Thursday, December 18, 2008

Blog Stories 2008: #3 - #atlgas

When does a widget grow up?

Who made the first emergency call on a cell phone? When did a blog first get quoted by major publication? Who was the first person to get married after meeting love on an online dating site?

The answer to those questions and millions of other web lore may be lost to time but people of Atlanta will always remember the time when Twitter suddenly mattered.

In September, Hurricane Ike whammied the gulf coast, severly impacting the oil refineries that sprawl around Houston, TX. Atlanta, eternally hampered by a lack of storage facilities, saw its pipeline to the go-juice dwindle to near nothing.

Gas stations began running out of gas. Lines began forming. Atlanta drivers began stalking tanker trucks like desperate, feral dogs. A station with a single open pump became a honey pot for swarms of thirsty cars.

There would be no succor for days but salve came in the form of one young woman's idea.

Tessa Horhled rarely used a car. A chance favor for her mother led her to the QuikTrip on Sidney Marcus and into the swirl of chaos. Not one to sit as a story formed, Horhled used her cell phone to send an update to the social media site Twitter.

By adding the hashtag #atlgas, she created an easily searchable method for others to report on gas status. Her idea played on Atlantan's obsessive nature to stew over the latest "disaster". From Alpharetta to Forest Park, hundreds of drivers began reporting on the availability of gas at individual stations.

Little blogstorms normally burn bright then fade away, rarely noticed by those in the larger world. But the beast Tessa unleashed would not be stopped. The Atlanta Journal Constitution linked directly to the #atlgas search and told its readers it was "real time" information. The news of the innovation reached as far away as Fayetteville, NC.

Soon, gas began flowing again, the lines disappeared and #atlgas began to fade away. Only the future knows if the idea of collective consciousness attacking a problem will become as ubiquitous as cell phones, blogs and online dating, but for one sliver of time, one bright mind and one little widget showed us possibilities we hardly imagined.

1 comment:

Jen said...

My favorite story so far.