Tuesday, May 5, 2009

How Twitter was used in AWARE EGM and how it could be used in political rallies

During the recent AWARE EGM, Twitter and specifically twIRC, had been effectively used by the members who were stuck for hours in a meeting room to communicate with those outside the room. Every explosive words like "shut up and sit down", every boo and jeer and every happening like "we're starting to vote now" was made known to the outside world in real time. One could be in Tampines, Shanghai or even London but still know within a few seconds that Dr Thio Su Mien has just uttered "I'm on page 73". And when words were not enough, photographs and even videos taken by Blackberries, iPhones or other Wifi mobile phones were rapidly uploaded.

Twitter is truly amazing, isn't it? Give a prisoner in Alcatraz an iPhone and he could know how his newborn looks like and talk to his wife who has just delivered in a hospital hundreds of miles away, then tweet about his joy to all his friends and relatives.

In fact, one could believe that without Twitter, the AWARE EGM could be a very different meeting. Definitely more boring and dragging. Now that the EGM was over, what if we were to apply the same in a political rally? What differences could there be?

Taking note of details

Without Twitter: I wonder how many members would still be awake in the EGM after say, two hours. People could start falling asleep, talking to the people next to them, etc. Of course, they could still be booing and jeering at the speakers. But they could be too bored and tired to take note of any details.

With Twitter: Members had paid attention to the surrounding, but not necesary to PowerPoint presentations that do not interest them, and they listened to every little detail like "I'm on page 73", even with all the noise around them, so that they could tweet about it.

In a rally: Politicians have to be prudent about what they are promising now. Every single promise they made could be spreading around in Twitter. He'd better mean every single detail that he said, including "the hawker center will be washed every Tuesday of the month". Yes, the audience will take note that he said "Tuesday", and not "Wednesday", once a month and not once every three years.

Recording what was discussed

Without Twitter: Though many may have spoken in the EGM, not all will be remembered, especially if one was an obscure speaker.

With Twitter: Interesting or meaningful speech were tweeted and shared, and these tweets were further RT or ReTweeted. Nobody remembered who said "Today is the time to speak out, not shut up and sit down", but everybody remembered it was said because it was tweeted and retweeted N times.

In a rally: Again, politicians have to be prudent about what they promised because whatever they have promised could be tweeted, retweeted and even later blogged about. All in Black and White. He'd better mean it when he said "the lifts will be upgraded by next year", and not just say and forget, hoping that the people will forget.

Sharing thoughts

Without Twitter: When a member did not agree with the speaker's gibberish, all she could do will be to grumble to the people sitting next to her.

With Twitter: When a member tweeted about her opinion, others heard her, some agreed with her and some even retweeted her. Subsequently, all in the meeting room and even more outside the meeting room have heard her.

In a rally: Among the rally crowd could be supporters of the other party, who could have tweeted "I'm sure the very little that he mentioned that we have to pay for the lift upgrading is not so little after all". This tweet could have spread and travelled all the way to the opposition party politican. On his next rally, he could add into his speech "Did they tell you how very much you have to pay for that little lift upgrading? Are you sure you want to spend that kind of money during such economic crisis?"

Spreading the words

Without Twitter: Anything that were said in the EGM would be reported by the Press on newspapers and TV, and members would share with their friends and relatives after the EGM. It could be safe to say that whatever was said would more or less stay within the country.

With Twitter: When members were tweeting on the World Wide Web, people from all over the world read about them. At the point when "#awaresg" became the number one trending topic, curious people around the world started to join in and ask what was it all about. I won't be surprised if some gal staying in California knows who is the "Feminist Mentor" of Singapore now.

In a rally: It is embarrassing to say stupid things in front of a rally crowd, but a monumental embarrassment to have it heard all the way in the United States or Finland. It is better for the politician to know what he is saying instead of just reading from a well-prepared script.

Remembering the event

Without Twitter: Again, anything that were said in the EGM would only be reported by the Press on newspapers and TV. So it would have been a smart move for the old-new exco to ban the Press from the EGM.

With Twitter: Too bad for the old-new exco, camera and even video recording are common features in today's mobile phones. After the event, photographs and video recordings were uploaded and URLs were shared on forums, blogs, and of course, Twitter. Better still, one could tweet about the video, and add in ones own comments. Guess the PR damage could be smaller if the Press was allowed into the venue and people just read the newspapers for info instead.

In a rally: The traditional mainstream media could continue to ignore rallies by the opposition parties, but these rallies could easily be recorded by the rallies crowd and uploaded onto Youtube, and people could share the links on Twitter. With more people logging into Youtube than switching on their TVs these days, it would not come as a surprise if more could have watched the rallies by the opposition parties rather than the governing party.

So, have you created a Twitter account already?



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