SOS In 140 Characters Or Less

In the wake of a natural disaster, it can be hard for relief workers to determine where help is needed most. But Ben Schiller looks at the improvements offered by “micro task” services:

Following last December’s Typhoon Pablo, in the Philippines, [the Digital Humanitarian Network] identified 20,000 relevant tweets, and then called on CrowdFlower to find volunteers to make the first assessment. The groups identified, one, messages with links to photos and video, and, two, messages that referred to damage that could be geo-tagged. From about 100 tweets, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) could then build a map plotting damaged houses and bridges, flooding, and so on.

“The entire project was carried out in less than 20 hours after OCHA’s request. This would not have been possible without the use of CrowdFlower as the first major filter of the 20,000-plus tweets,” says [DHN director of social innovation Patrick] Meier, who writes about the response here.