Last Monday, there was a credible bomb-warning in London by dissidents within the Irish republican movement. The information swept across Twitter as everyone looked for credible sources. The Metropolitan Police’s own press statement was linked to at least 139 times according to backtweets.com.
Its a great well-written piece of communication. What was more interesting to me however was a piece of text at the bottom which says:
IMPORTANT NOTE: This site is for the use of media organisations only.
Media organisations should not publish links to this site.
Given that the medium of Twitter had become the media it showed a lack of understanding in how social and breaking news now operate. There could have been numerous reasons for this:
- Not wanting to have the press office deluged with calls from the general public
- Not having their web server come down with a high-volume of inbound traffic
But it struck me that a real opportunity was missed. Why not have a separate version of the page sans contact details that the media could link to, rather than having the social media swarm trying to second guess mainstream media sources. When the July 7 bombings took place in London, I worked at Yahoo! and the front page team took down the home page of the site, took all the hard to load elements off the page like banner ads and hard coded updates to minimise server loads and keep the information flowing for concerned Londoners.
A simple updated page on a well-hardened web infrastructure is one of the best ways of communicating with people at times like this. Thankfully this time it wasn’t put to the test.