An interview about Bahrain and Burlington

In the continuing adventures of the #BTV Twitter hashtag I was interviewed recently by Matt Austin of Fox 44 News here in Vermont. I pretty surprised by the difference between the conversation he and I had at Thoughtfaucet HQ and the story he ran that evening on the news.

I was going to let it go, figuring “Hey it’s TV, they need to sensationalize stuff to get ratings and pay their mortgages and stuff.”

But then I got an email from a young man asking me about the “cyber war that’s going on” and figured it would be a disservice not to let others know what my conversation with Matt Austin was actually about.

Here’s some audio from our actual conversation, followed by the transcript and then the story as it ran on Fox 44.


Transcript of conversation between Matt Austin and Gahlord Dewald regarding Bahrain and the #BTV Hashtag.

Matt Austin from Fox44: What about for people that don’t know the faintest thing about Twitter. Why should they care?

Gahlord Dewald: I can turn on Twitter and I can ask a question. I can get a response right away. It really comes down to being able to answer peoples questions and being able to ask questions. Expanding the network of people that you can both help–because there are all kinds of questions that people ask every day that are simple enough to answer–and expanding your network for when you need to have an answer to something. The way that these conversations are organized: if I know that it’s a question about Burlington, I can let everyone know that it’s a question about Burlington by using the #BTV hashtag. Maybe we have nothing else in common. We don’t agree on politics, we don’t agree on business, we don’t agree on religion — but we do agree that we’re both interested in Burlington. And that’s what’s important about having a town hashtag.

Matt Austin from Fox44: When did you start noticing that #BTV was showing up for a different use?

Gahlord Dewald:

Bahraini use of Twitter around Feb 2011
Increased Twitter usage in Bahrain around Feb 2011

This is a chart of Bahrain twitter activity. Not just the #BTV hashtag but in general. So you can see here in the beginning there’s nothing going on. And then you see when they have their issues. After that you have this steady hum. Whatever TV show is on there’s people on Twitter talking about it. And that’s what’s going on in Bahrain right now. So that started around February 17th.

Matt Austin from Fox44: Before this Burlington had such a strong social media network and I don’t want to say that it was being threatened but it definitely was being, at least part of it, was being compromised.

Gahlord Dewald: And I think that’s a great choice of words to say that it’s not that Burlington’s use of the #BTV hashtag was being threatened, but the value of the communication was being compromised. The people of Bahrain didn’t say “We’re going to go take this hashtag from Burlington Vermont.” They just simply didn’t know we were there, that’s all.

Matt Austin from Fox44: I guess, do you see any irony that your business is to help companies develop their websites and make their business go smoother but you’re also a sort of unofficial person to help this community stay together?

Gahlord Dewald: I don’t think of it as ironic that I do what I can to help the #BTV hashtag. That’s just being a citizen. The conversations we have on the #BTV hashtag are valuable enough to me that I look for ways to help when I can help. Instead of complaining about Bahrainis talking in the #BTV channel you can ask them if they wouldn’t mind switching. Or come up with a solution that’s going to work. This is what I do, you know–solve these kinds of problems. It’s easy enough for me to dip in and work on it.

Matt Austin from Fox44: Is kind of the hope that as we maybe adapt and use technology that things in Bahrain improve and maybe they start using a different hashtag?

Gahlord Dewald: The problem has two sides. There’s us and there’s Bahrain. It would be selfish to be focused entirely on our problem communicating about our day to day problems here. I think it’s important to continue to do that. But Bahrain is facing something very very different than we are. The ultimate outcome would be that someday the Bahraini’s enjoy their television. The real solution is for Bahrain to have a television presence that reflects the needs of their citizens.

Matt Austin from Fox44: There’s so many conflicts going on right now over there and this is kind of a small way to be connected to one of them.

Gahlord Dewald: It’s changed this particular international event from something that’s happening “over there somewhere” to one that’s happening in the middle of our conversation right now. More interesting is just how much more about Bahrain a lot of us know. You observe what’s going on with that and then you come up with a solution to it. And suggest it and help them enact it if possible. And that’s part of why the real solution is that the Bahraini people probably need to have a television presence that reflects what they need. And that’s a tall order for them. That’s a complicated… I can’t send an email and say “Hey would you guys fix your TV so your people like it better.” I’m not the one who can really make that change.

Matt Austin from Fox44: Thanks so much I appreciate it.

Gahlord Dewald: Yeah anytime. Anytime you need anything just let me know.

Matt Austin’s interpretation of this conversation for Fox 44 television:

Warning: this thing will play an ad and if you try to stop the ad it will load up the landing page for the advertiser (note to advertiser: if your bounce rate on this campaign is pretty high, now you know why). Also, there’s no way to stop this thing once you hit play.

Could be worse I suppose. I could have been asked to be on the Today show and then blindsided by the host right before cutting to commercial.

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