12/01/2012 Sunset – A Social Media Moment

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Yesterday late afternoon there was an amazing sunset in the UK. The sky was painted in various hues of mauve, purple, dark blues and reds. I sat there, looking out of the window and thinking I should go and take a photograph. By the time I had thought about where would be the best place to take it from, the moment had passed and I had missed my chance. Others were more organised though. I looked down at my phone and saw lots of tweets coming in about the sunset with some great photos attached. Wouldn’t it be great to group them all together in one place and save them I thought. So I quickly set up a posterous site dedicated to that particular sunset. I chose posterous and not Facebook or Flickr or Google+ because it has a zero hassle join up process (all you have to do to post is send an email to 12012012sunset@posterous.com), generates a stand-alone website, supports posting by multiple people and handles photographs well. I gave the site a specific name, 12/01/20212 Sunset, rather than something more generic like Great Sunsets, so the site would be associated with a single point in time.

Setting up a multi-editor rich media website takes only a few clicks and shows how fluid the web has become since the advent of social media. I kept admin control at first, so I had to approve any pictures emailed in before they were posted, just to stop anything untoward turning up on the site. Setting up administrators and contributors for the site could be sorted out later, although it wasn’t as straight forward as I thought it might be. I imagined I’d be able to add people who had emailed in posts as contributors, maybe administrators as well, with one click. It’s not quite as easy as that on posterous, though it is hardly taxing.

The 12/01/2012 sunset posterous site also highlighted how hard it is to kick start something online. After much tweeting and linking there was a grand total of three photos submitted. Three. By contrast, the first photo had had 2,650 views by the following afternoon. I think this was mainly because it was called ‘Sunset over London’ and was ranking well for that search term on Google as people looked for photos of the sunset the next day. Why did so few people send in their photos when so many had taken them and tweeted them? Maybe there were unsure of what would happen to their photo, what they might be getting involved with, couldn’t be bothered, just didn’t want to, or any other multitude of possibilities. Anyway, the 12/01/2012 sunset was an interesting social media moment. An attempt to capture an event and create a permanent home for it on the web as soon as it happened.