On a cold, snowy morning two years ago, a natural gas explosion tore through a block of downtown Bozeman, destroying several businesses and buildings and killing one woman.
Above and beyond the devastating real-world repercussions of the explosion, the blast also echoed through cyberspace, where scores of people devoted the better part of a week to chronicling the events online, on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.
For a time that day, the hashtag #bozexplod was a trending topic on Twitter, meaning that Bozeman’s drama was generating as much interest as anything else in the world. People posted about the blast from their offices, their apartments and even from within a few yards of the blast site itself, relaying information, propagating rumor and adding new, useful info.
Meanwhile, photos were being posted to Flickr under the same tag and to other sites across the Web. People shared the breaking news with friends on Facebook. Videos were uploaded to YouTube. It was, effectively, a small-scale version of the big breaking news events that would come later on Twitter, such as the Iranian, Egyptian and Wisconsin protests (just to name a few).
But two years later, how much of that material remains online and accessible?