Thursday, February 24, 2011

Using the same hammer to hit two nails at the same time

In my blog post yesterday I discussed how I felt we were working at two different zoom levels when it came to social media information management. After a good discussion on twitter with @Kim26Stephens and @jgarvin we identified one potential reason why we keep working at these two zoom levels

A point @jgarvin made was that we who have emergency management background are always looking at social media as a way to get citizen generated common operational picture (COP), which explains why we want to see trends at the neighborhood/village level.

At the same time those who come from other backgrounds are looking at social media as a method for citizens to help their neighbors. As such this “911” approach works because if I see a message from my neighbor needing assistance I can reach out to him and help him.

And that is where the question about the hammer comes in. Are we developing tools for common operational pictures or are we developing a citizen driven 911 system? Are we trying to develop tools that allow us to do both things? Does that even work? Do we maybe need different tools to handle and disseminate those two things.

Love to get your feedback…


  1. Gisli, good thinking. A COP is traditionally a tool for people in a structured group to make informed decisions. However, why should it not also help individuals to act independently like a 911 system? Well two reasons why its not that simple. First, the motives of individuals may not be aligned to those who provide the COP (Myanmar, Libya...) second, there is no guarantee that the result of actions taken will be discovered and reflected in the COP - leading to confusion and loss of confidence in the system. So there seem to be two different COPS I guess. One COP to inform decisions using collated, verified information that is compiled and maintained centrally. This 'private' COP provides background, assessment and related information in context using systematic collation, evaluation and interpretation process. It is for registered users who are known and trusted. The 'public' COP only reports information that refers to a location which can be verified and which is non-sensitive and thus very public.

    This leads us back to the need to have the ability to collect information for verification purposes alongside the capability to collate, evaluate, interpret and present that information. We tend to have the latter, when the former is probably as important.

    I am a very long in the tooth ex-military intelligencer and this whole debate is very familiar to my old community. The management of information collection and process quality control is just as important as the more 'sexy' function of analysis and presentation.

    There are some well proven processes and structures which I am sure you are aware of, but sometimes they appear over-complicated and arcane. So long as the output is a simple summary that is accurate, timely and relevant people will trust and use it. Its a tough but rewarding job..

  2. Hi there,

    one of the key essentials is proper communication along the existing channels.

    I am pretty sure that you know REACH112 - a quote from their website:

    "...REACH112 - REsponding to All Citizens needing Help - will implement an accessible alternative to traditional voice telephony that will be suitable for all. While people with disabilities find it hard to communicate with the existing solutions, REACH112 will provide modes of communication so that they will find a way to communicate in each situation, may it be with a live real-time text conversation, with sign language, with lip reading, with voice or with any simultaneous combination of these modes described by the concept of Total Conversation. The service will be of benefit for all..."

    So in case you'd want to harmonize communication concepts, projects like this one would be the one to lobby for - and implement ;-)