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To find out the latest news, you used to have to wait for the morning paper, or the evening news. Now, with Twitter, the latest news is at your fingertips, within seconds.

The Chile Earthquake was rated at VII on the Mercalli scale.

 On February 27th 2010, an earthquake registering 8.8 on the Moment Magnitude Scale (or VII (Very Strong) on the Mercalli intensity scale)) hit Chile. Using micro-blogging site Twitter, survivors were able to tell the world what had happened, and people were updated before any major media outlet could find out.  

With rates of over 2000 tweets per minute, information was immediately available, and managed to alert other news sources, so that coverage became more mainstream.  

Lost and Found

One Twitter user, Sheryl Breuker, was able to find her sister in-law by using hashtags (a way to comment on a worldwide group of items, such as #chile or #quake). A user based in Chile was able to go around asking for her, and in just two hours, was able to find her and confirm she was ok. Considering phone lines were down, this short time shows just how powerful Twitter can be.  

Google launched a Person Finder after the Chile Earthquake, with 22,900 entries created within a weekend of its release. Available in Spanish and English, Google’s tool has been used to find people after the disaster.  

Other websites, such as Flickr and YouTube, were able to upload pictures and videos of what had happened, with visually striking media showing the destruction the earthquake caused. Ustream, a live streaming website for people to watch videos, claim to have had over 4.3 million people watch the resulting Tsunami in Hawaii, with a pre recorded version here.  

Destruction surrounds the only open bridge over the Bio Bio river in Concepcion, Chile. Photo: Getty Images

  The British Red Cross’s photostream on Flickr has been able to show the damage caused by the Earthquake; showing inside damaged homes, people waiting for food and help, and behind the scenes of one of the biggest natural disasters.  

Facebook users were able to update constantly with the group CHILE EARTHQUAKE, helping people who do not use sites such as Twitter more aware of the disaster.  

A destroyed cathedral in Chanco, 180 miles away from where the Earthquake started in Santiago, Chile. Photo: Roberto Candia

Social Media Phenomenon 

Using blogs, tweets and sites such as Facebook to communicate with the world is known as ‘social news media’, and this is now the main way users discover, read and share the latest news. 

Twitter- a microblogging site used to get information quickly

 There are some key aspects to social news media: it has to be breaking information, newsworthy, and relevant.  

Some feel that Social Media could be the “Biggest shift since the Industrial Revolution”, and with over 400 million users on Facebook, and 100 million users of Twitter, both sites are increasing rapidly in usage.  

Social media is able to get information out quickly and concisely, and although it is the more traditional media who will publish an official story, most technology friendly users will find out the news on these sites, such as Twitter.  

To Tweet?

Twitter, the latest gossip and news, and ways of communicating (via email or instant messaging) are now available and widely used by users ‘on the go’ using the latest mobiles. This means that people no longer have to wait for the daily newspapers, but can find what they want themselves, in minutes.

With certain bans and regulations placed in plenty of different cultures, people are using the internet to get their point across, when normally it would not heard.  

Twenty years ago, a social networking website being used to comment on a rigged election in Iran would have been incomprehensible.  After a ban was placed on all foreign media from reporting on the elections, Iranians turned to the website Twitter to let the rest of the world know what was happening. In 18 days, over 2 million ‘tweets’ were posted on the subject, and websites like YouTube were able to show millions the death of Neda, an Iranian protester killed in real-time.  

‘Broadcast Yourself’

YouTube- a streaming website to show the world all types of videos

 In the 20th Century, it was very difficult for an ordinary member of the public to get their views heard by others, but since the creation of the internet, there are now thousands of ways for people to get their point across – blogging, tweeting, or even their own tv channels.  

WikiLeaks- Where users can anonymously post news the press can't write about

  With over 25% of the world population (2 billion users) online, it is now so easy for a crowd of eye witnesses to witness almost any event, and capture information to publish to the rest of the world. This, of course, can be anonymously, like people who use sites such as WikiLeaks to let the world know some of the largest secrets; or groups such as Al Qaeda, who share their anger with the world on a daily basis. 

‘A Threat to National Security’

WikiLeaks, which uses investigative journalists to post information anonymously, has had plenty of coverage in recent weeks, with the Pentagon claiming that it is a major threat to national security.  

The Pentagon: Home of US Department of Defense

After certain US military secrets were leaked on the website, the Department of Defense felt that “the information could be used by foreign intelligence, insurgents or terrorists for planning attacks”.  

The US, however, are not the only state to have problems with WikiLeaks, with Chinese, North Korean, and Russian governments all recently trying to block the website, among others.  

Great Firewall of China

China, one of the countries who have shown their distaste to WikiLeaks, have created their own way to stop information they don’t want getting onto the internet. Known as the Great Firewall of China, web content is reviewed, and sites are banned from use in parts of the country.  

Some of the western world’s most used sites, such as Facebook, Google, Myspace and YouTube, are all unavailable under these regulations, and website Great Firewall of China shows which sites are banned.  

The Chinese government is quick to find ‘negative’ posts on forums or blogs, and can remove them in seconds. However, it is the ’50 cent party’ which has generated the most interest.  

By posting positive comments about government policies on internet message boards, a user will receive 50 cents (hence the name). Although some users can tell which comments have come from these ‘social commentators’, they are there to help skew the public opinion and change anti-political views.  

With the Internet created for freedom of speech and to share information, these boundaries placed by the Chinese government show that not all speech is ‘free’, and there is some sort of overall control.

Former Liverpool Football Club manager Bill Shankly once famously said “Football’s not a matter of life and death … it’s more important than that”. An organisation in Kenya are using football as a matter of life and death, and vitally, keeping young children alive. 

Keeping spirits, and the ball, up. Photo: Andrew McConnell

 The Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) was founded in 1987, and started off as a small self help project. Before the MYSA was started, Nairobi (the capital of Kenya), was a dangerous place for young people to live. With high rates of prostitution, fighting and the world of illegal drugs, a change was needed to help keep children in a safe place. 

A League of Their Own

MYSA combined creating a football league for 12 year olds with teaching about personal and environmental issues, and by doing so, has vastly improved young people’s lives. Within a year of the league being created, 120 teams had entered. Now, over 25,000 children have benefited. 

Children sporting the MYSA shirt. Photo: Andrew McConnell

 MYSA’s aims were to help young people develop personally and physically, primarily by using sport. It’s one of sports oldest clichés, but football is a universal language, and leaders use the world of football to teach life lessons, by using metaphors on how to look after themselves, from diseases such as HIV and cholera. 

 Other key parts of MYSA’s work were to promote responsibility in environmental issues. A scholar award system has been created, and along with keeping young people in school, scholars will do over 60 hours of community work a month, making the world they live in a much cleaner and healthier place. 

Students Become Teachers

The key to MYSA’s success is that it is run by young people elected by local communities, who are usually 16 year olds who have come through the system themselves. Whilst children are playing football regularly, they are also being taught how to coach and referee, so that they can pass their skills on to others. Part of this is knowing about fitness, training, diet and performance, but there are also key life skills, such as leadership, organisation. Personal health is also covered, such as adolescent changes, which before they would have to cope with on their own. 

There have been some real success stories from MYSA’s work. Mathare United, the local team, have won the national cup twice, known as the Kenyan Cup. And one of the products of the system, Dennis Oliech, has moved from Mathare to French Ligue 1 club, Auxerre. Oliech has also scored 22 goals in 37 appearances for his country. 

Mathare United: Kenya Cup winners 1998 and 2000

 Football, however, is not the only activity children enjoy from their work with MYSA. Photography, drama, music and dance are all taught, yet children enjoy something unexpected the most: cleaning up the slums, and “stopping the spread of cholera”, so that they can be healthy. 

Raising the Profile

MYSA are not the only organisation who are helping Kenya’s youth. Sport Relief is an event that takes place in the UK every two years, and raises money for vulnerable people in the UK, as well as some of the world’s poorest countries, such as Kenya. The key theme for Sport Relief is for people to be sponsored for attempting sporting challenges, and since it started in 2002, Sport Relief has raised over £68 million. Celebrities getting involved have raised the profile of the event, and there have been some truly incredible feats, such as Eddie Izzard completing 43 marathons (over 1,160 miles) in just 51 days

Eddie Izzard received a special award for his hard work at the BBC Sports Personality Awards 2009, and Eddie Izzard: Marathon Man, a series tracking Eddie’s progress around the country, is currently available on BBC iPlayer, until Thursday evening. 

Eddie Izzard during his 43 marathons in 51 days challenge. Photo: PA

 Sport Relief is this Friday on BBC One, and promises to be a spectacular event, and one that can transform the lives of the poor, all over the world.

 At the last count, 25% of the world were online, which equates to about 2 billion people. Now, the internet has become a major part of our lives, but where did it all begin?

Tim Berners-Lee: creator of the first website

 In 1991, Tim Berners-Lee created the first website, so that anyone could access certain information, no matter where they were, or what model of computer they were using. 20 years on, mankind now communicates by using the World Wide Web he created. 

 The web was created so that information became freely available to anyone, and was structured to resist authority. However, with the rise of file sharing programs such as Napster, which threatened to overturn the music industry with people downloading free music, some sort of control was needed.

Napster: one of the first file sharing websites

  Although users can use the web to promote themselves, sharing their or other people’s views; there is a central control, which comes from governments or companies, and so freedom of expression is not, and will not, be wholly available.

Sheffield Winter Gardens: A relaxed place to ask questions. Photo: BBC

 

With the general election fast approaching, it is alarming that, according to a recent poll by Unite, 47% of students will not be voting. After asking the general public their views about what will happen in May, it seems this year could be as unpredictable as ever. 

Views from people in Sheffield Winter Gardens were varied, with some asking for a change, like 48-year-old civil servant Linda, who feels “somebody has to cut spending, and I think Cameron is the only one who will do that”, whilst others, like Mark, 26, who will be voting locally. Mark agreed with Liberal Democrat’s views on changing Tuition fees, and felt “with Nick Clegg holding the Sheffield Hallam seat, and also a leader, I have to [vote], but I can’t imagine them actually winning”. 

Will you be voting?

 

If students do decide to vote, then there could be a real difference in the voting, but Lucy, 19, felt that she would not bother this year, claiming, “What would my vote achieve? I don’t know anyone my age who’s voting, so I can’t see how my vote is going to change any thing”. However, another reason students won’t be voting is perhaps due to a lack of knowledge on politics, like Dave, 20, who has “never looked into the policies of the parties and decided which one [he] agrees with”. 

Voting for the first time was something that excited Heather, 22, who just missed out on the last election, “I’m looking forward to it. I feel if I don’t vote, then smaller parties, like the BNP could get into power, and then I couldn’t live with myself knowing that I didn’t do anything”. Voting this year is encouraged by Heather, “with the state this country is in, voting for a change could really make things better”, but the winner later this year is far from decided.

A quick look at some of the features of campaigning websites

Burma Campaign UK (www.burmacampaign.org.uk)

  • Good colour scheme – powerful red and neutral white work well together
  • Easy to identify sections with title in red headers – news, about us, shop etc.
  • Drop down menus on heading at top – makes site seem cleaner
  • News updated on right hand side, with latest news at the top
  • Could be more information in sections
  • Static information – could be some animation to make site more eye-catching or exciting
  • Could explain more about Burma itself

 

Campaign for Real Ale (www.camra.org.uk)

  • Scrolling news bar and RSS feed keeps users updated with the latest news
  • Calendar has plenty of information on upcoming events and festivals
  • Facebook and Twitter links show that the website is up to date with social networking and communicating with users
  • Awards shown at bottom of the website shows success of the campaign
  • Colours bland – orange, yellow and brown – not attractive to the eye
  • Website seems squashed – entire right hand half of website left blank

 

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (www.tobaccofreekids.org)

  • Good illustrated news slide show at top which takes the most space and draws attention to the reader
  • Updating toll tells how many children have become smokers so far in 2010 – alarming feature.
  • Drop down menu for each state – involves the user
  • Plenty of blank space
  • Text is too small and could be larger considering amount of space on homepage
  • Not much colour – black and grey text dominates