybe they’ve thought of something. I cannot imagine them arriving in those abandoned houses with their abandoned hard drives figuring: “oh, bollocks … HTML!”

  4. Tim 

    This is an ad gimmick masquerading as an experiment perpetrated by radio “journalists.”

    It is as “dumb” as Jay Rosen’s partisan politics masquerading as media criticism by an academic.

  5. Mary M. 

    I hope they have adequate supplies!
    Left to their own devices, no telling what might happen.
    So close to the Champagne region, they need search no farther than that their own belly buttons to find out where it is at.