City Desk
19 July, 2010  
Estcourt on Web 2

Stephen Estcourt QC, foodie, blogger and social media fiend, reveals how Web 2 has expanded his life and work … #willingnesstohelp


imageTwo years ago I was advising , appearing and cooking entirely with the assistance of books – lots of them. It was something I had done quite happily for the previous third of a century.

The iPad had not been invented, Web 2 was not a term of which I had heard, Facebook was something kids did and Twitter was for twits.

Now, with my iPad loaded with some dedicated software, I take my brief to court on it.

At the same time I’m egged on and advised by one of my 400 odd Twitter pals.

I tweet with legal commentators like @Foolkitlegal in Australia, @LawyerWorld in the USA and @LegalGeekery (a New York law school student).

I chat on Facebook about cases of interest with friends and fellow barristers, such as Tom Blackburn SC and Dauid Sibtain.

I even subscribe to Gourmet Traveller magazine on my iPad and store all my recipes on that wonderful new device.

If in need of help in the kitchen I count Neil Perry and Stefano Manfredi among my Twitter pals and Maurice Esposito and Tony Bilson are two of my 1,000 or so Facebook friends.

Am I any better off?

I think so. I believe that Facebook and Twitter have added a dimension to my life and my professional outlook, without which I’d be poorer.

It is very easy to pour scorn on Web 2 social media – “how could you possibly have 1,000 Facebook friends – you are lucky if you have five good friends in a lifetime” – or – “Dear Twitter, this morning I did a poo and went to work and now I am off to bed”.

But no one can deny the power of Twitter when it trends topics worldwide where no other media access can be had, as was the case during the riots in the aftermath of the last Iranian elections.

Journalists in all media have embraced Twitter and the news actually appears first now in tweets from the press, as was evident a few weeks ago when the news broke about the toppling of Kevin Rudd.

I was in Canberra for a mediation on that day and followed the Twitter stream while watching Sky News, which was considerably behind the pace.

imageThe television station itself was reliant on picking up the tweets from journos at Parliament House (and tweeters at a certain Kingston restaurant).

As to Facebook, it is true that I haven’t met in person all or even most of my 1,004 friends, but as I wrote recently on my food blog:

“On Easter Monday Mary and I had lunch at home with three very good friends we had never met before and two extremely close friends we only met recently for the first time. The old notion that you must meet people first and then become friends has been turned on its head by Facebook and Twitter.

On these social media platforms you can get to know some people very well and then have the joy of meeting them. It has happened to us many times in the last year and it is a wonderful window to new friendships.”

“Tweetups” are increasingly common as friends from Twitter (and Facebook) who have strong common interests, or who develop online personal relationships, often arrange to meet for lunch or drinks.

In this way “real” as opposed to “virtual” friendships develop.

This has been my own experience in both the professional and culinary dimensions of my use of the interweb.

The other somewhat surprising aspect of social media is the civility and bonhomie that exists in the ether.

There is a pervading willingness to help with suggestions and advice on a multitude of issues that arise online every day.

In fact there is a Twitter “hashtag” designated #asktwitter, which when added to the end of a question posed on Twitter opens up your query to response by any of 75 million users.

Is all of this Web 2 stuff a splash in the pan?

I don’t think the omnipresence of Twitter can be ignored. It is here to stay as another means of communicating, monitoring and learning.

When PM Julia Gillard made a gaff at her Press Club lunch last week, describing Bob Hawke and Paul Keating as “Bob Keating”, her first reaction was to say, “Oh I will be punished in the Twitterverse for that – in the Twiitersphere”.

Facebook, with its 400 million users, also is unlikely to disappear. No doubt rules and protocols and laws governing its use and abuse will be called for and these will develop in the same way as governance has developed in IT generally.

But the phenomena is here to stay.

So that’s my take on it all.

I must dash now and check in on Foursquare. I have just qualified as Mayor of my Chambers.


Stephen Estcourt on Twitter
Stephen Estcourt on Facebook
Stephen Estcourt’s food blog