Saturday, September 7, 2013

How To Verify A Tweet

Posted by Craig on 9/07/2013 0 comments
(Note: This post was originally published at on June 25, 2009.)

Twitter is the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter if you have 100 followers or 10,000, you can break news. That’s because all tweets are recorded and indexed at If someone types the right keyword(s), they can find your tweet.
Breaking Tweets prides itself on giving many different types of Twitterers credit for breaking news, whether it be someone in Honduras with a dozen followers recording the first “earthquake” tweet or a news organization providing the first details of a major story.
But how do you know a tweet’s legitimate?
Here’s some methods I use at Breaking Tweets that you can try too:
1. Timestamp: Anytime something breaks with hundreds of tweets in minutes, like a natural disaster, it’s good to type various keywords and keep paging back until you find the first few tweets about the news. Unless these Tweeters are psychic, they’re probably among the first to have knowledge something’s up and they may have additional context depending on the story.
2. Contextual tweets: Immediately check the Twitter user’s page for related tweets around the tweet you found. You’d be surprised how often someone posts a follow-up tweet later or precedes the ‘breaking tweet’ with other pertinent info. This could provide additional context for the story, but it can also help verify a person, especially if they’re posting pictures or other content from the scene.
3. Authority: Check the Twitter user’s Bio. Is this a journalist? Is it a random person off the street? Is it a prankster? How about a comedian? Check their Web site or blog if they have one listed. See what you can learn about them here. It’s important to have some idea who the Tweeter is as you assess the validity of any tweet.
4. How many past tweets: Be leery of new Twitter users. If it’s one of their first tweets, it could be anybody starting an account and claiming to have info on a breaking story. The newer the account is, the more skeptical you have to be.
5. What are the past tweets: Check for context by examining the person’s Twitter stream. Go back several pages and see what they normally tweet about. Do they interact with people? Check the accounts they interact with for additional background on piecing together who this person might be. If they say they’re in Paris, are they talking about Paris a month ago? Are they tweeting in French? If not, why not? Evaluate the person and get a feel from them as best you can based on past tweets.
6. Google them: Google their Twitter name because sometimes people use a Twitter handle as their user name on other sites. See if you can find a LinkedIn page, a Facebook page and other sites that add to who these people might be. If they don’t list a full name on their Twitter page, and their user name doesn’t turn up much, you have reason to be more skeptical. The more information the person hides, the harder it is to know who they are. Likewise, the more open they are with info, the more likely they’re legitimate.
7. Check for related tweets: If someone says they heard an explosion in Lahore, what are other people in Lahore tweeting about? Check that and see if anyone else is reporting this. Chances are if a series of diverse people are tweeting about it at the same exact time — and they don’t appear related from looking at their accounts –, something’s up.
8. Talk to them directly: Send an @ reply. Start following them and try to send a direct message. Get a conversation going. Ask for more information and build a relationship as best you can. This will help you create a profile of this person and piece together their connection to the story.
These are ways that Breaking Tweets works to verify a tweet. It’s all about context, really – the person’s past tweets, other tweets that support their tweet, seeking more information about them specifically, and seeking more information about the topic.  And of course the timing of the tweet is critical too. If you stay on top of the tweets and follow these sorts of steps to verify tweets, you’ll be well on your way to finding great story tips and breaking news well before traditional methods.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Moving To Tumblr

Posted by Craig on 5/16/2010 0 comments
I'm moving this blog over to Tumblr. You can now find the very latest posts at

The reasoning? Blogger can just be tedious and Tumblr is a lot simpler. On top of that, the short format that is stressed on Tumblr (emphasis on photos/quotes/videos & quick write-ups) lends better to my lifestyle and the time I have for a personal blog.

I'm hoping that updates can be much more frequent as a result of this switch, and I'd also like to do more professional updates as well, so it is not merely a personal blog.

Also worth nothing, I'm not going to migrate all the posts here over there. They are mostly long and again that format doesn't work as well on Tumblr. I will transfer some photos and interesting tidbits from past posts and link back here.

Hope you'll keep checking out the blog in its new format, and as always, thanks for reading!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sabres 09-10 Season Ends In Boston

Posted by Craig on 4/26/2010 0 comments
Tonight's an emotional night for me.

The Buffalo Sabres 2009-2010 season came to an end after a 4-3 loss to Boston. It was a first round playoff exit; the Bruins won the series 4-2.

It was so nice to be back in the playoffs again after a two-year drought. And as long as the team is exciting on the ice and working hard, I'm generally content, win or lose. That was the case this year and it was a fun ride.

But this was particularly tough for me. This whole series has been tough, from the opening day of the playoffs, when I wanted nothing more than to be back home in Buffalo with all the buzz. In fact, the mere idea of playoff hockey in Buffalo causes memories of the good old days to rush through my mind.

So among the reasons the last 12 days have been really difficult: This was the second year I had tickets to all the Sabres' home playoff games (every one of them!). Of course, many of these tickets won't be used because we're done now. But the last time I had tickets to every home playoff game was in 2006-2007 and I was going to school in Rochester at the time.

Now I'm in New York City. Being so far away, yet owning tickets to all the games, is brutal. I did get to one game this playoffs (Game 2 in Buffalo, a Saturday afternoon game, which we lost sadly 5-3, though it was still incredibly exciting). I was hoping for a much longer run.

But it's not just about the missed opportunities to attend games this year...

It's a whole bunch of emotions I'm experiencing. Most of all, after an emotional playoff exit like that, it's longing for friends and family, which I was so used to growing up. No one's here. I'm alone tonight in my apartment. It's sad.

I'm OK and all. You could kind of see the end coming. But in December when I first moved to New York City, the Sabres 09-10 campaign was alive and well. I watched as the Olympics took place, and Ryan Miller led Team USA to the silver. And these playoffs were supposed to be extra special, with Miller leading the way -- the league's best goalie (possibly MVP, we'll find out soon enough).

Just tough, that's all. I had a Sabres Playoffs Tumblr blog too, documenting all the action. And it's sad that had to end so soon too.

Of course these are all temporary emotions. And time will heal them. And the Vancouver Canucks (my second favorite team since I was a kid) are still alive and well in the playoffs, and now I root for them. And there's always next year.

Here's a pic from that game I went to just 10 days ago:

And Melissa and me on Game Day:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

1st game at Madison Square Garden

Posted by Craig on 3/07/2010 5 comments
I've been in New York City for three months now and apologize for not updating again since the move!

I've been busy, settling into the new place and the new job (which I love!) and I wasn't really sure what my next blog should be about. But this is definitely worth posting about...

I was fortunate to witness this one, as my hometown Buffalo Sabres came into New York and beat the Rangers at Madison Square Garden tonight 2-1 in overtime.

The win snapped Buffalo's miserable eight-game losing streak on the road. It was also just my second time ever seeing a Sabres road game - the first was a 5-1 loss at Chicago.

Here's the game-winning goal, scored by Buffalo native Patrick Kaleta. I caught it on video via digital camera from my seat -- Section 115, Row 13.

I posted PICTURES from the game on Facebook. Find those here.

And here are my observations from this one:

-Ryan Miller: With 35 saves, sensational as usual. The Sabres definitely helped him out with great D, limiting the Rangers to mostly perimeter shots and letting Miller see the puck. The lone goal came off a rebound; Ryan had no chance with New York on the power play.

-Adam Mair and Patrick Kaleta with the goals. Great to see them on the scoresheet, they were physical, won battles and put in countless second efforts. Kaleta's game-winning goal came off a second effort and some old-fashioned hard work and getting the puck to the net.

-Thomas Vanek had a great game. Very noticeable tonight, all over the ice, great defensive plays as well as scoring chances. Strong effort.

-In his second game as a Sabre, Raffi Torres (love the pickup, by the way) seemed a little out of place. A few bad plays, missed passes and other mishaps. One line change confusion involving Torres nearly led to a Rangers goal. That said he made some nice plays too, a few big hits and you can tell he's trying. Great to see that.

-Sabres hit the Rangers stride for stride tonight and were ready from the get go, perhaps taking advantage of the fact New York was playing for the second straight night. All around great effort and an impressive road win -- that's how you do it on the road too, just keep hanging around, hanging around. Solid.

-Rangers fans are very knowledgeable of the game and respectful, at least those around me in Section 115.

-Nice to see Rangers fans cheer Ryan Miller getting second star; there was a solid "USA, USA" chant then and just prior to the game. They booed the first star though - Kaleta - no surprise there.

-MSG is a very loud and fun arena. There was lots of energy in the building.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hello New York, farewell Chicago

Posted by Craig on 12/05/2009 14 comments
The last three months are hard to boil down into one post, but I'm going to try.

Since my last update on Sept. 7, 2009, when I made the transition from graduate student to undergraduate professor and celebrated one full year in Chicago, so much has happened.

It's been such a whirlwind that I haven't had time to update. Until now.

The class I taught was a great success; America's first Twitter journalism college class (not to be confused with the first Twitter class by Kathy Gill) engaged the students, sparked many great discussions, and it was a thrill for me, as I found I really enjoy teaching. But in the midst of that class, something funny happened.

I was interning at the Chicago Tribune with ChicagoNow at the time and before I get into what happened this October that threw my life for a loop, some more background on my choice of grad school and what's happened since.

I started grad school at DePaul University in September 2008. My primary goal was to set myself up to "work with a Web-savvy news organization full-time." That was stated clearly on my Web site from the start of that ride. We'll come back to that...

So at grad school, I jumped into contributing to local news sites like Windy Citizen, Chi-Town Daily News, and The DePaulia, and I worked on other reporting projects including going to D.C. to cover Barack Obama's Inauguration. I met everyone I could and did tons of networking.

Shortly after returning from D.C., I started Breaking Tweets, which took me through the ride of a lifetime since it began Jan. 31, 2009. I watched it grow exponentially, it allowed me to meet Guy Kawasaki and it was even blocked in Iran at the height of the Iranian Election dispute.

But as I operated Breaking Tweets, and watched it flourish, I kept asking myself, can this continue to operate independently? Can it ever make money? Can this be my full-time job?

All too often I found myself saying "no" and that scared me. The 30-40, even 50, hours a week I was putting into the site helped me elevate my online presence, and boost my Twitter followers, but not exactly fond of the spotlight, it also made me uncomfortable at times. I've always preferred to be someone behind the scenes, getting the work done and doing it well, but have never enjoyed getting too much attention. Still feel that way. (And the site was bringing me a lot of attention at DePaul, in Chicago, and even nationally and internationally.)

I eventually realized that even though the site never brought in money directly (other than the small amount from Google Ads), and even though the spotlight sometimes bothered me, it did lead to amazing opportunities: numerous speaking engagements at conferences and universities, an internship with the Chicago Tribune, the chance to teach an undergraduate class (and get mocked for it), and then... after a crazy October... the opportunity to work with The Huffington Post, a Web site I've long admired for its leadership and innovation.

How did it all transpire? Here's the story...

The Shift to New York

I never thought for an instant I'd be anywhere but Chicago for the foreseeable future after officially finishing grad school in August.

I had the opportunity to teach, I had my internship at the Tribune, and I knew I had a number of other potential opportunities if either of those didn't pan out long-term.

So I got an apartment by Wrigley Field, signed a one-year lease in mid-August, and was set until summer 2010.

The change of plans went like this...

I mentioned above my frustration with dedicating nearly all my energy to a Web site that wasn't making a sustainable income. I met with several entrepreneurs and journalists in the Chicago area to get their input. One talk, with Eric Olson, founder of Tech Cocktail, stood out. He said talk to larger media organizations, try to forge a partnership. Think bigger.

Sept. 28: I wrote a 10-paragraph email to Arianna Huffington, trying to keep it as brief as possible while at the same time elaborating on my background, Breaking Tweets, and my admiration for The Huffington Post, and asking about the potential for a partnership or some other arrangement, noting I was "open-minded to what that could be."

Oct. 3: To my surprise, I got a reply from Arianna in my inbox. She connects me with HuffPost CEO Eric Hippeau so we can discuss possible opportunities to work together.

Oct. 12: I talk with Hippeau for a good 30 minutes during a break at my internship. He says it was a great initial conversation and he'd like me to follow-up with CTO Paul Berry on ways we might work together.

Oct. 22: I talk with Berry, also for a good 30 minutes. He suggests I come out to New York City to discuss further. He isn't kidding...

Oct. 26: I arrive in New York City (talk about making plans on the fly) after an Amtrak train ride all the way from Chicago. I meet with several editors and executives of Huffington Post about a possible job that would have me doing similar work to what I've done with Breaking Tweets.

Oct. 30: I receive word from HuffPost that I might be offered the job "Traffic and Trends Editor." I tell them I would accept....

Nov. 3: I get a phone call from Arianna Huffington herself --- bringing the whole thing full circle --- and she welcomes me to the team.

Just one month after that first response from Arianna, all of a sudden, I was set to be moving to New York and joining HuffPost full-time.

It was a dramatic and unexpected series of events. I gave DePaul notice, finishing the term for my class (which ended mid-November), and worked like crazy to get my Chicago apartment subletted and find a new place in New York.

I was unsuccessful finding a taker for my Chicago place, despite a ridiculous amount of tweets (sorry all, I felt like a spammer), but I got luckier in New York, finding a place in Brooklyn on my very first Craigslist try (first person I called, first place I saw).

I began working remotely with HuffPost on Nov. 9. I left Chicago after breaking my lease on Nov. 30, and I drove a Budget truck (with my mom's help) to New York, arriving Dec. 1. My first day at the HuffPost office was Dec. 2, and first full day Dec. 3.

And here I am. Sitting at my apartment in Brooklyn. Still somewhat mesmerized by what's transpired. Extremely grateful, very excited, and hopeful for what this next chapter of my life will bring with a full-time job at a "web-savvy news organization" in the Big Apple - just across the state from where I grew up in Buffalo.

(NOTE: One big question I do have is what to do with Breaking Tweets, and would love to hear people's thoughts. I clearly don't have the time and resources to update it personally anymore, yet I'd hate for the domain name and Twitter account with 13,000 followers to remain idle. Thoughts?)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Making the transition

Posted by Craig on 9/07/2009 2 comments
It's been a year since I first arrived in Chicago, almost to the date (Sept. 6, 2008), and my, what a year it's been.

September: Started DePaul M.A. Journalism program (online/new media focus)
October: Redesigned my personal Web site
November: Attended Barack Obama's Election Night Rally at Grant Park
December: Spent the month at home with family
January: Attended Obama's Inauguration in D.C. and covered it for Sun-Times and launched Breaking Tweets
February: Met Guy Kawasaki
March: Busy fininshing classes for the winter quarter and starting the spring
April: First saw the Chicago Tribune newsroom
May: First game at Wrigley Field
June: Sat in press box for World Cup Qualifier at Soldier Field and started internship at Chicago Tribune
July: Attended Taste of Chicago and witnessed a crazy fight
August: Finished my Masters degree in Journalism (3.95 final GPA), moved into a new apartment north of the city (Aug. 20), and here we are...

I remain an intern at the Tribune, and absolutely love being there, primarily working with the site ChicagoNow. And I'll still be in the classroom too, making the shift from student to teacher.

I've always thought about teaching and toward the end of my undergraduate career, I really wanted to give it a try. The perfect opportunity presented itself at DePaul and I'll be an adjunct instructor starting this Wednesday (Sept. 9) teaching a course called Digital Editing.

The course should be a lot of fun, and quite unexpectedly, in the last week it got me a phone call from the Wall Street Journal and email from the Los Angeles Times. Those improbable interviews led to this Q&A and this post. The media attention didn't end with those two outlets, but those were definitely the highlights. Gawker even wrote about it.

All in all, I'm really excited about this transition. A little nervous, but mostly ready and willing to get started. So here we go!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rocky Mountains well worth the trip

Posted by Craig on 7/26/2009 2 comments
It's not Chicago, but it's worth making this blog anyway. It was actually the complete opposite...

Rather than people all around you, rapid-fire transit, and recurrent noise 24/7 -- such is life in Downtown Chicago --, it's open space everywhere you look, wildlife and nature at every corner, and near silence.

I was only there for a tad more than 48 hours, but my trip to the Rocky Mountains this weekend was one I won't soon forget.

Anyone who hasn't been to the Rocky Mountains needs to go at some point. I was unsure about the place going into the trip but once I was there, wow...

Best part -- we stayed in a lodge in a valley surrounded entirely by mountains -- 360 degrees.

You'd wake up in the morning to a fresh, forrest-like smell, and every direction you look would be like a postcard.

It was God's creation all around you, hardly any sign of man-made constructions, and the whole trip was filled with inspirational and dramatic sights.

Pictures just don't do it justice, in my opinion. You have to be there to experience it, and experience all the outdoors have to offer. And there's so much. I could have spent weeks there if I had the chance. And I'd love to go back.

But here's a few pictures anyway. One of a few mountains near our lodge, one of my sister and I in the Rockies, and one of buffalo we saw on the side of the road in Wyoming.

So why was I there? My sister is working at the YMCA in the Rockies (Estes Park) this summer, so I went out to visit her. My parents made the trip too.

It was my first time ever in Denver, though I didn't get to see the city other than from a distance landing at the airport. Spent most of the time in the Rockies and also made it up to Cheyenne, Wyoming, for a rodeo and Frontier Days on Saturday.

Though short, the trip was action-packed: plenty of exploring; lots of exercise, basketball, swimming, and more; learning about trees, birds, history; the rodeo, which was really interesting; and coming across countless streams, mountains, lakes, etc. Definitely memorable, and again, I'd love to go back there someday.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Taste of Chicago and a crazy fight

Posted by Craig on 7/03/2009 5 comments
I enjoyed Taste of Chicago so much during my first time there last Friday that I went back again tonight.

It was also the annual 3rd of July Fireworks tonight. I later learned that this can get a little crazy and a person was killed last year in a shooting after the fireworks -- why didn't I know this ahead of time?

Anyway, there was another incident tonight. It was at Congress and Michigan, and I witnessed it unfold as I was leaving the fireworks.

An altercation of some kind broke out between a few individuals. In seconds, 10-20 people got involved and it turned into a bigger fight, and this was as thousands of people (a million attended total) were in the streets.

So police jumped on this pretty quick. The Tribune reports that about 30 police broke it up, and that sounds about right. They flocked to the scene, from all directions, a few even pushed me out of the way to get there...and they formed a barricade to block people off from the area.

The shocking part for me was what happened next - cops started beating people.

I was not prepared for that. And it was this huge mob scene, with people starting to jump on top of ledges on Michigan Avenue to get a better look. It looks like police got it under control, but not before there was considerable chaos, shouting and physical violence as I said. Fortunately, no guns, or if there was, nothing happened on that end.

Anyway, I got back safe and hopefully all are OK after that. As for the FOOD part of it, the food was great! I sampled a lot of food over the course of the two days. Here's what I had ranked from favorite to least favorite when all was said and done:

1. blue raspberry Italian ice from Mazzones
2. mozzarella garlic bread from Cafe and Catering at Bridgeport
3. nutella crepe with whipped creme from Mazzones
4. potato/cheese pierogies from Kasias
5. homemade potato chips from Harry Caray's
6. thin crust sausage/pepperoni pizza from Home Run Inn
7. garlic potatoes from Oak Street Beach Cafe
8. turkey meatballs from Tuscany Taylor
9. hush puppies from Harold's Chicken
10. thin crust sausage pizza from Reggie's
11. Oreo Cheesecake with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge from Eli's

Also had Pepsi and Mountain Dew Wild Fruit from the beverage stand.

And.... I sampled 7 new, never-had-before Mountain Dew flavors at Mt. Dew Labs Tent for free! They were very good. There was an orange, citrus-type drink that was my favorite. Others included a cherry kind, green apple, etc.

And at the Pepsi Tent I tried free samples of apple soda and grapefruit soda. The apple soda was actually pretty good.

I also caught part of a concert with patriotic tunes before the fireworks, which I saw by the lakefront. Smiley face fireworks were most popular. There was a crazy lady next to me yelling every time someone stepped on her blanket, swearing like mad at everyone, kind of comical (wearing the white shirt on the right in this picture). And the coolest part was the grand finale because at the very end, you could still hear the fireworks echoing off the city buildings.

Overall, a fun night and a good time last week at the Taste of Chicago.

Sunday, June 28, 2009 blocked in Iran

Posted by Craig on 6/28/2009 3 comments
I was going through the stats for today, as I often do, and something popped out at me. A huge drop in traffic from Iran.

I took a closer look, paged through past days, and soon learned that's because the site's been blocked in Iran. Here's the details ---

We've been covering developments in Iran since the controversial presidential election on June 12. And we've been getting hundreds of hits from Iran every day...up until Thursday.

On Wednesday, we had our usual hits from Tehran University and other places throughout the country, per host network stats and other information from Google Analytics.

But Thursday, our usual visitors via Google, Twitter, and other sites -- none could get through. The bounce rate all of a sudden began appearing at 100% and time on the site showed as 0:00. This was in contrary to stats for previous days, when the bounce and time numbers were wide-ranging.

The same was true for Friday and Saturday. Though Saturday, one person got through. Network location? Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran.

It seems the last article BT posted before the block was this updated timeline of events on Wednesday. Also Wednesday, Poynter wrote this article about Breaking Tweets' coverage of Iran. Coincidence? Who knows.

It feels weird to know my site has been blocked in a foreign country. Even weirder during the current conflict. And I have to admit, it hurts. One reason I've been relentless with the coverage, posting daily updates, is knowing that this information could get to Iran and inform people whose government is hiding critical info. Now, they can't come to BT anymore.

At least Iran can't censor our Twitter account.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

World Cup qualifier at Soldier Field

Posted by Craig on 6/06/2009 0 comments
Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

Soldier Field hosted its first ever World Cup qualifier tonight, on D-Day, 6-6-09, and I was fortunate enough to attend. I was supposed to cover the game for Breaking Tweets, but at the last minute U.S. Soccer told us they didn't want us to cover it for a few reasons. Still, they were nice enough to let me and my buddy Jon go up to the press box to see it all as it happened.

I had my laptop and followed the action on Twitter, watching "Honduras" rise in trending topics, while monitoring the thousands of other tweets and dozens of TwitPics that streamed in during the game. It was a lot of fun. It was also cool watching the many journalists around us doing their thing - New York Times, Washington Post, ESPN, tons of Hispanic media outlets, etc.

I got there a bit early and soaked up the atmosphere before the game. When I got off the El, Honduras fans were everywhere. They swamped the area in front of Soldier Field too, and they were quite rambunctious. Many, I soon learned, came to Chicago from Honduras just for the game. You can tell how much soccer means to them.

Here's a few pre-game pictures I took:

The attendance was 55,467 and I'd say 70-80% were supporting Honduras - no lie. So post-game, it was a different mood. As I left the stadium, I noticed most were in tears. As Jon said, this is their Super Bowl, and in a lot of ways it is.

They had home field advantage - clearly - and I had said before the game I hope Honduras scores at least once for all these fans. Well, they scored four minutes in. And half the press box cheered wildly when they did (not kidding).

Here's a video of the Honduras goal from a Spanish broadcast of the game - love the "GOOOOOOL DE COSTLY, GOOOOOOL DE HONDURAS":

The U.S. bounced back on a penalty kick just before the end of the first half, compliments of superstar Landon Donovan. I was lucky enough to have a great view of it and took the following video:

The United States then added a header in the 69th minute and held on despite a late Honduras flurry to win 2-1.

I have to say, soccer's one of those games that just doesn't translate that well on television, but in person, it's electrifying (a lot like hockey, I think). And that's an observation from the press box. (We could hear a good deal from the stadium too, though, because someone had a window popped open.) The excitement of the game is unmatched and the passion of the fans, especially those from Honduras, was remarkable.

A quick shot from the pressbox (and yes, I'm on Twitter):


Whirlwind Copyright 2009 Reflection Designed by Ipiet Templates Image by Tadpole's Notez