Did You Survive The War of the Worlds 2.0? #wotw2

By Jimmy Rogers
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

If you were on Twitter yesterday, you might have noticed a flood of tweets with a mysterious “#wotw2” code in them.  Well that was a “hash tag” or “hash code” you were seeing there and those tweets were completely fictional.

The fake tweets were all on account of War of the Worlds 2.0, an effort by Kris Kowal to re-enact the first reading of War of the Worlds by Orson Wells on live radio.  If you remember the story, Wells’ 1938 radio performance caused panic across the nation because many listeners tuned in late and only heard descriptions of a massive alien attack.  A pretty huge, if unintentional, spoof if ever there was one.

Kowal and his friends worked out a plan to recapture the spirit of that performance by getting as many people as they could to update Twitter as though that fictional attack was really happening, all over the world.  The benefit of multiple authors is that each story is not only unique, but localized as well.  Users also cross-talked on Twitter, encouraging one another to develop their own personal storylines.

How did it all work?  Well, the team running War of the Worlds 2.0 organized it collaboratively on a Google Docs spreadsheet.  After the plan was laid, they created a Twitter account named wotw2 that would announce each major event as it was meant to occur chronologically.  This kept everyone’s story consistent.

So that everyone could follow the developing story together, each tweet was tagged with #wotw2.  From there, a quick search on Twitter or Twemes brought up every relevant tweet.  All throughout Halloween day the story progressed until the dramatic conclusion of the mock-invasion (we won!).  Below is a chart illustrating the increased usage of the #wotw2 tag over the course of the day.

Being a sci-fi geek myself, I played along and even made a few blog posts to bolster the realism.  In my story, the tripods initially left my part of campus alone as they went after Washington, DC, but eventually they returned and wrecked my whole housing area!  Later I hid out in the rubble that was once our late-night diner.  No heroics for me I’m afraid, my feed was all about survival.

Another user who did a great job was sea_dot, who summed up her antics that day in her own blog post.  She began her story watching the “meteor shower” that eventually turned out to be the first wave of the invasion.  Sea_dot’s stuff was so realistic (it included pictures and video clips) that one of her regular readers actually asked her if Denver was safe or not!

Overall, it was a fantastic experience and I hope it starts a trend.  We’ll need to come up with a name for this kind of thing…any thoughts?

[Tripod image is in the public domain, second image from the wotw2 Repository]

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