Real time?

中国日报网 2016-09-23 13:06



Real time?Reader question:

Please “real time” in this sentence: In the social media age, stories unfold in real time.

My comments:

Real time literally means right now, as it happens.

In the past, only if you were watching a basketball game broadcast live on TV, did things ever happen in real time, i.e. without delay.

Today, social media including the likes (or dislikes depending on your perspective) of Instagram, Facebook and WeChat mean people are sending reports of major events in their lives online to be viewed by family and friends as they happen, without noticeable delay.

In effect, these stories are broadcast live, allowing others to view them instantly.

By “major events in their lives”, I mean of course the meal they’re currently having, including all the dishes as they are made and brought to the table, etc and so forth.

I mean, the meal one is currently eating must be the most interesting thing that happens to us, judging by the frequency with which pictures of a meal are offloaded online.

To many Chinese, I’m afraid this is true, too.

Anyways, when I was young, the term “real time” was unheard of. People had little use of it in the first place, I suppose. Like I said, the only events broadcast live are a few important ball games, and they were really few and far between.

And those were happy times, too. Live sports on TV were much treasured and relished than they are today. Back in the day, like I said, they were rare. Today, live games are 24-7, omnipresent and everywhere.

It’s like having too many dishes to eat at a meal, at every meal. It gets kind of dull after a while.

All right, no more about meals and meal pictures. Here are media examples of other things and events that happen in real time:

1. For an app that many—possibly even most—initially dismissed as a trivial tool for teens to send sexy texts that would automatically disappear, Snapchat has certainly come a long way. Not only does it have an estimated market value of about $16 billion, but it is also now seen by many media outlets as a viable platform for their news, thanks in part to its Discover feature.

More recently, Snapchat has started to dip its toes into the world of real-time, crowdsourced news. And the results have been fascinating and/or disturbing, depending on your perspective.

Although the company has experimented with news aggregation features a few times before now, the latest and most powerful example of it doing so came on Wednesday and Thursday, after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. A total of 14 people were killed after a husband and wife opened fire on a crowded holiday party.

The Snapchat “story” was pulled together over time from users who were near the attack when it occurred, with images and videos that these users had uploaded—creating a live stream of pictures and clips from people who were near the shooting location. Some of the shots included behind the scenes images of police activity, as well as shots of the wounded being airlifted away.

- Snapchat’s Move Into Real-Time News is Fascinating,, December 4, 2015.

2. We all know how the story of the Titanic starts and ends. The ship that was too big to fail sets sail on her maiden voyage with 2,224 souls on board. And in the wee hours of the morning on April 15, 1912, she hits an iceberg and sinks to the bottom of the Atlantic.

Sure, we know the lore (thanks in big part to a bang-up blockbuster from James Cameron). But there’s something very different about reliving it in real-time.

104 years after the Titanic took more than 1,000 passengers and crew to their watery graves, one person has recreated the action, minute-by-minute, in tweets. And I can’t bear to watch.

There’s something gut-wrenching about watching one of the biggest peacetime maritime tragedies play out in real-time. And just like when you watched Jack’s fingers slip below the water (I think we can all agree the statute of limitations has expired on that spoiler) there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

It’s not the first time someone has used Twitter's 140 character format to micro-blog the past. There are accounts like @samuelpepys, which tweets out the words of one of history's most famous diarists in real time, bringing Samuel Pepys’ eyewitness accounts of the events 1663 roaring into the future.

There are also plenty of accounts that claim to recreate historical photos, only to have them debunked by the links of @PicPedant, the “punctilious internet killjoy” that points out photoshop fails and spoofed photos online.

Whether the live-tweeting of the Titanic sinking is entirely accurate or a few liberties have been taken, we just couldn't turn away. Even though we know these tweeted quips will sink ships.

- Titanic sinking tweeted in real-time, 104 years later,, April 14, 2016.

3. Though most of the United Kingdom was fast asleep when the results of last week’s referendum vote were finally announced, 26-year-old Emma Clarke and her partner were wide awake.

“We couldn’t sleep,” Clarke told Yahoo News. So they stayed up to watch the historic news unfold in real time.

“I just felt absolutely gutted,” she says, adding that while “part of me was shocked … another part wasn’t.”

Clarke, who is originally from Manchester, has lived in the West Yorkshire city of Leeds since she moved there for university in 2008. She is now a business consultant at an international software company, and the mother of a 4-month-old girl.

In the months leading up to the vote, Clarke says she was worried that not enough of her peers were engaged in the issue, and feared that if young people didn’t turn out to vote, the Brexit would prevail.

“A few of my friends were openly confused about how to vote due to lack of facts being reported in the media, and posted asking for people to share information they had gathered to help them decide,” she says.

Google Trends reported Friday that the top searched question by U.K. users in the previous 24 hours was “What does it mean to leave the EU?”

“What is the EU?” came in second place.

Still, as the big day drew closer, Clarke says her conversations with friends in person and on social media gave her hope that “‘remain’ could have a chance.”

But now, “I genuinely believe that people did not vote for this decision based on facts,” she says, pointing to the admission by U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage on Friday that one of the “leave” campaign’s central pledges — that exiting the EU would free up £350 million a week for the National Health Service — was “a mistake.”

- In Brexit aftermath, some young Brits consider moving abroad,, June 30, 2016.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)



















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