Twitter Detective Agency: The Case of the Stolen Laptop

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When Sean Power's laptop was stolen, he flipped on an open-source laptop recovery tool called Prey and began to track the presumed thief. Then, stuck far from New York, where his laptop was being held, he posted about the whole thing on Twitter, "Shit! Twitter, help! Prey just found my stolen (as of three days ago) laptop. Here's the report. I see the guy!"

Soon, people from his Twitter feed began to get involved in various ways, finding information about the guy using the stolen laptop and even heading to the bar where the software had located the hardware. After some interesting twists and turns, Power got his laptop back with the help of a a woman in a purple sarong, who chose to remain nameless. It all got tracked and organized via Storify, and so you can follow the Twitter detective agency at work. It's kind of a cracking read, actually.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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