Monday, May 17, 2010


How Foursquare was used to notify nearby users of the Times Square bombing

by Larry Geller

Why can’t we adapt this somehow to tsunami warnings?

I wrote yesterday how Twitter was being used to instantly document the battle over protests in Bangkok. Anyone could tune in from anywhere in the world and learn what the journalist who was being shot at experienced from his own report.

Here’s how the Wall Street Journal used Foursquare to let people in the Times Square vicinity know to choose a different way home just then:


Users of Foursquare like to “check in” to places. It’s all about location. In fact, the person who checks into a place the most becomes the “mayor” of that place. But anyway…

It was estimated that only 2,600 people got the WSJ’s warning via Foursquare. Still, that’s a beginning, and demonstrates that these new social media apps can have value in an emergency.

Now, one can follow tsunami warnings and watches from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center by following @tsunamiwatch, but there’s too much crap in it. What I want is a tweet when I need to get ready to run. @Tsunami_Alarm (out of Germany!) is quite a bit better, but still, I want tweets specific to where I live, skip the warnings for Papua New Guinea.

Maybe we’ll get there one day soon. The technology is in place, all we need is the will somewhere to make use of it.


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