Thursday, April 17, 2008

Score for Twitter

I've always thought that Twitter was pretty cool, but for one reason and another, I stopped using it. Today, with an incredible example of just how well--and how quickly--it brings people together, I have a great incentive to start Tweeting again.

From William Brand of the Bay Area News Group:
BERKELEY : When Egyptian police scooped up UC Berkeley graduate journalism student James Karl Buck, who was photographing a noisy demonstration, and dumped him in a jail cell last week, they didn't count on Twitter.

Buck, 29, a former Oakland Tribune multimedia intern, used the ubiquitous short messaging service to tap out a single word on his cellular phone: ARRESTED. The message went out to the cell phones and computers of a wide circle of friends in the United States and to the mostly leftist, anti-government bloggers in Egypt who are the subject of his graduate journalism project.

The next day, he walked out a free man with an Egyptian attorney hired by UC Berkeley at his side and the U.S. Embassy on the phone.

Twitter, the micro-blogging service for cell phone users, allows messages up to 140 characters long. Twitter users can allow anyone they wish to join their network and receive all their messages. Buck has a large network, so Twitter gave him an instant link to the outside world.

He recalls advice from his Twitter friends came in mounds of terse messages, "It was a combination of things, my Egyptian friends told me to play the "American bitch" and try to force my way out. " They also told him that it was no big deal and to just stay calm.

"They use Twitter sort of like an instant wire service," he said. "It's the way they keep in touch with each other. They go to an event and Twitter what's happening.

Meanwhile, U.S. friends on his Twitter net called the university and the American Embassy.

They also alerted the Associated Press, the International Herald Tribune and other media, which helped put the heat on the Egyptian authorities. He was released on Friday and returned home on Sunday.

Back home in Berkeley last night he said he's still worried about his interpreter and friend, Mohammed Salah Ahmed Maree, who was arrested with him and is still being held incommunicado by Egyptian authorities. Unlike Buck, he didn't have the muscle of the U.S. Embassy and UC Berkeley. (read more)

Pretty fantastic. Now how to get Maree out? Go sign the online petition.

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