University of Colorado at Boulder     CU: Home  
Inside CU    Also inside this issue: (navigation) In the Spotlight
 Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter

IN THE SPOTLIGHT


'Tweet' approach streamlines online communications during Haiti disaster
by Elizabeth Lock, University Communications

A new approach to social media called "Tweak the Tweet," conceived of by CU-Boulder graduate student Kate Starbird and being deployed by members of CU's Project EPIC research group and colleagues around the nation, is helping Haiti relief efforts by providing standardized syntax for Twitter communications.

Through consistent use of specially placed keywords, or "hashtags," in Twitter posts to communicate critical information such as location, status and road conditions, the "Tweak the Tweet" approach makes information computationally easier to extract and collate.

The Sahana Foundation is one organization that is capturing "Tweets" in "Tweak the Tweet" format to populate its Haiti Web portal for relief agencies.

"Project EPIC has done extensive research on the use of Twitter and other social media during disasters," said Starbird, a National Science Foundation graduate fellow who is pursuing her doctorate in technology, media and society in CU's ATLAS program. "A slight change to current Twitter behavior allows the platform to be used as a broad-reaching crisis communication tool for anyone with access."

A group of eight CU-Boulder students and professors worked alongside dozens of colleagues nationwide to develop and diffuse the syntax across the Twitter community immediately following the Haiti earthquake. The group members have tweaked hundreds of help messages on Twitter into the standardized syntax to fuel adoption by others and have built a bilingual instructional website.

Starbird said the project has been a way for computer scientists, who would otherwise feel helpless, to contribute to relief efforts. Similarly, groups across the country formed "crisis camps" the weekend following the Haiti earthquake to brainstorm technological needs.

"We hope this way of ‘tweeting' gets additional traction for the Haiti response and relief activities, which will ensue for some time," said Leysia Palen, assistant professor of computer science and director of the NSF-funded Project EPIC: Empowering the Public with Information in Crisis. "We are appealing to the public for help but we also set our sights on getting the technological and humanitarian communities primed for future disaster events."

Starbird, Palen and their colleagues encourage anyone who is interested to help by spreading the word on the Twitter syntax by "retweeting" a link to the instructional website. Users may also search for regular "Tweets" asking for Haiti-related help and convert the messages into the syntax. Follow the effort on Twitter.

 

 

'Tweet' approach streamlines online communications during Haiti disaster

Professor Adam Bradley helps bring Ralph Ellison’s unfinished second novel to fruition

College of Engineering wins award for innovation in international education

Alumna makes a gift to Classics Department

RE-ACCREDITATION UPDATE

Biographies of Site Team Members

News Center

Howard Dean and Karl Rove to Debate Current Events at CU-Boulder Feb. 15

Four CU-Boulder Professors Win $750,000 Department of Energy Early Career Research Awards

Study Links Springtime Ozone Increases Above Western North America to Emissions From Abroad

More News >>

Newsletter Archives

Awards and Kudos

Did You Know

Photo Gallery

        
    
University of Colorado at Boulder Wordmark


CU Home CU Search CU A to Z CU Map