Archive for the ‘ #curation ’ Category

VOST needs and resources: backchannel & public facing resources for #SMEM

VOST needs and resources

VOST needs and resources

I’m one of several VOST members assisting in the development of many new VOST teams this year. As new teams are gear up for wildfire and other possible activations, I thought it would be helpful to discuss the tools and resources that we’ve used from the point of view of the specific needs instead of based on the tool, app or services.

So below is a list of VOST needs, the purpose or reason behind each need, what resources we’ve used previously to meet that need, and what we plan on using soon.

Each VOST team and activation may create new needs and other VOSTs may already be trying out new things; in other words “your mileage may vary”, but hopefully this post and the graphic I built to identify the “backchannel” or non-public resources as opposed to the public-facing resources will be helpful.

Note that some resources are used both for backchannel and for public sharing. Our plans are to build our backchannel resources, then build activation-specific public-facing resources. This is because, as we learned on the Shadow Lake fire activation, we want to make it clear from the start what incident the team is supporting. This can be done by choosing an instance-specific name and using that name for all public-facing tools.

Also note that we are working on developing backup resources for all needs – If you’re building a team, be sure and include backup resources for all needs in your plans and exercises. Sometimes these resources and services go down temporarily, so be ready for that.

And one more note! I reserve the right to update this post as I am sure that my VOSTie friends will remind me that I forgot something : )


Need: Team or individual activation – emergency or urgent communication
Purpose: Alert team as quickly as possible to an activation or possible activation.
SMS group text messages, individual text messages, or twitter DM messages have been used previously to activate the team or ask them to gather for a discussion.

• Individual SMS Text message

• Group Text Message via regular SMS group text or via GroupMe App

• Individual messages via twitter Direct Message (DM)

Need: Regular ongoing backchannel communications:
Purpose: ‘Offline’ discussions needed to set tasks, clarify issues happening in real time on social media platforms, or other things that don’t need to be discussed in public. Many teams have ongoing regular conversations between activations to keep in touch and discuss new resources, tools and developments. This helps to get people comfortable with each other and the tools/services to be used.

Tools currently used: Skype, Yammer

• Tools proposed: Yammer, GooglePlus

• Tools previously used: Skype, GooglePlus, Yammer

NOTE: There are other backchannel comms tools that meet specialty needs, such as voice chat while driving via HeyTell or Zello apps.

Need: Collaborative Documents
Purpose: Team collaboration on documents for organization, ICS forms or workbook spreadsheets, activity logging, etc…

• Tools currently used: GoogleDocs

• Tools proposed:, SkyDrive

• Tools previously used: Googledocs, Piratepad

Need: Filesharing
Purpose: Sharing documents, images and anything that the team may find useful to meet its objectives.

• Tools currently used: Dropbox

• Tools proposed:Dropbox,, Evernote

• Tools previously used: Dropbox, GoogleDocs

Need: Search tools

• Tools currently used: twitter searches, google searches, tweetgrid, monitter, SocialMention, BING social, twitterfall, trendsmap

• Tools proposed: Geosearches, Multiple geosearches in tweetgrid, tweetdeck, hootsuite, twitterfall, etc…

• Tools previously used: Google searches, searches on twitter and facebook tweetgrid, monitter, SocialMention, BING social, twitterfall, trendsmap (some of us set up multiple searches in tweetgrid, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck)

Need: Curation tools
Purpose: Save all useful info such as websites, articles, social media posts, tweets, status updates quickly and easily to one “stream” or place – may be useful to have one for public use and one for private VOST use; public curationsite for providing an ongoing narrative to the event, private curation site to provide context that will help the team keep updated on critical issues.

• Tools currently used: Storify

• Tools proposed: Storify, Pinterest

• Tools previously used: Keepstream (gone), Storify

Need: Image  sharing/storage tools
Purpose: Images help to provide context and tell the visual story of an event. (Images for Shadow Lake Fire VOST instance were very popular and were a large percentage of the blog site visits.)

• Tools currently used: Flickr, dropbox

• Tools proposed: Flickr, (pinterest?) Skitch (for adding text & graphics to a picture)

• Tools previously used: Flickr (fed to WordPress Blog?), Picasa (gone)

Need: Video streaming and sharing tools:
Purpose: Share live stream of meetings, or videos of events.

• Tools currently used: YouTube, Livestream, Ustream, Vimeo

• Tools proposed: Pinterest

• Tools previously used: YouTube, Livestream, Ustream, Vimeo

 Need: Archiving tools (for saving PDFs of website articles, tweets, posts, status updates, etc…)
Purpose: Archiving and for use during activation.

• Tools currently used: GoogleDocs, Rowfeeder, Tweetchat

• Tools proposed: Make PDF then drop via IFTTT to both Evernote & DropBox

• Tools previously used: Rowfeeder, GoogleDocs, TweetChat

Need: Analytics tools
Purpose: To be able to analyze crisidata for future study and improvement.

• Tools currently used:

• Tools proposed: TweetReach, Google Analytics, ?

• Tools previously used: (Needs improvement! We can look at limited WordPress blog analytics from a couple of specific activations, but we haven’t set up analytics tools previously. Hopefully we will get better at this this year, and if you have suggestions for us, we welcome suggestions.)

Need: Automated workflow tools
Purpose: Automate some basic repetitive tasks that can be done automatically – such as when a facebook blog post is made it can be automatically posted as a facebook post and tweeted

• Tools currently used:

• Tools proposed: IFTTT (If This Then That)

• Tools previously used: ( Seems like we had a couple of automated tasks on Shadow Lake instance; will check and report back here.)


Need: Curation tools
Purpose: Save all useful info such as websites, articles, social media posts, tweets, status updates quickly and easily to one “stream” or place – may be useful to have one for public use and one for private VOST use; public curationsite for providing an ongoing narrative to the event, private curation site to provide context that will help the team keep updated on critical issues.

• Tools currently used: Storify

• Tools proposed: Storify, Pinterest

• Tools previously used: Storify, Keepstream (gone)

Need: Image sharing/storage tools:
Purpose: Images help to provide context and tell the visual story of an event. (Images for Shadow Lake Fire VOST instance were very popular and were a large percentage of the blog site visits.)

• Tools currently used: Flickr, dropbox

• Tools proposed: Flickr, (pinterest?) Skitch (for adding text & graphics to a picture)

• Tools previously used: Flickr (fed to WordPress Blog?)

Need: Video streaming and sharing tools
Purpose: Share live stream of meetings, or videos of events.

• Tools currently used: youtube, livestream, ustream

• Tools proposed: vimeo, pinterest

• Tools previously used: youtube, livestream, ustream

Need: blog or website

Purpose: A place at which to post all available resources and tell more of the story than can be told via twitter or facebook

• Tools currently used: WordPress

• Tools proposed:

• Tools previously used: WordPress

Need: Mapping

Purpose: Visual representation of instance, resources, closures, shelters, etc…

• Tools currently used: NIMO maps (NIMO-specific)

• Tools proposed: Ushahidi, googlemaps

• Tools previously used: NIMO maps uploaded to dropbox – placed on Inciweb and instance blog, Google maps

Needs: Platform-Specific Needs (per activation):
Note: Public -facing resources include instance-specific twitter, facebook and other standard social media platforms. Find out what platforms are use most in the area near the disaster and be there.

Instance-specific accounts for:


• Main account: @activationname

• Backup account: @activationname2



Set up instance specific account as needed

note: check with local community near disaster area to see if a collaboration of facebook is possible  – so far we have set up instance-specific sites


surrealism, cognitive dissonance and virtual volunteering for actual disasters

On Tuesday I was practicing digital disaster response, helping reformat and retweet critical flood, mudslide and other info to the “Tweak the Tweet” spreadsheet and map (#TtT) during the #NWrain, #WArain and #WAflood events, or “instances” as Data Informatics expert Kate Starbird (@Kate30_CU) calls them.

There was a lull in activity, and I was not finding a lot of useful info to put on the map. This is not a bad thing, except that I wanted to keep practicing, because who knows when a bigger emergency will happen, right? Well, guess what.

I started seeing reports of a tornado in a place called Aumsville. Turned out to be in Oregon. My state.

There’s a surreal feeling that occurs in these moments of disaster; it can occur not only at the disaster site, but also far away  as you try to fit the square peg of a new reality in to the round hole of what existed only a few minutes ago. I wrote about this a few months ago when I was helping Kate Starbird with the #Boulderfire response, which was my introduction to social media in emergencies.*

She had mentioned a surreal feeling as she worked to set up the response to a real emergency in her own community. I’d seen her first tweet saying that she was coming home from the gym and saw some smoke – within minutes it was obvious that a serious wildfire was underway and she was setting up the tool she had been using to help Haiti for an emergency in her own back yard. I jumped right in to help, and kept thinking about that conversation. After I thought about this for a couple of days, I wrote to her that I had felt the same thing myself during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake in Los Angeles:

“…you mentioned early on in the fire that you had a surreal feeling as you worked setting up the response – this is very interesting to me, and I think that I know what you mean, as I had worked for many years at the J. Paul Getty Museum preparing the art and facility for disaster before the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. (And everything worked! We suffered no losses due to good preparation and training!)
But I remember how strange it felt, having spent years putting these preparations in place – and to see what happened when the earthquake hit and we began to operate as we had trained to. There is a certain cognitive dissonance between the envisioned response and the actual response, since you can never quite imagine exactly how a disaster will play out…”

Now back to the present disaster with flooding and slides instead of wildfires or quakes and now I have to switch to the tornado and here’s this feeling again. I don’t dwell on it, I just change my Tweetgrid searches from “mudslide”, “flood” etc… to “tornado”, “Aumsville” etc… and let the surreal feeling wash over me like Astoria rain, which does not usually fall straight down as much as sideways. I go to work; my searches: Aumsville. Tornado. Shelter. #ORtornado. Volunteer…

I ‘m resisting pressing the “delete” key on this post, as it sounds a little self-absorbed, but these are real thoughts emerging from real emergencies, and the surreal feeling is not just because I’m so far from the actual disaster, since I’ve experienced it from both inside the disaster experience, and now outside – not as a passive gawker, but as an active helper.

This tornado is no less real to me than the ’94 Northridge quake, my apartment shaking me awake at 5am, flashlight already switched on in my living room**, the smell of natural gas and the flash of downed power lines; no less real than the ’07 Oregon coastal gale, trees stacked on houses, the air thick with roof tiles flying like birds and downtown Astoria’s glass carpet of broken shop windows; no less real than the ’08 Nehalem Valley freeze and power outage, delivering supplies with a sled to folks who burned their furniture to stay warm when the firewood was gone.

As a digital volunteer I am not there in person to offer comfort, or help pick up debris, but I do what I can; I start my search of the stream for those key pieces of useful data that could  help someone to find shelter, locate a missing loved one, find assistance for an insurmountable task, or direct concerned well-wishers on the internet to a place where they could donate some dollars or valuable time to aid those who had a tougher day than they did.


* I contacted Kate after seeing her #TtT presentation at the Red Cross Emergency Social Data Summit. I think that like twitter, which is still discovering what it is, TtT will be an incredibly useful and resilient tool in catastrophic response and recovery. What other real-time, crowdsourced map can be populated with data directly from a disaster area using just a regular cell phone sending text messages to twitter? That’s not the only way to use it, but it’s one that seems to me to be full of possibility.

** I had acquired a vintage ’60’s flashlight a month before the quake. It was sitting on the floor in front of a framed photo that was leaning on my stereo. During the shaking, the picture fell forward, clipping the switch on the light, so when I ran to the living room during the shaking, my flashlight was sitting on in the middle of the floor. True story.

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