War of the Worlds 2.0 on Halloween – A Retrospective

I already wrote about the War of the Worlds 2.0 plan made by Kris Kowal (with some minor help from me) and encouraged you all to try it out. I was really happy to see that some of you did! Hundreds of people participated (including @biz, one of the co-founders of Twitter, who participated with one tweet). Most created their own stories, staging their own photos and videos, tying events together logically. Kris wrote up a super-linky post-mortem. My friend Kevin wrote about the event. So did Wired, and they even quoted one of my darkest tweets. But I think I’m most proud of this particular quote from the Wired article: “It appears this is the first time (Twitter) has been used for mass fiction.” We made history!

I resonate a lot with a sentiment in Kevin’s aforelinked entry. He said “fictional posts about the potential death of your friend and their family are kind of disturbing.” Too true! I think all the participants were as fair as they could’ve been on Twitter making certain all tweets that were part of this fictional storyline were tagged with “#wotw2.” Some people don’t yet understand what tagging on Twitter is and what it implies, but that’s because this is a new medium. We’re giving birth to it right now. For the folks who, like Kevin, knew it wasn’t real, I consider it an exercise in stretching one’s mind into new areas of fiction. Fiction has never come quite this close to home before, and that’s one of the things that makes this effort so innovative and gives it power.

To be clear, I would never condone purposefully fooling people or regularly dwelling on dark things, but one could argue that Halloween is perhaps the one day on which such things are mostly permissible. I personally found it very revealing, and perhaps edifying, to discover first hand how unprepared I would be in the event of a terrorist attack or other cataclysmic event. Writing those tweets forced me to think through it. I was actually slightly shaken on the afternoon of Halloween, between 3pm and 4pm, writing that series of graphic tweets.

What follows is a chronological listing of all of my #wotw2 tweets, so you can see my own entire story if you’re interested, and so they’re preserved here when they inevitably become hard to find on Twitter months/years from now. My personal favorite spots in my own storyline were 1) the fun video that Eddie and I recorded and put up on YouTube,  2) giving the moment of the alien’s uprising (on Halloween at 2pm) a darkly-ironic soundtrack, and 3) the final moments after midnight when I “saw” a tripod standing in the bog behind my house, my final tweet leaving my and my family’s fate uncertain. Chilling!

October 30th

  • Weird, I just saw some kind of shooting star, and it’s not even dark out. Anybody else see that? 6:07pm
  • Reports of weird comets are freaking me out. I’m gonna go buy some extra water. And bread. Couple guns… generator… ammo… searchlight… 11:28pm

October 31st

  • NPR is going on about some kinda metallic cylinders that fell from the sky last night. I’m not aware of any near my house. Hoax? 8:09am
  • Missed my bus and had to drive in. City-bound roads are strangely clear. Rockstar parking, too. I think people are staying home. 8:56am
  • People are saying last night’s “sky cylinders” have some sort of *machines* in them?!? I wish I watched more news. Why’d I come in? 9:28am
  • I’m hearing sirens screaming through the streets and heading away from the city. Better than stopping here, I guess. 10:19am
  • On the phone with a friend of mine named Eddie. Neither of us has seen these metallic sphere things yet, but we hear a lot online. 1:04pm
  • I wish I knew how @stephlewis was doing, but I can’t reach her on the phone. Man, it’s hard to concentrate amidst all this. 1:47pm
  • ♫ Everything in its right place / Everything in its right place ♫ 2:01pm
  • Getting SMSes from friends that the spheres are rising on legs & some heading this way! Hitting the street w/ Eddie and a camcorder. 2:08pm
  • EDDIE AND I BARELY SURVIVED! http://tinyurl.com/5kgs6z Had to run through the alleyways to avoid the giant tripods! 2:30pm
  • Smoking, smoldering hunks of buildings, cars, and people lay strewn about. The tripods have left the Warehouse District in ruins. 3:16pm
  • The light rail train lays on its side, its doors opening and closing in spasms. People are comforting each other. Many are on phones. 3:19pm
  • This song seems to be appropriate to capture the moment. Listen and contemplate. http://is.gd/5mUf 3:23pm
  • It is time for us come together as one people, consecrated to the preservation of human supremacy on this earth. 3:27pm
  • Finally got @stephlewis on the phone! We’re heading to Maplewood to be with family. Luckily I drove, MetroTransit isn’t operating… 4:07pm
  • My family is OK. Found them in the basement. Going to try to get home via 35E. Not sure what the conditions are. Praying. 8:20pm
  • Sections of 35 are so torn up I have to go off road. Passed two Tripods near Hugo, burning down houses. Is mine next? 8:38pm
  • Well, @RhythmHippy has had a harder night than I have. Exhibit A: http://twitpic.com/j92s Exhibit B: http://twitpic.com/ja8o. 8:57pm
  • My house is still standing. Some south of me were not so lucky. Just saw a Tripod wading through Forest Lake like a kiddy pool. 9:02pm
  • Steph, Caleb and I are in the basement with the pets. All the lights are off. We’re hoping the Tripods pass by. 10:38pm

November 1st

  • Oh. Crap. http://twitpic.com/jbxz 12:04am.
  • OK, don’t panic. Don’t panic. The tripod is just standing there, not moving. It didn’t see me. Sorry, @hidama, I had to look. 12:10am
  • The tripod is *still* just standing there. I’m not going to tempt fate, but as long as it’s not hurting anyone else, I’ll let it be. 12:37am
  • Can’t sit here and stare at this thing all night (& I’m fresh out of mucus). Gonna to try to fall asleep. I hope this isn’t goodbye. 12:49am

War of the Worlds 2.0

Kris Kowal; friend, former Apple coworker, and JavaScript god; has taken the ideas in my previous Twitter Fiction entry and the (much-earlier) work of Ars Technica’s Ryan Paul and he has written up a plan. You must read this plan.

It sounds to me like Halloween on Twitter is going to be a blast this year! Will you join in?

I find the fact that this is an unplanned, unfocused story to be quite apropos to Twitter, actually. The story probably isn’t so much in the narrative itself as it is in the creativity of the participating individuals. That’s really the heart of “2.0.” Thank you, Kris!