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dear mark bowden

October 13, 2009

i defended you. not in the classical stood-infront-of-the-press-and-sang-your-praises-for-all-your-humanitarian-efforts sense, but in the more subdued admired-your-courage-in-private way. (after all, talking to the press wouldn’t do much to boost your credibility.)

when reuters put out a statement over two weeks ago that you would be taking questions about somalia via twitter, there were snickers. people wondered what you could possibly say in 140 characters that would not belittle the plight of somalis, the humanitarian disaster, and basic grammar rules.

i stood by you because, above all, i believe in the power of social networking to inspire social change. i admire leaders who look towards such platforms not for a pr blitz but to actually engage their constituents in meaningful dialogue.

and twitter is quite the challenge. prominent personalities have bastardized the english language with their sms-short-hand. they’ve failed to use the right apis to further their points. they just didn’t get it.

i thought you would be different. i assumed that as you ventured into the online social sphere, you would have no doubt researched what you were doing. hope for the best, prepare for the worst, maybe?

instead, you allowed reuters to put out the statement, and when only 1 person submitted questions via your hashtag, you ignored his question.

the promise in print was that you would respond within a week. so either you and reuters have made your response so google-search-unfriendly or you just decided to abandon the project because you thought there was no interest.

don’t you see how tragically un-social that is? @robcrilly deserved a reply. and if you thought his question was unworthy, then your staff should have at least solicited some questions from people already involved in the conversation, both on and off twitter.

twitpic, bit.ly links, trending topics. they were all at your disposal. guess you didn’t get it, after all. “it” being how much you could have leveraged this platform to at least educate some people about somalia. people who wouldn’t otherwise search the news networks for updates. people who could have counted on you, oh great humanitarian chief of somalia, to go to their world and open their eyes.

my only question that i’d like to #askmarkbowden is what were you thinking?

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