WyDOT GIS/ITS Developer
Advisor: Anthony Robinson, Ph.D.
“Social media may have changed disaster relief forever.” (Slagh, 2010)
Aftermath of Haiti Quake (Reuters, 2010)
Probe the capabilities of two systems
Project Epic’s Tweak the Tweet
Ushahidi Crisis Mapping application
Evaluate the effectiveness
Identify the challenges and successes
Recommend suitable platforms for the rapid and effective
Identify requirements for future platforms that will support
social media communications and mapping
Project Epic began in September 2009 with the goal to
“unite a range of computational techniques with behavioral
knowledge of ‘widescale’ computer-mediate interaction—
information people generate using social media—in
routine and disrupted situations” (Project Epic).
This capstone focuses specifically on Project Epic’s “Tweak
the Tweet” (TtT) project which attempts to direct Twitter
communications using Twitter hashtags in order to
facilitate data extraction during disaster events.
Mapping Tweeting Reports from the Boulder Fire
#fire,flare up,9/9/2010 23:31:33,"near top of long gulch closer to gold hill
rd sw of colorado mt ranch 40.061,-105.41...",NA,NA,NA,40.061,-
105.41,NA,NA,brokerz_gold,"RT @SophiaBLiu - #boulderfire #fire flare
up #loc near top of long gulch closer to gold hill rd sw of colorado mt
Ushahidi is an open source software project originally
developed by volunteers in Kenya to map reports of post-
election violence in 2008 (Meier). The software facilitates
the collections and mapping of reports from social media
platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, as well as SMS
This capstone focuses on the use of the Ushahidi crisis
mapping and volunteer efforts during disaster response.
Ushahidi Haiti Map
Ushahidi Haiti Map
3125,Tents urgently needed - Leogane,2/5/2010 15:09,Leogane,
9295978 Creole: Tanpri f* message la pase pou nou nan L*ogane nou bezwen tant se
vraiment urgent m*si beaucoup.
English: Please spread the word: We need tents in Leogane.It is really urgent.,"2d.
Refuge | Shelter needed, ",18.508261,-72.633362,YES,NO
Ushahidi Haiti Map
1. What kinds of information and what was the source of the data
collected by TtT and Ushahidi efforts during recent events?
2. What evidence exists to show information collected and mapped
from these systems has been used in the different phases of a
disaster, specifically response and recovery?
3. Using examples from the recent events are there differences in
capability and utility that can be characterized between these two
systems, or are they performing similar functions?
4. What are the key design considerations for the future development
of these projects and similar applications using social media in
Identify events to be analyzed from TtT and Ushahidi
Project Epic TtT
Boulder Four mile Canyon Fire
Gulf Oil Spill
Shared Resources (Ushahidi used Project Epic’s TtT data)
What kinds of information did the Ushahidi and TtT efforts collect during recent events?
Analyze social media traffic and create a matrix of the types
of information collected
Download available data from projects from the date of the disaster to 3 to
6 months after the disaster
Determine the matrix categories
location information from LBS / determined by volunteers from message content
Twitter Tags/Category of need
Source (Author or Organization)
Social Media Source (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr)
What evidence exists to show information collected and mapped from these systems has been
used in the different phases of a disaster, specifically response and recovery?
Research media, academic papers, and after action reports
for examples of actionable items and organizational use
Find specific examples of use by first responders
Find specific examples of use by NGOs, Military and Governments
for response efforts
If possible, identify use in situational awareness and/or other
Literature Review Examples
Using examples from the recent events are there differences in capability and utility that can be
characterized between these two systems, or are they performing similar functions?
• Use maps to characterize effectiveness.
Map the geographic extent of each selected disaster
Map social/economic information for each extent (focus on population,
income, cellular telephone use, internet use)
Map the extent of the damage for each disaster (focus on communication
infrastructure - key to use of social media)
Attempt to map information that was verifiable or not verifiable (based on
each organizations own characterizations of verified information)
Attempt to map information that was actionable
Compare and contrast the presentation of the data by the organizations
What are the key design considerations for the future development of these projects and similar
applications using social media in disaster response?
Identify challenges, successes, and failures and recommend
requirements for improving these and future applications
Volunteer realm vs. use by government organizations
Automatic processing of information vs. volunteer processing
Handling the large volumes of information
Verification of information
Applications that go beyond crowdsourcing to coordinated response
and situational awareness
Using Google Sites Project Tracking Template
Project Home Page
Ushahidi likely to be suited for large scale disasters with
Project Epic TtT likely to be suited for smaller scale, localized
What is missing?
Automated location determination
Automated or streamlined verification
First Responder input or control
Situational Awareness overview
Haiti Aid Map. Interaction a United Voice for Global Change (2010). Web. 05 May 2011.
Meier, Patrick and Nesbit, Josh . “The Haiti 4636 Story”. 18 March 2008. Web YouTube. 11
January 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8ifAnk8d0Y&feature=related>.
No Title. Reuters. Web Image. 30 Nov. 2010.
Project EPIC. Web. 05 May 2011. <http://epic.cs.colorado.edu/>.
Mapping Tweeting Reports from the Boulder Fire. Web. 05 May 2011.
Social Media and Disaster Communications. Proc. of Senate Committee Homeland
Security & Governmental Affairs | Disaster Recovery, Washington, DC. CSPAN, 05 May
2011. Web. 10 May 2011. <http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/DisasterC>.
Slagh, Chris. "How the Rise of Social Media Transformed Disaster Response in Haiti."
Secure Nation. Conversations about National Security and Defense. Web. 30 June 2011.