Twitter the #YearInReview: A year in stories

Twitter has just put out the December edition of Twitter Stories, which highlights ten remarkable and often moving moments of 2011 that played out in part on Twitter.

There is the story of Shohaib Athar, better known to millions as @ReallyVirtual, who live tweeted the moment when Osama bin Laden was found and killed. While many of us know the that story, and how we shared it on Twitter, there are other tales that are less well known such as that of the former Puerto Rican homeless man Daniel Morales, @putodanny, who found hope and his daughter who he had not seen for 11 years.

With the help of @underheardinNY, a New York charity that helps homeless NYers speak for themselves via Twitter & SMS, Danny was kitted out with a pre-paid mobile, setup on Twitter,  and started to search for his daughter who he had not set on eyes on for more than a decade.

He posted his moboile number, his daughter Sarah’s name and a photo of her at age 16.

Word seeped out through the Twittersphere and one connection at a time, like a series of little lights coming on, the daughter got to hear that her father was searching for her and they were eventually reunited with his now 27-year old daughter in Bryant Park New York.

Twitter stories also highlights what a huge year this has been for world news and how Twitter, which  turned five this year, has played its part (five ways Twitter changed the world).

Egypt, and the Arab Spring

January 25 seems like a long time ago as Egyptians first struggled for freedom and democracy. Twitter spotlights the activity of Wael Ghonim who months before the protests began in Cairo was a prominent online activist for democracy in Egypt.

On January 26, he wrote, “I said one year ago that the internet will change the political scene in Egypt and some friends made fun of me.”

The next day, he was detained and blindfolded for 12 days for organising protests against the Mubarak government. His disappearance became a rallying cry for the protestors and was one of the touch papers for change. Ghonim’s name was on posters in Tahrir Square and he was hailed as hero around the world.

After his release he declared, “If you want to liberate a government, give them the internet.”

Bin Laden

The 33-year- old Shohaib Athar was awakened in the middle of the night as he heard the whopping sounds of a helicopter hovering overhead and his first instinct was to tweet. Little did he know the significance of what he was tweeting.

“Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event),” Athar tweeted.

By the end of the night he had inadvertently live-tweeted the military raid on the Osama bin Laden compound.

That night Twitter hit a new record for the average number tweets per second sent as the death of Osama bin Laden broke and the story played out in traditional media. The death of bin Laden was described as Twitter’s “CNN moment”.

What is amusing looking back now is that Athar’s tweets first expressed annoyance and being awoken by helicopters. Later his tone change as he heard a huge, window-shaking bang as the the Seal Team Six raid played out.

After the news of the raid broke he received a lot of media attention, which he dismissed, saying he was just someone awake late at night, tweeting what he saw and heard.

The London Riots

By the summer the Twitter story was closer to home as another spark gave rise to riots in London and other English cities.

First Twitter, and other social networks, took the blame as the Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition and the Daily Mail heaped blame on social networks.

The London riots sparked more Twitter records and they also sparked something else.

They sparked community, connection, and a common purpose in the riot cleanup as Dan Thompson, Sophie Collard and Sam Duckworth got their neighbourhoods working together as people organised around a hashtag. The idea quickly took hold as people around the UK were eager to help rebuild their communities.

“There are now people on the ground all across London,” Thompson said in the Guardian. “Even just putting on some gloves, picking up a dustpan and brush, and clearing one broken window on the way into work. People are saying, ‘We’re Londoners, we’re resilient, and getting on with it.’”

Japan, the tsunami

In March the world embraced Japan during the March 11 earthquake and tsunami as people from all sections of the globe reached out to friends, family and loved ones in the moments after the disaster struck. Twitter was at the centre of that. It is big in Japan as we saw some of yesterday.

60 billion Tweets in 2011

According to Twitter around the world in 2011 people sent more than 60 billion Tweets and Twitter has picked some of the stories above to highlight those tweets. There are more #TwitterStories and you can follow @TwitterStories as well as finding all these and more on Twitter’s annual “Year in Stories”.