Using Web 2.0 tools for instant information: Murderers, earthquakes, and snow — oh, my!

An article on Mashable notes four innovative uses for Google Wave. One such interesting use was a manhunt for a Washington state man who was suspected of shooting four police officers. When The Seattle Times opened up a public wave to exchange information about the state-wide search:

“The Wave received photos of the suspect, sightings, a description of what was believed to be his vehicle, evidence, and updates from the police radio. The Times also set up a Google Map with place markers for important events and locations in the manhunt.”

Now that’s a pretty cool way of using these new Interwebby tools for the greater good, eh? One wave participant, Brianwpost, commented that the instant exchange of information “makes Twitter look slow.”

While I’m not sure I’d agree that Google Wave should overtake Twitter, as they both have their well-intended uses, I do think it was a creative way to use Wave in a beneficial new way…Talk about collaboration.

Twitter has also been used for such instant information exchange, as we’ve already seen countless times. Take this morning, for example, when I looked out my window and saw my first London snow. I, of course, tweeted it out and then searched for other mentions of my post code, whereby I then saw that the #uksnow hashtag was in use — apparently resurrected from last year. Within moments, there was a flurry (pun intended) of snow notes coming in from across the country. One tweeter, Chris_Titley, observed, “Iwent to the toilet and came back to 1547 tweets on #uksnow .. I wonder if it is snowing,” as the hashtag instantly zoomed up to the top of the trending topic list.

The immediacy of sharing is the coolest part of these new tools, in my opinion, and can be used not only in manhunts or in weather reports, but in the event of disasters such as earthquakes. According to a BBC article this morning, the US Geological Society (USGS) is searching and filtering tweets “to get instant public reaction to earthquakes.” Using tweets of those in a particular region (as such tweets spike following a quake), they are able to quickly gauge the severity of the event.

Dig this:

“It is a speed versus accuracy issue,” explained Dr Paul Earle. “Twitter messages start coming out in the seconds after an earthquake whereas, depending of the region, scientifically derived information can take 2-20 minutes,” he told BBC News.

Seriously cool. I’ve seen this in action myself. Last May, my boss’s daughter was on a volunteer trip to Costa Rica when an earthquake hit the very area in which she was situated. By culling Twitter tweets and using sites like CNN’s iReport (and using my Spanish language skills to translate the “terremoto” tweets), we were able to not only get a handle on the severity of the quake, but to also obtain emergency phone numbers long before they were published on traditional Web sites. (As a p.s. to the story, I’m pleased to report that the daughter was fine and had been outside of the badly-hit village.)

Folks always note how much information is constantly and continuously being pushed at us in this new age. That may be true, but we have the ability to sift and filter and even tune off, should we wish. However, we can rest assured that when we need the information instantly, there are sure to be tweets and waves out there to satiate our instant information appetites.

…and heck…Just imagine if London could have created a public wave during the time of Jack the Ripper, eh?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s