Learning from Twitter — content and process

Here’s an example of a couple of things I learned this morning from Twitter…

First, on the content front, I learned from my friend Marc Lynch — a professor at GWU and an expert on the Middle East who just published a book titled The Arab Uprising — that there’s a good piece in the Wall Street Journal today about the Arab media. I also learned that Marc is having trouble accessing that article, because the content is behind a pay wall, available only to subscribers to the Wall Street Journal.

Marc asked his followers on Twitter (he has more than 13,000 followers, including people such as Nicholas Kristof and Clay Shirky)


if someone could send him the full text of the WSJ article…

If you look at the bottom of the screen shot of Marc’s twitter stream (pasted below) you will see that he posted that request 38 minutes ago.  And if you look at the top of the screen shot, you will see that 34 minutes ago (i.e., within four minutes), someone read his tweet and sent him not only the article itself but a method for getting articles from the WSJ for free in the future.


This is what Marc probably got when he first tried, as a non-subscriber, to get into the Wall Street Journal:


And now, thanks to @FelixPax, Marc gets this:



And the key is to do this:


But I also learned that a top scholar is frustrated that the Wall Street Journal is making it harder for people to access its content.

In a related move, I’m sad to report that the New York Times will start restricting the number of free articles non-subscribers can see per month.  It used to be 20 per month and soon it will be down to 10. I’m not sure if the same sort of work-around will work for the NYT.


As someone looking to open a middle school that will encourage students to read and discuss sophisticated news sources on a daily basis, I’m saddened that institutions such as the Wall Street Journal and New York Times make it difficult for students who don’t much money to access their content.

I’m hoping similar news agencies that currently allow free access to their content (LA Times, NPR, BBC) do not follow suit.

I’m also intrigued that one of the top scholars of the Middle East was frustrated this morning because of the Wall Street Journal’s policy, and I’m further intrigued that Twitter helped him solve that access problem within four minutes 🙂

Go Twitter!

Oh, and getting back to content, you should read that article Marc recommended abut the Arab Media Clash Over Syria (that’s the link that will work).  It is a good read, and it ends by quoting a UPenn scholar, who makes the point that:

“When we engage in this rhetoric whereby the other side is only good when dead,” said the University of Pennsylvania’s Mr. Kraidy, “we are setting the region up for a lot of trouble.”


About Steve Goldberg

I teach students at Research Triangle High School (RTHS) about US History. RTHS is a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning. The blog posts here reflect my own personal views and not those of my employer.
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