I use Twitter all the time, mostly for news and tips for stories I might want to write up for GFR. I require my students to use it for possible leads on sources for their research papers. On the day of the Boston Marathon, I happened to be on Twitter just as the first explosion occurred — bystanders tweeted about it a good 45 minutes before news outlets reported on it. But then, reports of other explosive devices emerged on Twitter, and other detonations, and all kinds of stuff that simply wasn’t true. It’s tough to draw the line between believing tweets from firsthand witnesses and being skeptical about tweets from people jumping to conclusions. As with all social media, responsible use of Twitter requires a carefully honed bullshit detector, and sometimes not even that is enough. Enter science, and a new system that can tell fact from fiction in our 140-character tweets.
In Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, pizza delivery folks (along with drug manufacturers and computer geniuses) have a rare position of esteem. That’s because their job is important—they even go to school to learn the ins and outs of timely pizza delivery. Every pie gets to the person who ordered it within 30 minutes—it’s the guarantee on which the entire industry revolves. I can totally imagine PiePal being implemented in that world, and it’s not hard to imagine it in ours, either, given how high pizza lands on the hierarchy of human needs.
PiePal, made by iStrategyLabs, a Washington DC-based digital agency that has built a reputation by crafting what they call social machines, or devices that work with Foursquare, Twitter, and other social media to prompt real-world, real-time actions. Much like in Snow Crash, they demonstrate the tangible relationship between what happens online and what occurs in our actual world. But with PiePal, they’ve simplified the system. There’s no social media necessary—all you do is push a button and wait for a pizza to arrive.