Sunday, September 13, 2015

How #valleyfire shows us that Twitter needs semantics and tweet expiration

There is a recurring problem with Twitter as an information source in disasters, in that, even when you are using the "live" feed of tweets (i.e. reverse chronological order) versus the "prioritized" tweets, you get old information keep popping up in the feed as people discover older tweets and retweet them

This is really obvious in the current Valley Fire in California. As of the time this post is being written, the current data shows 40,000 acres burned. But we keep seeing retweets of information from last night about it hitting 10,000 or 25,000 acres. At best, you see recent and old information juxtaposed, as in (62.5 square miles = 40,000 acres):

At worst, you just see the old information keep being retweeted.

I think the solution is for tweets to in general have more semantic metadata attached, but specifically for it to be possible for time-critical tweets to be issued with an expiration date and time at which point the information is considered stale. More advanced would be a "this tweet supercedes this previous tweet" relationship. This metadata would filter through retweets, etc.

Not sure if Twitter will do this though. Perhaps there is room more simply for automated filtering of old information in Twitter clients. Another simple fix would be to be able to have a reverse-chronological listing by time of original tweet, not retweet.

California Valley Fire goes to 40,000 acres in hours (#valleyfire)

Possibly one of the fastest growing wildfires ever, the Valley Fire in California started early yesterday afternoon as a small plume of smoke in the forests of Lake County. Within a few hours, the rapidly growing fire was being watched by residents of nearby Middletown and Hidden Valley Lake. By early evening evacuation orders were in place for these two communities, and the fire had grown to 10,000 acres. By this morning, it seems that the fire has grown to 40,000 acres and these two communities have been completely consumed by fire.

All of this highlights the importance of being ready to evacuate your home in minutes; of planning out multiple evacuation routes; and in thinking ahead in a chaotic situation.

You can find out more on the fire at:

Twitter: #valleyfire
California CALFIRE
Valley Fire Numbers and Info on Dropbox
Google Map of all California Wildfires

News outlets: ABC7, SFGate, Fox40