About the same time I started this blog, I signed up for a Twitter account. I’d been resisting for a while, wondering what useful information can be conveyed by a medium that limits itself to 140 characters. (Hint: Disregard Twitter’s own “What’s happening?” and tweet about what you’re reading, thinking and sharing. I learned that from Bonnie McEwan in a presentation at the Foundation Center.) When I finally did take the plunge it became my new favorite addition.
But along with learning what to tweet, who to follow, and what a Tweet Chat is, I discovered that Twitter has more insider jargon than most virtual communities I’ve seen. The site itself is called Twitter, and each 140-character or less message is a tweet. “Tweet” can also be used as a verb, as in “I tweeted about that conference.” Your friends and followers on Twitter are “tweeple” or simply “tweeps.” The community as a whole is the “Twitterverse” or, to some, the “Tworld.” It goes on from there, but you get the idea.
Last month, the BBC News released new guidelines for the use of hyperlinking on their website. Thank goodness somebody gets it!
Even before I began writing my own blog, I recognized two essential criteria for blogging, Web 2.0 or social media–call it what you like, if you don’t have these two features on your website you’re stuck in early Netscape days. (Not that I have anything against Netscape; it launched the World Wide Web. But the online world has changed since 1994.) Those two criteria are frequent use of hyperlinks and the ability of readers to comment. But that isn’t true only for blogs: as news reporting increasingly moves online, all articles can and should make use of links to source material and related information.
In putting together Monday’s post on Chile, I played around with some demographic information courtesy of Gapminder, a program I downloaded a few weeks ago. I’d been looking for an excuse to use it.
Gapminder describes itself as “unveiling the beauty of statistics for a fact based world view.” Clearly, Hans Rosling, Gapminder’s creator, is a geek. I know many people–some of them social science types–who would never use the words “beauty” and “statistics” in the same sentence. But when Rosling uses statistics, they’re more than rows of digits; the Gapminder software makes data visual on maps and charts by using color, size and position to indicate relative quantities. And as you’ll see in the video, the data can dance on your monitor, as it plays like a movie over decades or (if there’s data available) centuries.
Watching the rescue of the 33 workers at the San José Mine in Chile, I was amazed at how well organized it was. I probably shouldn’t have been after reading about the earthquake in Chile earlier this year and how few deaths (relative to the quake’s magnitude) resulted because Chile long ago instituted building codes to make structures more earthquake resistant. But the mine rescue was truly spectacular–it wasn’t just good, it was something unique in history.
In light of these two emergencies that became examples of good management instead of tragedies, I’ve been wondering if Chile is close to becoming a First World country.
First, a little history: the terms First World and Third World originated during the Cold War. The United States and its allies were the First World. The Soviet Union and its allies were the Second World. Everyone else–the “non-aligned countries” were the Third World. It was partly a coincidence that the First World included the most technological and economically advanced nations and the Third World the least advanced, yet toward the end of the Cold War and ever after those have been the definitions most people used. (The term “Second World” was never used as frequently and faded away with the Cold War’s end.)