Jeremiah has yet another excellent post this morning about attendees taking control away from those allegedly in control at SXSW and in so doing, improving the conference/festival experience. He uses the word "Groundswell" which not coincidentally, is the name of a book coming out imminently by two of his Forrester colleagues, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff [Twitter link charlene].
I have not yet read Groundswell, but I will. I have the impression that it extends a theme that would have underpinned my book, Global Neighbourhoods had I written it: social media is rightfully moving power from large institutions into the hands of the people they are supposed to serve.
This is revolutionary in the same way that American colonists wrested power from the British; that Ghandi did it with homespun cloth and boycotting British supplied salt and in the same manner that students attempted to do it in America of the 60s.
Sovial media is bringing power to the people.
At SXSW, I came to fully grasp that Twitter may becme the most effective tool in that revolution. for those of you have not yet tried it, is the most social of social media. Twitterville, as I call it, is leaderless. Anyone "tweeter" starts a conversation on any topic and anyone joins. Ocassionally, someone strikes a spark and a single thread of conversation moves from a few to many in a very short time and in very large numbers.
Twitter has made history before. When San Francisco experience a recent minor earthquake accurate news spread worldwide, more than 45 minutes ahead of traditional media. When Susan Reynolds [Twitter link] discovered and shared that she has breast cancer, hundreds, perhaps thousands of Twitterville denizens joined to support her and raise tens of thousands of dollars to combat this most evil predator.
At SXSW, Twitter made less dramatic but perhaps more significant history again. Jeremiah [twitter] pointed to four unique incidents that were much discussed. To me, of equal importance was that Twitter was the communications infrastructure for 6000 attendees, who joined or left panel talks, parties, restaurants and meet up places based not on press releases or official announcements, but on people walking hallways and streets informing each other about what was going on. When the Google Party got too crowded, Laughing Squid's Scott Beale [twitter]announced an "Altavista Party" at a nearby restaurant. All he did was Tweet it and more than 100 people were there in 20 minutes.
The closest incident I know to this was the use of cellphone text messaging in the Phillipines when people overthrough the government. The revolutionaries used cellphones to tell each other where the police were and ow to avoid them as Howard Rheingold [twit] reported in his groundbreaking book "Smart Mobs."
One phenomenon obsrved repeatedly a SXSW was the meeting of old friends for the first time. People who knew each other only by Twitter were running up to each other and hugging and talking about business and kids and so much more. For first face-to-face encounters there were an amazing amount of hugs and smiles and laughter.
It wasn't all social. There was a good deal of business being conducted by Twitter. People who knew each other essentially through Twitter were meeting and talking sales and deals. It was easier because there was the dynamic of doing business with someone you already knew and trusted.
Where is this all going? I think the answer is everywhere. Twitter is up closer and more personal than blogging. It is faster. The wisdom of Twitterville is proving to be very trustworth in the real world.
I have been previously harsh on the Twitter founders as have other community members. This is because the damn thing has so often stuttered, fluttered and stalled. Last week, when I would guess it's usage was heavier than it has ever been, it's performance was speedy as a cheetah and I can only hope it continues that way.
[By the way this is my twitter page.]