Twitter's Outer Limits & Beyond

Twitter is an amazing technology where instant messaging, blogging and social media share a very lightweight technological intersection. But, as with everything else, its utility must be weighed with discretion.

Take, for instance, the stunning poor judgment by a Colorado journalist and his apparently approving editors to use the technology as a news medium for covering the funeral of a 3-year-old after his tragic death in an accident.

Rocky Mountain News reporter Berny Morson covered the Wednesday funeral of Marten Kudlis, who died last week when a pickup truck careered into a Baskin Robbins ice cream shop in Aurora, Colo.

But instead of waiting until after the memorial service to publish a story, Morson sent real-time updates from his cell phone to the Rocky Mountain News’ Web site using a micro-blogging service called Twitter.

The newspaper’s use of the technology in this way has drawn the ire of journalists and bloggers from Colorado to the United Kingdom, who argue that the reporter essentially trivialized the tragedy by providing a play-by-play of the event.

An unfortunate lapse in judgment, to say the least.

Twitter‘s primary utility is keeping up with friends and colleagues, sharing messages and links that are no more than the 140 characters limit. Many sites, blogs and organizations also use Twitter to send notifications of new content or information.

I have a Twitter account myself and use it combined with the TwitterFox Add-on which embeds an easy send/receive interface to my Firefox browser. I use it to send messages to friends and peers, but primarily to share significant news links relating to National Security and the War on Terror.

I could not make it to the Department of National Intelligence Open Source Intel event in DC this week, and followed peers there who used Twitter to ‘Live IM’ the conference. It’s an amazing new technology that is as useful as it is fun. But it’s utility has limits, and Live IM-ing a funeral is not one of them.

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