Average number of tweets sent per day, June 2010
Average number of tweets sent per day, September 2011
In 2011, Twitter came of age. You don't even need to have visited the website to know that: tweets are now routinely quoted in newspapers and on television, and hashtags and usernames have started to appear where websites and email addresses used to go. Over the past 12 months, it's made plenty of headlines of its own too, most notably for the way it helped revolutionaries in the Arab world spread the word about atrocities and upcoming demonstrations. It's so pervasive, in fact, that it's hard to believe that the website is only five years old.
The brainchild of American software expert Jack Dorsey, Twitter was originally conceived simply as a way to share short messages with friends. Dorsey sent the first tweet on 21 March 2006, and the full version rolled out to the public on 15 July that year. For a long time it was dismissed as irrelevant; an unnecessary equivalent of the 'status update' feature in Facebook. Gradually, however, it proved itself far more useful than anyone could have predicted. The brevity of a tweet, maximum 140 characters, lends itself neatly to headlines and reportage of fast-moving events. Even if you don't tweet yourself, you can use it as a news aggregator, following any individual or organisation you're interested in, or searching by subject using hashtags. The retweet function means that news and information is easily and quickly disseminated. The cleverly simple way that an @ symbol allows you to communicate with any other user on Twitter means not only that conversations are easily struck up between strangers, but that fans can speak directly to their idols, and voters to their elected representatives. And that 140-character limit makes it a perfect format for pithy remarks — which explains why comedians are amongst the most followed — but perhaps surprisingly, it is also often enough to convey a great deal of emotion.
Those of us who use it — and our numbers are increasing at an astonishing rate — know that more and more, news breaks first on Twitter, from the long-awaited capture of Osama Bin Laden to the untimely death of Amy Winehouse. We log in to follow unfolding events in real time, reading instant reports from the ground and incisive and funny commentary by our friends and experts. This book seeks to capture and curate the sharpest observations and the best of that reportage. At the end, you'll find a chronological précis of the whole year, crowd-sourced tweet by tweet. In the chapters that follow this introduction, there are in-depth 'live-tweet' descriptions of the biggest events of the year, punctuated with illustrative statistics and lists of the most popular Twitter users in their field. But, as your parents no doubt told you, popularity isn't everything: you don't have to have as many followers as Lady Gaga to influence the conversation. And this year, plenty of us did just that.
All the tweets in this book are replicated as you'd see them on Twitter: grammar and spelling have not been corrected, and where there are multiple variations on a name (e.g. Gaddafi/Qadhafi), they are left as they were originally typed.
When it came to deciding which events to focus on with dedicated 'live-tweet' sections, some major news, cultural and sports stories were obvious choices. Some were events that provoked a lot of conversation and jokes on Twitter. A third set were incidents that may have been mainly of interest to a small group of people, but involved Twitter itself in one way or another; the story of Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, using the site to find people who needed help in the aftermath of a blizzard, is one such example.
Any regular user of Twitter will notice that this book does not read like the average timeline: retweets have mainly been avoided, and there are very few @ replies. Excluding 'A Tweet a Day', the section of this book that gives you an overview of the entire year, tweets that link to news stories or pictures have also largely been ignored. Instead the focus is on the commentary, observation and humour that the Twitterverse is so good at.
With a few exceptions, the tweets chosen were originally written in English. This was for the sake of simplicity, but the focus throughout has nonetheless remained as much as possible on first-hand witnesses of, say, the events in Tahrir Square or the Japanese earthquake. In a few cases, however, an exception was made to this rule: you won't find the tweets sent by children on Utøya island desperately seeking help, nor the ones sent later by parents trying to find the missing.
• The year in this book runs from October 2010 to September 2011.
• Twitter constantly updates its statistics. Those given in the book are accurate at the time of compilation.
POLITICS & CURRENT AFFAIRS
There are those who rightly scoff at the idea that the Arab Spring couldn't have happened without Twitter or Face- book. The anger and frustration behind the revolutions that toppled one dictator after another was bubbling long before either even existed. What is without question is that social media helped rebels organise faster and more easily than ever before, just as it helped communities turn outrage into positive action in the wake of the London riots. Both were organised without the help of traditional media, and both embody the Twitterverse's anarchic streak that on multiple occasions this year has put politicians (and a litigious Welsh striker) on the back foot. It can bring people together in the worst of times, but also the best.
12 October 2010
RESCUE OF THE CHILEAN MINERS
The story began on 5 August, when the roof of the main entrance to a copper mine in Copiapó, Chile, collapsed. On 22 August a rescue probe that had drilled over 2,000 feet down made contact with the trapped miners, who sent back the message, 'All 33 of us are well inside the shelter'. Three holes were sunk simultaneously and on 9 October a drill broke through to the men. Once the shaft was lined with metal and deemed safe, the rescue began.
Note: All times local to Copiapó, Chile
SEBASTIAN PINERA: Chile's president—@sebastianpinera
LAURENCE GOLBORNE: Chile's mining minister—@lgolborne
@reuters_tlw reuters peru tlw
Manuel Gonzalez is the first rescuer. Pressure is on. He will go down the equivalent of 200 storey building. #chileanminers #rescatemineros
11.13 p.m. 12 Oct
@indiaknight India Knight
Oh my god. Wake up! Put tv on! Incredible footage.
11.36 p.m. 12 Oct
@rorycarroll72 Rory Carroll
Capsule landed, miners embracing manuel gonzalez. Families erupt.
11.39 p.m. 12 Oct
@sebastianpinera Sebastian Piñera
Que emocion! Que felicidad! Que orgullo de ser Chileno! Y que gratitud con Dios!
[What emotion! What happiness! What Chilean pride! And what gratitude to God!]
11.52 p.m. 12 Oct
@Santiagotimes The Santiago Times
First of the 33 miners, Florencio Avalos, has reached the surface and is out of the capsule. Avalos embraces his emotional wife and son
12.12 a.m. 13 Oct
@indiaknight India Knight
* hands out tissues* Here, blow.
12.14 a.m. 13 Oct
@Sarahbrownuk Sarah Brown
assume everyone everywhere is as distracted as me, from whatever they are doing, by the hourly rescue of each Chilean miner #rescatemineros
8.08 a.m. 13 Oct
Managed 5 minutes of work but now been sidetacked by Chilean Miners again!! Will Power? Me? No, I don't think so!!
8.28 a.m. 13 Oct
@davidvitty Dave Vitty
Miner 21 Yonni Barrios is in the capsule & heading up to meet his mistress! The wife is understandably narked & staying at home.
4.28 p.m. 13 Oct
@katykatopodis Katy Katopodis
Oh I'm loving the Yonni Barios rescue. Not sure he looks happy to be out though. Sky news: "a kiss rather than a slap in the face". Lol!
4.40 p.m. 13 Oct
@rorycarroll72 Rory Carroll
Obama, the Pope, NASA, media, Chavez, Evo Morales.. everyone praising Sebastian Piñera. If his head expands any more that helmet will crack.
7.39 p.m. 13 Oct
@goodnightMouse Rochelle Killiner
Just watching the Chilean miners rescue on CNN. Only 5 men to go. Amazing scenes... need way more tissues! 8.03 p.m. 13 Oct
@halagorani Hala Gorani
Ariel Ticona (#32) - who became a father to baby Esperanza while trapped - is out. Only one man left. #chilemine
9.34 p.m. 13 Oct
@karen_davila Karen Davila
Chilean miner Luis Urzua redefines "hero". Kept miners together and chose to be the last miner out.
10.11 p.m. 13 Oct
@rorycarroll72 Rory Carroll
He's out. Not a dry eye in the plaza. Everyone belting out the national anthem.
10.59 p.m. 13 Oct
@lgolborne Laurence Golborne
Subió último rescatista. Ahora podemos decir:el equipo de trabajo,junto a todo el país, rescató a nuestros 33 mineros en 70 días. Lo hicimos!
[Last rescuer up. Now we can say that our team, along with the whole country, rescued 33 miners in 70 days. We did it!]
12.32 p.m. 14 Oct