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.


  1. A: got into a really irritating argument with someone who insisted that they needed to see my sources when i told them about the more current info... even though they were making an evacuation notice on google drive.

    B: my main problem for a while was the flood of people who just add any # thats trending to their stupid youtube video, or ad, or whatever to generate views. It made it really difficult to actually sift through the info during a critical period in the fire.

  2. forgot to mention for A that i gave them my sources and then they refused to read them.

  3. Just add "-RT" to your search string.