Yesterday Patrick Meier posted a great article about the use of social media (SM) “Big Data” in disaster response. Specifically, he challenges growing assumptions and presumptions that SM big data analysis improves decision making during a disaster. He discounts the notion that scientific algorithms and sampling tools should be relied upon soley in monitoring, and validating information from SM channels in disaster situations. I couldn’t agree more.
I’m working with Gerald Baron and Patrice Coultier on a SM monitoring project for a city on the east coast. The scope of work includes identifying roles, responsibilities and desired qualities of folks assigned to monitor social media channels during disasters. It’s easy to focus on skills and abilities related to the technical aspects of using the mind numbing number of SM tools. But, I argue there is an equally important factor-personal experience-that must be included if SM monitoring is going to support a nimble and effective command presence and response. We need folks who have a full slide tray of experiences in their heads, which allows for Recognition-Prime Decision making.
I’ve blogged about this before, but it is time to say it again; There is no substitute for having “been there, done that. Got the tee shirt”. Effective SM monitoring teams should include folks with a strong practical background in using monitoring tools AND emergency/disaster response. Early monitoring is also important if you stand any chance of catching up and making a difference down the line. It’s all about quickly identifying context in what is being said and/or shown (Time + Information + Experience = Context).
For example, during the Boston Marathon bomber manhunt people listened to live tactical police radio frequencies via Broadcastify, and to the consternation of the FBI and Boston Police, began sharing the ongoing tactics and locations of SWAT teams via Twitter. The people posting and RT’ing this information may have had social media experience but likely had little to no law enforcement experience that may have made them pause.
Right now, finding the right people with full slide trays and savvy social media skills may be difficult. This will change as old farts like me continue to retire, allowing the Information Revolution to gain even more speed and momentum.