On June 21, 2011, Kabul residents heard a loud, mysterious explosion and some of those with internet access began tweeting from their homes in different neighborhoods of the city and, for the intrepid few, from streets.
The Atlantic Wire described the outcome.
All that digging around led the reporters to an answer in under an hour. Journalist Subel Bhandari learned from another off-Twitter journalist, Hares Kakar, who spoke with police, that a rocket had landed in a house next to a narcotics department in Qasaba, Kabul, causing no casualties. As for Van Houdt, he couldn’t convince his fearful driver to take him to Qasaba, but he spoke to some policemen along the way nonetheless. [Dutch journalist Bette] Dam soon signed off: “Ok, Rocket located. Twexit.”
The crowdsourcing of war reporting in Kabul is sort of like a running version of the Red Balloon Challenge, only with explosives instead of balloons.
Two and a half years on from the first documented use of Twitter to crowdsource information about an attack in Kabul, no new platform has replaced Twitter for this purpose among Afghan and foreign journalists and aid workers.
If you want to follow the war in real time, follow its most prolific Twitter users.
Here’s a list:
@bsarwary Bilal Sarwary is a BBC producer and journalist roving around Afghanistan.
@erinmcunningham Erin Cunningham is a freelance journalist covering Afghanistan for The National and Global Post.
@AmiriEhsan Ehsanullah Amiri is a researcher and producer for TOLO News in Kabul.
@HeidiVogt Heidi Vogt is an Associated Press correspondent in Kabul.
@HabibKhanT Habib Khan Totakhil is an Afghan journalist based in Kabul.
@strickvl Alex Strick van Linschoten is a researcher and writer based in Kandahar.
@Jon_Boone Jon Boone covers Afghanistan for the Guardian.
@courtneybody Courtney Body is a journalist-turned-aid-worker working in various Afghan cities.
@DionNissenbaum Dion Nissenbaum is a Wall Street Journal correspondent based in Kabul.
@AhmadShuja Ahmad Shuja is an Afghan writer and analyst based in Washington, D.C.
@FelixKuehn Felix Kuehn is a writer and researcher based in Kandahar.
@Orzala Orzala Ashraf Nemat is an Afghan civil society activist pursuing her doctorate in the U.K.
@Pajhwok Pajhwok Afghan News is Afghanistan’s largest news agency.
@AANafgh The Afghanistan Analysts Network is an independent Kabul-based policy research organization.
@heyosita Mackenzie is an aid worker based in Kabul.
@ChaiSabz Hadi Zaher is an Afghan-Australian student, blogger and political commentator.
@JShahryar Josh Shahryar is an Afghan analyst and commentator based in the United States.
@Pressistan Kabul Pressistan is an Afghan-run media production and logistics company in Kabul.
@TomAPeter Tom Peter is a freelance journalist who writes about Afghanistan for the Christian Science Monitor and other publications.
@ColinCookman Colin Cookman is a national security researcher at the Center for American Progress focusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
@afpakchannel The AfPak Channel is Foreign Policy’s hub for all things Afghanistan and Pakistan.
@JoshuaFoust Joshua Foust is a fellow at the American Security Project and a prolific blogger on foreign policy and Central Asia.
@KandaharMediaOf The Kandahar Media Office is the official government information office for Kandahar province.
@GraveyardDiary Hares Kakar is a Kabul-based journalist with Deutsche Presse Agentur.
@joelvanhoudt Joel van Houdt is a photojournalist based in Kabul.
@NoorAkbar Noor Jahan Akbar is an Afghan feminist activist.
@anand_gopal_ Anand Gopal is a writer covering Afghanistan, southern Afghanistan in particular.
UPDATE: August 16, 2011
@MohammadAyoub3 Kabul’s police chief tweets in Dari for the most part, but occasionally responds to questions in English.
@DrMobarez Dr. Nilab Mobarez is the national spokesperson for UNAMA.
@Tamim_Hamid This local journalist recently joined Twitter and has become an active participant in the grim game of figuring out what just went kaboom.
@MOIspokesman Sediq Sediqi is the spokesperson for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior.
@GMICAfghanistan This is the official Twitter account of the Government Media Information Centre.
@ISAFmedia The press office of the NATO-led, UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force is trying to understand this Twitter thing.
@MarkSedwill Mark Sedwill is the UK’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He gets Twitter.
@HMAKabul The UK’s ambassador in Kabul tweets about Afghan politics and diplomacy.
@basirgwakh Basir Gwakh is an Afghan journalist reporting for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
@ToloNews Follow Afghanistan’s first 24 hour news and current affairs television network for breaking news from around the country.
@USFOR_A This is the official Twitter account of the US military in Afghanistan.
@FPFJ An Afghan-American aid worker who recently returned to Afghanistan.
@ABalkhi Abdulqahar Balkhi is the nom de guerre of one of the Taliban’s media operatives (one of several on Twitter). Virtually none of the events he tweets about actually happened.
@Mann_Naseh Naseh is an Afghan media professional who tweets about Afghan politics. He’s not a fan of president Hamid Karzai.
@WhiteCityKabul White City is an expat band based in Kabul. Its members, including @RuthOwen, are go-to sources for information about the rock scene in Afghanistan’s capital.
@PShamal Parwiz Shamal is a correspondent for Tolo News.
@SarahAtCIVIC Sarah Holewinski is executive director of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict. She tweets about the war’s effect on ordinary Afghans and the need for all warring parties to make amends and avoid harming civilians.
@ErfanAfghan A mysterious yet active member of the Afghanistan Twitterverse, involved in business development.
@AbasDaiyar Abbas Daiyar is an Afghan writer, researcher and political commentator.