Crowdsourced, instantaneous news

An eyebrow-raising tweet came through my stream today–one that I can certainly get on board with.

AnneDGallaher:¬†Consider using a hashtag in tweets when we see news happening–advice from¬†@harrisburgsmc #HbgSMC

First, a little back-story.

I occasionally brainstorm new social products from time to time. Abuzz is one that actually made it out of my brain and turned into something real. Most don’t. The particular problem I wanted to tackle was news. More specifically, how to make it faster, more widely distributed and relevant to those in a certain area.

About a week ago, I registered the @Hashburg name on Twitter and started toying around with some ideas. I set the account up so that a few hashtags (#news, #sports, #hbg and #hbgtweetup) would be caught in the filter and automatically retweeted from the account if the user in question was within 25km (around 15.5mi) of Harrisburg.

With apologies to @roxburynews, @todaysthedayhbg and countless others using the #hbg hashtag, my little Frankenstein news experiment went a bit awry and retweeted each tweet about five or ten times. If you didn’t notice, thank God. I deleted most of the tweets and took the account private so that the tweets wouldn’t interfere in anyone else’s streams while I tweaked it. But I still see potential in the idea as a way to quickly spread important news. A few other hashtags come to mind: #traffic (for relaying information about accidents), #weather (conditions and temperature where you are), #amber (to spread word about an Amber Alert), and so on.

It is by no means competition to the more established news outlets. The character length prevents that. But as a quick way to share newsworthy items, especially when coming from a non-news source, I think it’s the best way to spread a message.

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