Social Media Curation Needs Differ in Response and Recovery Phases of a Disaster

In social media disaster response, digital volunteers perform real-time curation*, searching for actionable data that could save peoples lives.

Many tools are being developed and tested for disaster response, such as Ushahidi’s SwiftRiver and Project EPIC‘s Tweak the Tweet at U.C. Boulder, and more are on the way**. We need these tools first, and during an actual response we shouldn’t worry about what the data looks like, as long as it’s displayed clearly, is consistently accessible, and is searchable for critical key intel to forward to responders. The needs of real-time curation also carry over to recovery.

But some of the needs/requirements are different for long-term disaster recovery. Organizations such as VOAD come in after the response to help people and communities with this long and difficult process. FEMA’s publication “Telling the Tale of Disaster Resistance: A Guide to Capturing and Communicating the Story“, stresses the importance of keeping the public engaged and helping people in devastated communities in order to strengthen recovery efforts after the response phase has ended.

For the recovery phase, we need a way to find archived data for stories, and a way to tell those stories**** in compelling and visually interesting ways that keeps people engaged, so that they’ll continue helping survivors past the point of saving their lives and providing them temporary shelter. I think that one way to keep that story compelling will be with what we now refer to as “curation.” Here are some of the things that would be helpful in curation tools for purposes of disaster recovery.

To tell these stories we’ll need to archive data – or have access to archived data – so that it can be searched for and edited once there’s a recovery underway, and there’s a story to tell beyond the disaster and response story. Ultimately, it would be great to be able to access the entire tweetstream***, searching back in time to the event, even before the event.

Imagine the power of a story that’s able to illustrate what an area was like before being devastated; children playing, families enjoying their community, people living their normal lives before the disaster. Yes, we can look to traditional media for some of this, but access to social media data such as tweets and facebook posts will be very helpful and will enrich the story.

Beyond that, being able to easily reformat these stories/streams/bundles so that they can be shared in a variety of ways, such as being sent in an email message, or posted on blogs and websites would be helpful. For example, Storify stories can be sent via email formatted as they appear on their website, and Storify, Keepstream and Curated.By stories can be inserted as formatted in to many blogs and websites.*****

It seems to me that this will be especially  important as new, innovative ways to fundraise such as “CrowdFunding” begin to be used for disaster recovery.

I’ll continue to add information here as I learn more. Thanks for your time, and I hope that this will begin a helpful dialogue on disaster recovery and social media.


* I agree with Sophia B Liu, who writes in her “CuratusKit” proposal about the need to be more specific when identifying and developing the different phases of curation. We need to define this more clearly. Her “7 Archetypes” are a great way to begin that discussion.

** For more on the new curation tools that are being developed, please see my post on the subject and the ongoing discussion on the #SMEM PiratePad

*** I’ve seen Robert Scoble’s DataSift and Research.Ly interviews – these services will be powerful research tools that I believe will be useful for telling recovery stories.

**** There are very serious privacy issues to be dealt with when telling these stories, and this is covered in the FEMA publication and elsewhere.

***** Unfortunately none of the current curation tools can be posted here in my WordPress blog because wordpress doesn’t allow javascript; partially my fault since I could do this using WordPress if I hosted the site elsewhere.

This post was informed and inspired by many, including all who wrote these:


The Seven Needs of Real-Time Curators

MARCH 27, 2010 BY ROBERT SCOBLE (Blog post)


The real-time curation wars (exclusive first look at



Why Social Media Curation Matters

By Chris Collier

November 10, 2010 (Blog post)


Social media curation with Keepstream: skip or join?

(blog post)


From Curator to Socially-Distributed Curation (aka Crowdsourcing Curation)

Sunday, March 07th, 2010

Author: sophiabliu

••• Aims To Be The “Smithsonian Of The Web”, But They Need Your Help

Author: MG Siegler

Nov 23, 2010


Storify and the search for curation

Posted on Sep 30th, 2010 by Mike Carlucci


Keepstream: A tool for curating internet content

Posted on October 17, 2010 by diannerees


Automated Filtering vs Human-Powered Curation

(blog post)


Real-Time News Curation Series (in Six Parts)

Robin Good with the editorial help of Elia Lombardi

(discusses some more tools that I haven’t looked at yet)

(be sure and see all parts in series – all are in this link)

October 2010


Exploring Curation to Transform the Mundane into the Strategic

By Alex Williams

July 13, 2010 11:36 PM


Defiant Irish tweeters say #imnotleaving

(Storyful Beta Demo)


CuratusKit: Designing a Curatorial Toolkit for News about Disasters

By @sophiabliu


5 opportunities for dynamic curation tools

By Kevin Loker on November 23, 2010 10:41 AM


Project EPIC

Empowering the Public with Information in a Crisis


The New Curators: Weaving Stories from the Social Web

by Josh Stearns


Started an update about search in curated lists/streams/stories, but it’s quickly turning in to a separate post, so I’ll just say that search is an important function that would be very helpful. By search I mean specifically it would be helpful to be able to search all text in everything saved to the stream, and that should include – if possible – any web pages saved to the stream or list. More on this in an upcoming post. -sr

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