Geofeedia: a bird’s-eye view on social media in disasters

One of the most promising uses of social media in disasters is for remote assessments of situations on the ground. “Geofeedia” just made this job easier.

One of the main issues when searching Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Instagram for data/photos/video is that you have to rely on captions and accompanying text.

If someone uploads and photo a writes “Here is a photo of my house after the #earthquake in #Alphaville” it’ll be easy to find, but if someone simply writes “My house – so sad!“ you won’t find it using standard tools. And while you can use services like Hootsuite to show you all tweets in certain area, doing this is quite tricky and too complicated for most users.

What you really want is a map of the region you are interested in, with all social media updates from that area, irrespective of the platform. That is exactly what Geofeedia  (currently in public beta) has to offer.

Search by date, location and social media platform

Enter any location, or draw a circle around an area on a Google Map, and Geofeedia shows you all geolocated updates from Twitter, Flickr, Picasa, Youtube and Instagram from that area. Public Facebook updates are not included yet, but are supposed  to be added in the future.

Geofeedia - map view

Geofeedia shows all social media updates in a defined area. This screenshot shows updates after an earthquake in Northern Italy on 20 May 2012.

You can narrow down your search further by excluding updates prior or after a certain date. To facilitate working within a team, you can also save your search parameters and share them with other team members.

To get a better overview, you can switch from the map view to a grid view that shows you previews of all posts in your selected area.

Geofeedia - grid view

Images uploaded after an earthquake in Northern Italy on 20 May 2012. If you look closely, you can see that many of them have descriptions that would have made it difficult to find them using standard tools.

A question of infrastructure

Obviously, the usefulness of Geofeedia depends entirely on whether you have people in the affected area that can upload geotagged information to social media platforms. In essence, that means smart phones, which of course are too expensive for most people living in the most disaster prone areas, and wireless internet access.

However, if you have a disaster in mid-income country like Brazil, or in a developing country where you already have a lot of foreigners with fancy phones, then Geofeedia might be the fastest way for you to get an impression of what is happening on the ground.

As mentioned earlier, Geofeedia is currently in public beta so it might take a while before your account is activated. My recommendation is: check it out!

(h/t Poynter)