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Beyond the Hashtag: How Crowdsourcing Platform Ushahidi Makes Tweets Useful

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By WG on February 3, 2011

As shit hits the fan in Egypt, reports of violence can crowd out actual, constructive political discussion. After all, we can’t really talk about what’s going on if our reporters are captured and beaten. ABC News’ Brian Hartman tweeted that his crew had been carjacked at a checkpoint; important news, no doubt, but does the tweet really help others avoid the same fate? Probably not. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit idly and watch some jerks so much as touch another silver hair on Anderson’s head. There’s got to be a more efficient way to aggregate this kind of stuff, right?

Enter Ushahidi, the website-turned-software platform that coined the phrase “activist mapping” after outbreaks of violence rocked the 2007 Kenyan Presidential Elections. It has since been used to organize humanitarian efforts after the 2010 earthquakes in Haiti, and is now following the action in Egypt HERE.

The original website was used to map incidents of violence and peace efforts throughout the country based on reports submitted via the web and mobile phone. This website had 45,000 users in Kenya, and was the catalyst for us realizing there was a need for a platform based on it, which could be use by others around the world.

We built the Ushahidi platform as a tool to easily crowdsource information using multiple channels, including SMS, email, Twitter and the web.

One of the most powerful ways to visualize information is to display it on a map. The Ushahidi platform give you rich information mapping tools. Track your reports on the map and over time. You can filter your data by time and then see when things happened and where, as it’s also tied to the map.


Well I’ll be damned, smart people are making a convincing argument for the usefulness of the Web. And on a day that free porn gets upheld in court, praise jebus, how far we’ve come!

Spreading information efficiently (read: visually) makes the rest of us smarter and safer. So let me just check out Ushahidi’s Egypt site real quick and see what it’s telling me right now…it basically says avoid going to the middle east. Hrmph. Plans: canceled. Looks like I’ll just be grabbing some local falafel tonight.

Obviously, by no means can you expect to feel completely safe because there’s no blip on the map where you may be, but like any network based application, it’s infinitely more valuable the more people use it. So I’m here to do my part and spread the word. You keep fighting the good fight, Anderson, and I vow to blog my little fingertips off for the benefit of my 6 loyal followers. You can thank me later.

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