This past Friday turned out to be a crazy day.  It was a crazy busy day at work at the Unified Government, but it started off even crazier.  And it ended up being a case study of how the random connections made between individuals through social networks can work to benefit others.

I walked out the door of my apartment earlier than normal to find an inch of snow on the ground (picture).  The surprise, though, was that no snow had been forecasted (and I had checked the night before).  So I sent off the picture to Emily and my folks and left for work, glad that I was leaving early.

The drive into work is where complications happened.  While driving on Interstate 70 eastbound, just before the interchange with Interstate 635, a massive wreck happened in front of me.  I had noticed the fast lane getting icy, so I quickly moved over and slowed down.  Then, someone hit their brakes, and a chain reaction started.  By the time it was over, more than 20 cars and a semi-truck were involved.

It was incredible watching a huge wreck happen, and I snapped 2 pictures on my new Blackberry as I drove by.  In retrospect, I should have stopped and offered assistance, but two Kansas State Patrol officers were at the wreck before I was, and it was incredibly cold and I was already late for work.

When I got to work, I uploaded the pictures to Flickr straight from my Blackberry (the Blackberry Curve was my birthday present, so this was the first time I had used the Flickr app).  And since I can’t login to Twitter or Flickr at work, I appended the url of my Flickr page to a Twitter tweet and shot that off, using my Blackberry, just for friends to see.  Here are the two pictures I shot from my car:

20 Car Pileup

20 Car Pileup

For that second picture, click through to the large version and look closely in my side mirror. You can see someone standing on top of a vehicle that is on its side, having been hit by a semi.

Now, a quick note for those who see words like Twitter and Flickr and don’t know what I’m talking about:  Flickr is an online photo-sharing website (my pictures here), where people can interact with other folks through their sharing of pictures and videos (for more, read Wikipidia).  Twitter is a micro-blogging service where users send small updates, called Tweets, and others can see what you are doing right now (for more, read Wikipedia).  My tweets are here.

Later on Friday afternoon, a Twitter user by the name of Josh_at_Wibw noticed my tweet and looked at the photos of the wreck I had posted on Flickr.  It turns out that Josh is a videojournalist with WIBW, the CBS affiliate television station in Topeka, Kansas.  Josh was interested in having my pictures on the evening newscast at WIBW, and managed to find my website (linked to from my Twitter page) and contacted me through my contact form here on this site.

We spoke late in the day, and WIBW used my pictures in a short segment at the beginning of the evening news, and WIBW even noted that the pictures came “via Twitter” (with the Twitter logo and everything).  You can see the video here.  Josh even let me know the url for the video through Twitter.

Here’s the news story that ran on WIBW in Topeka:

<Big Conclusion>

I know that was a long and confusing story, but here is the point.  Today’s technology is incredible.  The first pictures that I took on my internet-enabled Blackberry were featured in an evening newscast.  That is the influence that you carry in your pocket!  Even more incredible, the pictures were found by someone I had never before seen, met, or talked to, and he managed to get in touch with me in time to get my permission to put the pictures on the evening news.  Through a long chain of hyperlinks and searches, he found my tweet about a crash (I still want to know how), followed the link to the pictures on Flickr, was so intrigued he made his way to my personal website, and contacted me through an email form.  That might seem like a lot of work, but with cable internet, that takes less than a minute and likely took Josh five minutes or less to find the pictures and email me.  Amazing.

A bigger example of the social media connection is the now-infamous picture of the US Airways plane that went down this past week in the Hudson River.  That picture was posted from an iPhone to TwitPic, another site to share pictures through Twitter.

Ultimately, we all have immense influence today, with the availability of blogs, Flickr, and Twitter.  I didn’t do much, but it takes little time to make these connections through social media.  You can get out there and make a name for yourself doing what you enjoy in no time at all.  Or you can get out there and spread the good word about what your company or government is doing.  It is so easy.  Go out there and try it. </Big Conclusion>