On April 10, 2008, James Buck was being wheeled off to jail by Egyptian authorities in the Nile region. He pulled out his Blackberry and tweeted a single word: "Arrested. That was at about 9:30 am my time. Within the next hour the same message was retweeted by people I followed six times, even though I had never heard of the UC Berkeley student photo-journalist.Within 24 hours, people he connected to on Twitter had contacted th US State Department, who in turn got James freed. As he was being driven off to the airport and a free ride home, he tweeted: "Freed."
This incident was a light-bulb-over-the-head incident for me. It was the moment when Twitter transcended from a neat social media tool to something that would eventually be as transformative to the world as had been email or the telephone.
It was also the moment when I decided what I would write about in my next book. I had been an author in search of a topic, and knowing me, it would have to be a topic that covered social media and stirred my passion. I am a story teller and a business writer. I talk to people and try to convey to you how a piece of technology changes their lives, and their businesses.
Twitter was perfect for me. But the times were not. I was busy with other projects. Like most other industries, publishers were becoming gun shy. So it wasn't until the day after Thanksgiving 2008 that I started to write Twitterville.
Like Naked Conversations before it, I started slowly. For me it is a daunting place to stand with your toes to a mountain, realizing that you have a limited amount of time to get to the top. On the day after Thanksgiving, my mountain consisted of 80,000 words and what will probably be 17 chapters, each reporting a different aspect of Twitter.
Four months later I find myself at Base Camp. I have 62,000 words behind me and about 15,000 more to go. Then there are revisions and revisions, details, rechecking facts. Posing for pictures, figuring out what to do at launch--beside tweet about it.
But the heavy lifting is now behind me. Most of the interviews are over. I have two more chapters left to Twitterville Part One: What's happening. Chapter 13, Goodwill Funding covers humanity and generosity and Chapter 14 covers the Dark Streets of Twitterville, the spammers, stalkers and Phishermen.
By the end of Ch. 14, I will have talked with more than 200 people. I will have written about more than 50 people and businesses that I learned about directly on Twitter over these past four months. I believe Twitterville will be the most crowd-sourced book ever written. I do not think the book could ever have been written without the help I received from more the hundreds of people who tweeted suggestions to me. Without Twitter, it would have taken at east two years to get this far, rather than four months.
I cannot say thank you to the tweeters who have helped me enough times or in enough ways. I am pretty happy with the way the book is coming out and I just hope it does the generous and diverse community it's about the justice and honor I hope to contribute.
Oh yeah. I almost forgot. Special thanks to James Buck for tweeting his way out of jail.