Tracking a Breaking Story Using Twitter Lists – #FortHood


The main story on November 5, 2009 was about the shooting spree at Fort Hood in Texas. Twelve people were killed and 31 wounded, according to CNN. My thoughts and prayers go out to the injured and their families.

A secondary story is the way people used Twitter’s new Lists feature to follow the news. This is how I did it. Shortly after I saw the first tweets from @heykim, who was also tracking the developing story, I started my search for secondary sources via Twitter’s search feature. I searched for mentions of “Fort Hood” and “lockdown,” since the second term was more likely to be used by people who were actually near the scene.

After finding a few people tweeting from Fort Hood, I saw Marilyn Maciel’s (@MarilynM) tweet with a location-based search over the Fort Hood area. That helped filter out people, like myself, who were tweeting about Fort Hood from outside the area.

My next news step was to find local news stations, which are usually first on the scene because of location and connections to inside sources. I spotted KCEN News (@KCENNews) which was tweeting and working on posting updates to its site.

I retweeted @KCENNews and then noticed that its Follower count went up and so did its List count. Several other local news stations had already created “FortHoodShootings” Lists and had added @KCENNews to their Lists.

I tweeted:

**News stations are braiding sources together using Twitter Lists. #forthood

I though I’d get at least one Retweet or Reply on that, but realized that I didn’t spell things out enough in the tweet. I continued to dig around for other people and news sources tweeting about Fort Hood who lived near the base. I decided to create my own Twitter List, which included people who had family at the base, then tweeted out the link. As chance would have it, mega blogger Robert Scoble (@scobleizer) forwarded my List to his 100K+ followers.

@Scobleizer – And there’s already a list of sources covering Fort Hood Shootings: @jesseluna/fort-hood-shootings are you getting why lists are important?

Retweets poured in as a result of Scoble’s influence super powers and I continued seeking sources to help the list tell a fuller story. Shortly thereafter, the name of the shooting suspect was revealed and chatter started about it because it was a “Muslim sounding” name. I ran into tweets from Naveed Ali Shah (@aCitizenSoldier) who is a soldier and milblogger serving in Iraq. According to his profile and tweets, he has family at Fort Hood and is Muslim. I added him to the List because I could see the larger story shifting in a political direction. Naveed would have some interesting perspectives.

Twitter is a global community. The more we tune in to what’s going on in the world, the better informed we’ll be and the more likely we’ll be to act in our own communities. I like tracking stories to direct friends and followers to breaking information, especially if it’s an emergency and it might provide information to help them or their loved ones. In a tragic situation such as the Fort Hood shootings, the Twitter Lists feature was extremely powerful as it created an ad-hoc news feed that shared valuable information.

Related Links:

* @jesseluna – Fort Hood Shootings List on
* Mashable: Fort Hood Shootings: News Orgs Put Twitter Lists to the Test