Last night I went to The Alice House in West End Lane for the first ever #whampgather (I’m now clear on the pronunciation – “whamp” as in how @wossy would pronounce “ramp”), a chance for Tweeps from West Hampstead to get together and meet up over a few drinks.
It was a really nice, cosy affair, everyone was very nice and friendly as we all enjoyed our complimentary cocktails and chatted for a few hours. It was great to talk to people from all sorts of backgrounds, doing lots of different things, but all with a common love of West Hampstead. The area’s most famous Twitter user, @stephenfry, wasn’t there but he did give us a mention.
The evening was organised by @WHampstead, who provides a fantastic service bringing news about the local area. It’s rare that anything on the regional news on TV is relevant to my life, and even quite a lot of what appears in the local papers isn’t of interest either, but through Twitter I get the kind of local news that really matters. Things like a shop closing down or a new one opening around the corner, the reason why one of the local roads is closed, whether or not the Tube will be running at the weekend, even just photos of a remarkable sunset in the area. Hyperlocal news is a wonderful example of something the microblogging service offers that you can’t quite get in the same way elsewhere.
Twitter is one of those things that’s very difficult to understand at first, but there comes a point where all of a sudden you get it. The whole concept of a series of messages of 140 characters or less is difficult to understand beyond the idea that they’re a series of Facebook status updates, when actually it’s a whole lot more than that. The first inkling I had of the sort of thing Twitter could do was the infamous incident when Stephen Fry got stuck in the lift. It happened about 3 or 4 days after I first tweeted, and was the first time I had an idea of how Twitter can portray an event happening, right now, playing out in real time. A couple of weeks later I grew to appreciate Twitter even more during the first Bad Movie Club. Thousands of people around the world all watching the same movie at the same time, making the experience all the more enjoyable thanks to their funny comments and, in the case of @lauriepink, funny pictures.
That evening I got a direct message from @Glinner, co-writer of Father Ted, the first of many contacts I’ve had with people whose work I’ve admired. Sometimes it’s been a brief reply to a tweet, sometimes a little conversation, and in the case of @EddieArgos (who as you’ll have seen from my previous blog post, I’m a big fan of), fairly frequent bits of chit-chat. The opportunity to exchange words with people who have had an impact on my life through their music, comedy, writing or art has been a tremendously exciting bonus.
@BreakingNews tends to be a much faster source of news than the mainstream media, @glastofest keeps me updated with rumours about next year’s festival and @serafinowicz supplies a daily portion of quality one-liners. A variety of @peep_show characters interact with each other during Friday’s broadcast, adding an extra layer to the enjoyment of the programme, while @Generation_Kill helps decipher the military jargon as each episode of the HBO series is shown on Channel Four. I continue to be surprised as new things continue to show the broad range of what Twitter can do.
Another example of this came this morning, when the Guardian reported it had been given an injunction by the solictors Carter-Ruck which gagged them from reporting on a parliamentary question, who the questioner was, who the question was addressed to, why they were being gagged, who the client was, or what the proceedings involved. Very soon, Trafigura was top of the trending topics on Twitter, and the Streisand Effect ensured that more and more people were aware that the question involved the oil company covering up reports about the dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast. So many people were tweeting and blogging about it that the injunction became pointless, and Carter-Ruck gave in. A perfect example of the power of Twitter, and the online community as a whole.
It’s been ever so good to me since I started using it at the beginning of the year. I’ve been to a few TV and radio show recordings I heard about through Twitter, and quite a few gigs too. @DaveGorman sent me an audiobook in the post. I was invited to the #E4kneesup which was a wonderful night where I met lots of lovely people. And now, I can add #whampgather to the list of great things I’ve been to thanks to Twitter. Not only that, but everyone who attended was put into a prize draw, and I won! So I’ll soon be the proud owner of a NW6 t-shirt from the lovely @ilovemypostcode.
I know that a fair number of people who read my blog get here from my Twitter feed, so I’m probably preaching to the converted, but for those of you who haven’t tried it, give it a go. It might seem odd at first, it might take a few weeks and maybe you’ll decide it’s not for you, but it’s worth a try because you never know what it might do for you.