The Boston Bombings and the Limits of Mobile Tech

Here at AppMuse, we regularly sing the praises of mobile technology.  There’s usually reason to do so, of course, but one of the things we learned over the last tragic week is that mobile technology has its limits, and in many cases those limits boil down to old-fashioned human error.

For example:  Twitter is a fantastic communications tool, and when used properly, it can even help topple brutal dictatorships.  But last week it proved to be dysfunctional, even counterproductive, when used as a primary news source.  “Breaking news” is clearly broken, and of course the major news networks bear the brunt of the responsibility for trying to stay ahead of an amorphous social media community that doesn’t have to fret about fact-checking and journalistic ethics.  The fact of the matter is that anyone who waited two days and picked up a print newspaper would have been better informed than those following social media.  Jumping to incorrect conclusions only led to false accusations of innocent people and trauma to already-grieving families.  One of the reasons the Boston police released the actual photos of the suspects was so that the online community would stop doing damage.

We also learned that we should spend less time talking, and more time listening and educating ourselves.  People in the Twitterverse suggesting that we “nuke Czechoslovakia” would be better served spending their time reading books than typing into their phones, where they might learn that Czechoslovakia no longer exists, and was never Chechnya.  (Thankfully the Czech ambassador to the U.S. was there to set us straight.)

Not all the failings were human.  In spite of the advances in facial recognition technology, it failed to match the suspects to photos both of them had in official databases.  Instead, it required one agent watching a segment of footage over 400 times.

No, in spite of all the magnificent advancements brought to us by mobile technology, solving this horrible crime was an analog victory.  And for all of us here at AppMuse, we’d like to thank the law enforcement community for their tireless efforts in bringing this tragedy to a close.

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