Breaking ground with Breaking Tweets
It is fair to say that great ideas tend to inspire other great ideas. The phenomenon of Twitter has taken the Internet world by storm. This simple idea of micro-blogging is keeping people across the globe connected in real-time.In 140 characters or less, people are discussing everything, from their most frivolous activities to the latest gossip to real news and everything else in between, nationally and internationally.
Media outlets like CNN, BBC and The New York Times are all Twittering daily in order for their "followers" to keep abreast with breaking news stories. So what is the sum of breaking news plus Twitter? The answer to this question is the brainchild of DePaul journalism grad student Craig Kanalley. He is the founder of http://www.breakingtweets.com. Kanalley, who has a grand passion for online and new media, started Breaking Tweets as a personal blog, but it has grown into something much more.
The 23-year-old saw a chance to seize the moment and provide a service in the midst of an unpredictable media industry.
"I think it was just the right type of service at the right time as the media is cutting back, so there aren't hardly any services like this out there," Kanalley said.
Breaking Tweets functions as a search engine and Kanalley is hoping that it will become the "go-to" source that people immediately think of when they want to know about breaking news or world news on Twitter.
"If a journalist is looking for some tweets on a story that occurred months ago, I want them to know Breaking Tweets is there, and if a student is working on a project on Uganda and Twitter for example, I want them to check out Breaking Tweets," he says.
The concept of Breaking Tweets was twirling around in his mind when he saw the number of people twittering on Nov. 4, Election Day, and realized how Twitter can be used as a news outlet.
"Twitter can serve as a place for breaking news," Kanalley said. "[People post] very personal feelings and eyewitness accounts."
However, he didn't follow through with the idea until 11 days after he attended Barack Obama's Inauguration in Washington D.C. Seeing people's immediate responses to the groundbreaking event and to the Australian Open on Jan. 31 really augmented his fervor to put real energy into this idea.
Kanalley thought that the site could really be something big after a story was posted on Feb. 7 about a protest in Madagascar.
"I posted that story [and] the site was getting a ton of traffic from both Madagascar and a part of France known for Madagascar connections. I thought it was incredible that I was 'covering' this tragedy all the way from Chicago, and that so many people were interested in visiting the site," he said.
The site has been visited by 104 countries and more than 2,500 cities around the world. Although a lot of feedback about the site has been positive, it has also garnered some criticism. Most of Breaking Tweets is done in English. Kanalley has gotten feedback from international users criticizing the site for lack of foreign language use. They would like to see vernacular of the country the news is happening in.
"This is one idea I'm open to, and I'm also looking into a good translating service to put on the home page," Kanalley said. "But needless to say, the global response has been overwhelming, and that's a good thing since we focus on world news."
Kanalley describes himself as a small-town kind of guy from Buffalo, New York. He has been happily overwhelmed and "awe-inspired" by the contacts that he's made in regards to Breaking Tweets. "I've been contacted by editors and reporters from the BBC, CNN, Los Angeles Times and most recently The New York Times," he says.
Guy Kawasaki, who according to Forbes.com is the No. 1 most influential "Twitterer," is a venture capitalist and co-founder of http://www.alltop.com, a site that aggregates top stories from across the Internet. Kanalley pitched the idea of Breaking Tweets as an Alltop page and Kawasaki immediately contacted him through Twitter, privately. Kanalley and some of the 28 student content editors from Breaking Tweets recently had a meeting with Kawasaki about this venture.
"He's been great, a big supporter of the project and has helped keep the momentum rolling," Kanalley said. The day Breaking Tweets launched on Alltop it was No. 1, beating out http://mac.alltop.com.
Personalizing world news has been a huge undertaking for Kanalley.
"It's not as easy as it sounds for a few reasons. First, it is very time-consuming. Second, it requires a lot of people on board and frequent updates. Third, there's lot of garbage on Twitter in the form of spam for example that we have sift through to find the good stuff. Finally, once we find something interesting we have to verify it as best we can."
Breaking Tweets is certainly an innovative addition to the changing landscape of media. It is steadily gaining momentum and looks to be pressing forward in the world of digital convergence. It is nestled in the crevice of the digital divide and Kanalley is working tirelessly to assure it sprouts in full bloom.
"It's an important service that fits perfectly into utilizing state-of-the-art technology to tell compelling stories. If Breaking Tweets can become synonymous with archiving breaking news on Twitter, I'd be the happiest guy in the world," Kanalley says.
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