I would like to know 30 minutes before you that some stock I own is about to tank.
As is often true, I found the comment thread to a breathless post on TechCrunch - This Is Why The Internet (And Twitter) Wins - more interesting and reasoned than the post itself.
The essential premise of the TechCrunch post, by MG Siegler, was that Twitter = win and the Mainstream Media = fail. In this instance, the fact that @BreakingNews was able to swiftly, if not entirely accurately, disseminate the news of Tiger Wood's car crash was enough to hail Twitter as full of win.
A quick point here: Twitter is a platform. It is only valuable as a mechanism for distribution. To ellide the efficiency of @BreakingNews - a fantastic service, and one which lives on multiple platforms - with the inherent superiority of Twitter over traditional news organisations is a nonsense. It is equivalent to saying SMS is better than CNN.
But on to Robert Scoble, who in the comments to Siegler's post said two things I found quite interesting.
First, as quoted above and in response to a commenter's irritation with tech bloggers' obsession with the real-time web, Scoble asserted:
"I would like to know 30 minutes before you that some stock I own is about to tank."
To which another commenter, Nick, swiftly replied:
"I’m curious if that could be construed as insider trading."
(Note to Nick - probably only if the information was material and non-public, as opposed to just inaccessible to you)
But it was another commenter, Phil, who took the words right out of my fingers:
"You’d sell stock based on a random Tweet from a stranger? Wow."
Later, Scoble scoffed at another commenter, Twirrim, who complained about rumours and misinformation being spread on Twitter about the Tiger Woods crash.
"I haven’t read ANY of that stuff on Twitter. Sounds like you’re following idiots! Maybe THAT is the problem!"
Let me get this straight - Twitter = the way of the future, as long as you're tuned in to well-informed types who have access to information others may not; the kind of people who don't glibly repeat rumours and who fact-check and verify?
Gosh that sounds a lot like the kind of people who work at and for reputable media organisations, and that 'access' sounds exactly like the sales pitch for services ranging from the Economist to Gerson Lehman Group.
There is a compelling argument that in a world of rapid and overwhelming information dissemination, what we need is not more and faster soundbites but thoughtful and informed editing.
As Twirrim put it, in his reply to Scoble's out of hand dismissal of the quality of the former's network, the crowd is not always wise:
It’s herd mentality. Most of the people in my follow list are smart peeps, about all they did was RT the Breaking news alert, which was woefully inaccurate in itself (he wasn’t seriously injured, only suffered face lacerations.) It’s when you search the twitter stream that the rubbish comes up, and more disturbingly gets massively retweeted.Start a story or rumour going on Twitter and people start playing the escalating game with it. It’s not good enough to RT the original, they have to add something more and more dramatic to it. At best all that twitter was really useful for in this story was knowing that something had happened to Tiger Woods, and probably involved a car some how.