Feedback for Crisis Data on Social Networks. After attending the Red Cross Emergency Social Data Summit, I am reminded how important feedback is. We now know that users of social media expect responders to be tuned into emergency information posted there. During our Tweak the Tweet campaign in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, we sensed the same thing. Users of the syntax wanted to know how the information was being used and acted on by response agencies. During the Crisis Data summit, tweeters mentioned that social media doesn't give a busy signal (in reference to the fact that 911 often can). Others countered that at least when you get a busy signal, you know that no one is tuned in. When people post emergency information to social media, they can end up not knowing whether their message is making it the right eyes/ears - and that can be more dangerous than a busy signal. If emergency responders are going to turn to "informal" communication channels for information related to formal response, they have to devise a way of reporting back to those same informal channels when information is acted upon, triaged, etc.
Tweak the Tweet
Tweak the Tweet is an idea for utilizing the Twitter platform as a two-way communication channel for information during emergencies, crises, and disasters. Researchers in the area of crisis informatics have recognized that social media sites are places that people turn to during major events to both inform others and to get information from others. Tweak the Tweet seeks to formalize some of these communications to make the information shared more easily processed and redistributed back to the public.
The idea takes advantage of the public nature of Twitter as well as the availability of tools to filter and collect tweets. It also seeks to allow users to inform the public of disaster-related information within (or in a very similar way to) their normal Twitter communication patterns.
Crisis Reporting Hashtag Syntax
A Tweak the Tweet campaign asks users to format their tweets with specific hashtags that allow computers to do a first round of processing on the information. This processing includes extracting location information, creating incident reports from tweets, and sorting these reports into different types of categories. The processed tweets can then be displayed on public web-pages in a variety of formats that allows users to view aggregate information. Examples include spreadsheets that can be sorted over report type and interactive maps that allow users to see where different types of information has been reported.
Just got my bearings back after the Random Hacks of Kindness event. My team of two (Jeannie Stamberger and I) won 2nd place hacking for humanity - with our low-tech/no-tech solution for both citizens and crisis responders: Tweak the Tweet. We paired Jeannie's idea to use technology to train citizens on the ground to provide info during an emergency with my idea to use an existing technology (Twitter) and existing behavior within that technology (hashtags, RTs, Follow @s) to distribute that info. And viola, we won (runner-up, that is).
Here's an example of how we might Tweak the Tweet to allow citizens to provide machine readable information during an emergency that both responders and other citizens could use to inform them during the event:
[Joe Shmoe is tweeting using his normal patterns.]
2:05pm @Joe_Shmoe The fire is moving quickly, it's across the street now #okfires
2:06pm @Joe_Shmoe Fire's blocking the street up ahead, I'm going to head south instead #okfires
[Meanwhile, emergency response organizations begin to broadcast these tweets every few minutes, providing an ideal grammar for tweeting information in a machine-readable form. They hope that the tweets will get picked up by followers and propagated through the system using retweets.]