Tuning in to Twitter for world news

Twitter can be a valuable news source if approached with the right combination of curation and curiosity

I've been asked a lot lately about my take on the value of social networking. Facebook, well, it keeps me up to date on the people in my life and allows me to have private group conversations with family and friends when I should be working. Twitter, on the other hand, can prove indispensable in tapping into the world outside my life, and in many cases, it's proved itself a news source worth watching -- once you hone the list of people you follow to those intent on making it a valuable tool for spreading meaningful news quickly.

On the day of the shooting in Arizona, I was traveling, and in an idle moment, I glanced at Twitter on my smartphone to learn that shots had been fired in Tucson moments after it happened. It was a full hour before I saw any traditional news coverage of the incident. True, much of the information I got via Twitter turned out to be speculative in the same way that the stuff you overhear in a crowd outside a fire is not entirely reliable. But the medium allowed me to learn of the incident from many different perspectives before news outlets had time to give their spin or sort the guesses from the facts.

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A quick scroll through today's Twitter stream reinforces the fact that Twitter provides meaningful insights into the unending stream of news of the day -- some of which were not likely covered by any news outlet. Here's a look at 10 examples of what surfaced on Twitter today:

  1. I learned some interesting tidbits about how wildly different the Google Larry Page will be take over in April from Eric Schmidt is from the company Schmidt took over from Page in 2001.
  2. A colleague was up to his usual snarky tricks disparaging Oprah and her eating problems while poking fun at politics. I personally feel for O and find this sort of humor mean. But this is nothing new from this particular colleague. And the story he referenced was worth a scan.
  3. A PR company had the poor taste to create this graphic and claim it is meant to honor women working in technology while, in fact, belittling the effort it takes to get here by making it seem like a nice haircut, the right shoes, and the decision to read Wired instead of Vogue is what got these women where they are. Note to self: Give anyone who calls from this outfit a piece of my mind.
  4. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords went home from the hospital.
  5. The Russian Orthodox Church says miniskirts cause madness.
  6. There is a dating site for women who want to meet sea captains.
  7. Google is launching a Groupon competitor.
  8. If you click on the Twitter trending topic #goodsex, be prepared to get out an urban dictionary and learn some things you will never be able to unlearn.
  9. Facebook is launching an app for those standard flip and candy bar phones most people (apparently) still have.
  10. The New Yorker offers some informed thoughts on why Eric Schmidt is leaving Google, the atmosphere that led him to stand on the ledge and think about jumping -- and the possibility that he was pushed.

It's certainly a random series of facts and stories, and it often requires clicking a link and reading a news article. But as curated for me by people I may not actually know in the real world, Twitter provides a fresh outlet to entertain and inform. I chose them -- and I can unchoose them whenever I want. It's a pleasant way to crowdsource the news. And while it hadn't occurred to me before, I am now wondering if dating a sea captain might not be a good plan.

Got gripes or questions? Send them to christina_tynan-wood@infoworld.com or @xtinatynanwood.

This story, "Tuning in to Twitter for world news," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Christina Tynan-Wood's Gripe Line blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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