Blackberry reporting in real time

For a couple of hours last Friday night and into the wee hours of Saturday morning, my Blackberry enabled me to communicate to the world what I saw happening around me in Sri Lanka almost in real time.

An email sent to friends concerned for my safety was sent to Sree Srinivasan at the South Asian Journalist Association (HQ’d in New York) in response to an email asking for updates on the LTTE’s air raid.

Sree first published the updates as an anonymous source in Colombo and when I authorised him to use my name, published each update I sent on a SAJA web page set up specifically to monitor the attack.

Later on, as I was waiting for my flight to London at Katunayake, I collated all the updates and published them on Groundviews. It was one of the first accounts of the air attack on the web.

In Sri Lanka, the news of the LTTE’s air attack first came to many of us via SMS or calls to our mobiles from mobiles. Gone are the days when you tuned into the radio or TV for breaking news. A friend who was at the Taj Samudra, with a birds eye view to the action, called to say that he was with Shoba De watching the events unfold. Long before even wire reports, Kottu was alive with blog posts that either posted eye witness accounts, re-told news from TV, put out commentary on the attack that were quickly followed by counter-perspectives. Some posted later on critiqued the attack and its implications.I didn’t follow Twitter posts, but Indi’s had around three updates on his account (updated via his mobile) and the Daily Mirror Twitter updates (set up by Dinidu) mirrored their updates sent out via SMS.

Rhythmic Diaspora has an excellent account of what he accurately terms War in Real Time here.

Some technical notes:

  • I could have updated my Twitter account and SMS from my Blackberry, but opted instead to stick to emails which gave more space to write what I saw.
  • I’ve had a lot of connectivity issues when using Dialog’s 3G network on my Blackberry Bold (had the same issues with my Nokia E65, my first 3G phone, around one and a half years ago). Opting for reliability over speed, I switched to 2G network coverage through my trip to the airport. Experienced no network lag or outages for data.
  • Need to explore the use of (the rather inappropriately titled, but extremely useful and robust) Letmeparty.com, in addition to my Twitter client. This website is used by JNW to update its website.

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