Twitterers Worldwide Gather for Twestival
Feb. 11, 2009, The New York Times — Twitter has been co-opted by celebrities and companies like Starbucks and Bank of America. Now, the San Francisco-based service, which allows people to post updates, or “tweets,” up to 140 characters in length, is being adopted to organize an global fund-raising event called Twestival.
On Feb. 12, more than 200 cities worldwide will hold events to foster networking within local Twitter communities as well as raise funds for charity: water, a nonprofit that installs wells and rainwater harvesting systems in developing countries.
Amanda Rose, the architect behind the multicity Twitter festivities, said Twestival grew out of a smaller get-together held in London last September to benefit a local soup kitchen. “Originally, I thought it was going to be 30 people in a pub doing karaoke,” she said. “But we ended up having 250 people show up.” Ms. Rose said the London event brought in about £1,000 and several boxes of canned goods, and planted the seeds for a much larger event, spanning several international cities.
Mrs. Rose announced plans for a simultaneous, multicity event in late January, and said that in a week she had organizers willing to coordinate meetings in more than 100 cities.
Since then, Twestival has taken off: The London event is expecting upwards of 800 guests, and Ms. Rose estimated there were a dozen satellite events being hosted around Britain. Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water, who is also helping organize the New York event, expects attendance numbers nearing 1,200. In addition, Twestival events have sprung up around the globe from Cape Town to Beijing, Peru, Tokyo and Bangladesh.
Ms. Rose said she hopes the larger-scale event in London can raise at least $4,000 — enough to dig one well in a developing country. In total, she’s aiming to clear $1 million in donations, though she’s said she doesn’t want to put pressure on the smaller gatherings. A million may sound like a lofty goal, but so far Twestival has collected more than $10,000 in donations via TipJoy, an online micropayment system.
In addition to collecting contributions online, Twestival events are using various methods to raise money for charity: water. Some are selling tickets, while others will have free admission and raffle off donated items. Ms. Rose also set up a streaming music site, called Twestival.fm to generate additional donations. Music fans can leave a donation in exchange for listening to songs donated by musicians like the experimental pop chanteuse Imogen Heap, the indie rockers Bloc Party and a Brazilian electro-outfit, Bonde do Role.
Real-world gatherings for online communities are nothing new: Diggnation, the popular weekly Web cast hosted by Digg’s founder, Kevin Rose, hosts live versions of his show that are a favorite among fans, and readers of an upstart blog for women, Jezebel.com, and even the raunchy-humored Fark.com have organized offline meetings.
Ms. Rose said that the Twitter community is particularly adept at mobilizing Internet activity into real-world action because the undercurrent of social currency is strong within the service’s ever-expanding community.
“You have a bit more of an audience when you Twitter something,” she said. If you do participate in Twestival — whether to donate using TipJoy, volunteer time or contribute ideas, “it doesn’t go unnoticed.”
She just hopes that Twitter, which was known for its frequent downtimes early in the Web site’s lifespan, stays up during Thursday’s event. “I checked this morning, and Twitter was down,” she laughed. “So I guess it goes to show you can’t be too reliant on technology.”