Social Networking through Disaster – Exercise24

On September 28, 2010, in Internet and Telecom, by Administrator

A massive earthquake hits the California coast near Huntington Beach between San Diego  and the Baja Peninsula. Of course it was not real, it was an exercise managed by San Diego State University’s VisCenter and InRelief.Org called Exercise24. Exercise24  was planned as “an open, ‘no fault’ environment for nations, organizations and the global community to explore collaborative technologies and develop solutions to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief challenges,” wrote George Bressler, SDSU adjunct faculty member and lead coordinator of X24.

The Role of Social Media in Disasters

TweetingWe’ve looked at the use of Twitter and other social media tools in previous articles on fires in Santa Barbara, Haiti, Chile, and preparing for the non-event tsunami in Hawaii.  As a tool, instant one-to-many and many-to-many real-time interactive messaging  has tremendous value.  Where broadcast media and law enforcement have shortfalls in the lag time between and event and notifications, instant messaging can give real-time, “as it is occurring” updates to a wide audience.

Exercise 24 (X24) was an attempt at gaining a greater understanding of how to more effectively use tools such as Twitter and Facebook during emergencies.  Objectives included:

Objective One

Utilize the computing cloud to rapidly converge geographically dispersed global experts at the onset of a simulated international incident, deploy a foundation of guidance in concert with community leaders in a manner that empowers community members through education and smart technologies to support mitigation, response, recovery, and a resumption of societal normalcy at a level of functioning an order of magnitude higher than existed before.

Objective Two

Leverage smart phones, ultra-lights (United States), and unmanned air systems (Mexico) for rapid threat/damage assessment of a simulated seismic event that generates a significant oil spill off the coast of Southern California and Northern Baja California, as well as damage to critical infrastructure inland that necessitates mass sheltering of displaced community members.

Objective Three

Leverage the power of NGOs, faith-based groups, rapidly responding government and corporate groups, international groups, social networking communities as occurred in Haiti, and other resilient networks to locate and notionally send aid to Southern California and Baja California

Additional objectives included stressing connections and capacity of social networking sites and Twitter to determine network and capacity load limitations, as well as the ability to filter “noise” from valuable information if needed to ensure the delivery of information and requests for help could be both understood and managed.

Do you remember CNN and the other major news outlets carrying real-time interviews with citizen journalists via Skype immediately after the Chilean Earthquakes?  A laptop computer with a camera and audio kit, and the world was getting on-the-scene reports from Conception as events unfolded – hours and days before news crews could get on the scene.

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR:  “Indeed, we will have more breaking news coverage of this Chile earthquake, as you would expect. We are going to check on next what’s happening on the Internet. We have social network sites busy talking about the disaster. We’re going to of course bring you what they’re saying.”

We hope to ultimately ‘connect the dots’ for data fusion and pattern recognition in homeland security and homeland defense” said Eric Frost, director of San Diego State’s Immersive Visualization Center (VizLab).

 The Future of Social Networking in Disasters

There are a few obvious problems we need to get through before twitter, or any other instant messaging service such as SMS, eMail, or other means of interactive and non-interactive messaging are completely suited to the task.

Messaging systems require access to network.  Without 3G, LTE/4G, WiFi, or terrestrial Internet access the systems won’t work.

Until every man, woman, child, and automated tripwire has access to a messaging-enabled wireless device, we will still have some shortfalls.

Look how thoughtfully this training simulation has been designed. There are reasons why Californians survive their turbulent environment.” (from Wired Magazine review on X24)

Yes, this is true.  The more prepared we are, the more effectively we can respond, and recovery from disasters.  The more tools available, both intellectual and mechanical, the greater our chances of survival and recovery.

Keep your eyes on organizations such as InRelief.Org, and participate in upcoming disaster response exercises as able.  Maybe trite, but in reality, the life you save might be your own or a loved one.

Fire season is here. Southern California fire departments and forestry services are urging residents to cut back brush on their properties and create “defensible space” Burbank is in a High Risk Period for Wildfirebetween the dry chaparral and their homes. Local news stations have spooled their resources to bring fire-related journalism to the population. And, we have already seen extreme technology such as DC-10s and 747s dumping insane amounts of Foscheck and water to quickly knock down fires which have popped up early in the season.

Southern California has fires, just as Kansas has tornadoes and Florida has hurricanes. Disasters are a natural part of nature and life. How we deal with natural disasters, our ability to survive and overcome challenges, and how we restore our communities defines our society.

Technology tools in place or being developed are having a major impact on our ability to react, respond, and recover from disaster. In the early stages of any disaster, communication is key to both survival and response. As nearly every person in the world is now tethered to a wireless device, the communication part isDefensible space to avoid brush fires becoming much easier, as even the most simple handset will support basic features such as text messaging and voice communications.

Getting the Message Out

Over the past 25 years the world has adopted Internet-enabled communications in a wide variety of formats for everything from email to citizen journalism. It is hard to find an event occurring anyplace in the world that is not recorded by a phone camera, YouTube video, blog, or real time broadcast.

In the 2008 Santa Barbara Tea Fire students from UC Santa Barbara used Twitter to warn fellow students and local residents to get out of the fire’s path as it raced through 2000 acres and more than 210 houses within the city limits. While it is not possible to put a statistic on the value of Twitter on evacuations and emergency notification, interviews following the fire with students revealed many had their initial notification through Twitter lists, and indicated they were able to get out of areas consumed in the fire (while screaming the heads off to others in the neighborhood to get out) before public safety officials were able to respond to the fire.

NOTE: I was driving through Santa Barbara (along the ’101) during the initial phase of the fire, and can personally verify the fire moved really, really fast through the city. It looked like lava streaming out of a volcano, and you could see houses literally exploding as the fire hit them and moved through… I wasted no time myself getting through the city and on the way to LA.

Houses in Burbank's Verdugu MoutnainsThis article will not review all the potential technologies or software becoming available for emergency notifications, however we will look at the basic utility enabling all the great stuff happening to keep our citizens safe. The Internet.

Internet’s Utility is Now Bigger than Individuals and Companies

We all remember the infamous interview with Ed Whitcare, former CEO at AT&T.

Q: How concerned are you about Internet upstarts like Google, MSN, Vonage, and others?

A: How do you think they’re going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain’t going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there’s going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they’re using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?

The Internet can’t be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!

This statement, clearly indicates many in the internet network and service provider business do not yet get the big picture of what this “4th Utility” represents. The internet is not funny cat videos, porn, corporate web sites, or Flickr. Those features and applications exist on the Internet, but they are not the Internet.

Internet, broadband, and applications are a basic right of every person on the planet. The idea that two network administrators might have an argument at a bar, and subsequently consider the possibility of “de-peering” a network based on personalities or manageable financial considerations borders on being as irresponsible as a fire department going on strike during a California wildfire.

From http://www.wired.com/autopia/2009/09/evergreen-supertanker/As a utility, the Internet has value. Just as electricity, water, or roads. The utility must be paid for either before or after use, however the utility cannot be denied to those who need the service. When a city grows, and attracts more traffic, residents, and commerce, the intent is normally not to restrict or control the process, you build better roads, better infrastructure, and the people will eventually pay the price of that growth through taxes and utility bills. The 4th Utility is no different. When it gets oversubscribed, it is the carrier’s responsibility to build better infrastructure.

Disputes between network administrators, CFOs, or colocation landlords should never present a risk that SMS, Twitter, email, or other citizen journalism could be blocked, resulting is potential loss of life, property, and quality of life.

Communicating in the Dangerous Season

Fire season is upon us. As well as riots, traffic congestion, government crackdowns, take downs, and other bad things people need to know so they can react and respond. The Internet delivers CalTrans traffic information to smart phones, SMS, and web browsers to help us avoid gridlock and improve our quality of life. Twitter and YouTube help us understand the realities of a Tehran government crackdown, and Google Maps helps guide us through the maze of city streets while traveling to a new location.

We have definitely gone well past the “gee whiz” phase of the Internet, and must be ready to deal with the future of the Internet as a basic right, a basic utility, and essential component of our lives.

Net neutrality is an important topic – learn more about network neutrality, and weigh in on how you believe this utility should be envisioned.

The news started hitting California early Saturday morning with an SMS alarm on my mobile phone – a major earthquake struck Chile, and there was a potential of tsunami activity in California and Hawaii (as well as the rest of the Pacific). First Citizen Journalism Transforming Mediastop – CNN. The news source was right on the story, with real time information flowing into the newsroom from, not on-scene journalists, but through Twitter and Facebook updates.

Another SMS message hits the phone letting me know there was a Twitter list at #hitsunami, and the discussion would include all the most current news related to tsunami preparations in Hawaii. Also gave a link to a web page that was broadcasting a live feed from KHON in Honolulu until the station integrated their feed on the KHON home page.

Back to CNN, cell phone videos began pouring in from Santiago and Concepcion. CNN began broadcasting directly from Chile – not from a CNN journalist, but from a Chilean citizen streaming video through a Skype connection. KHON also began streaming video and audio from a private citizen through BJPENN.COM in Hilo, as KHON also did not have a real time video feed of their own, or a journalist on site that could provide adequate real time information from the city.

Then, the same stream from BJPENN.COM in Hilo showed up on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC.

Citizen Journalism is here to Stay

News media is changing forever. Citizens now have the technology, and savvy, to provide the world with real time, unedited news feeds 24×7, 365 days a year, and from nearly any single location on the planet. Neither mainstream news media outlets nor governments can fully control the presentation of events occurring around the world. With nearly every mobile phone equipped with a camera or video device, and the ability to send images through both the mobile networks and Internet, reality can once again be reality.

Government actions, law enforcement actions, and individual actions are now more likely to be recorded than not – ensuring that at a raw level, fact will become available to the world without government or media corruption of the source.

While the mainstream news media may still add “expert” commentary and attempt to interpret events, those events can no longer be controlled or hidden from the global community. There are exceptions, such as embedding journalists within military operations. The government will still control what the public views or learns from those journalists, and propaganda will still be part of our lives. Mainstream media will still try to interpret events in a manner supporting their political views (if in doubt, watch the US stations Fox, MSNBC, CNN, and BBC America for a variety of interpretations of a single event).

But that line of deception, or use of propaganda, becomes thinner every day as the diffusion of recording devices and communications continues to become available to nearly every person on the planet.

“We are getting Twitter reports and photos from the Big Island…”

With residents of the Big Island scattered along the shores of Hawaii, and nearly 100% of them with a mobile communications device, people on the island were kept up to date by the second of tsunami activity hitting the island. Emergency services broadcast information upon receipt of updates, and if there was ever a “dry run” for emergency communications, the people of Hawaii showed the world how it should be done.

As Governor Lingle stated in a pre-event news conference (broadcast to KHON studios via Skype), “the eyes of the world are now on Hawaii.” Gov. Lingle, and the people of Hawaii should be proud of the way they set a new standard for integrating citizen journalism, broadcast journalism, and emergency services into a single, integrated community.

CNN, Fox, and MSNBC had one theme in common throughout the rapidly unfolding Chile earthquake events, and preparations for a tsunami event around the Pacific – “send us your images, reports, and video, but do not put yourself in danger.”

Mainstream media gets it. They may not like it much, but they get it. iReports, real-time Skype and Twitter reports, SMS messages, and mobile imaging have given us the potential of having around 4 billion citizen journalists available to produce news content. CNN, Fox, and MSNBC are more than welcome to collate and interpret those events, but now we have a choice of making our own interpretations, listening to the mainstream media’s interpretations, or listening to the government’s interpretation of local or global events.

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CNN has people on the ground in Port Au Prince. They use high performance satellite phones and transmission equipment to bring a Citizen journalists turn to Twitterfew shots from Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta to world viewers. That is what we expect from CNN. Then CNN begins the roll call of tweets from people within Haiti bringing real time news. Continuing with interviews using Skype with video direct from Haiti. And the innovative ideas on how to get the word out continue.

Fox news, MSNBC, all the major US news sources quote the information they are getting from the ground, or show videos received via Twitter and other social media tools. Most of the news we are getting via Twitter and social media is raw, simply passing on a snapshot in time. Then the news casters, with their back office of analysts and experts, are able to translate the news into a consumable item for American and international viewers.

This is citizen journalism at its best, bringing the news of nature’s worst to a global audience. It is important, as it brings the real news, direct to a global audience, without censorship. It tells us, as humanitarians, that our help is once again needed to support our fellow man in a distant land we May not even be able to find on a map. It allows CNN (as my preferred news source – you can pick your own) to give us “vetted” instructions on how to help. It gives you access to real time “tweets” on how to find out the latest news direct from the source (@cnnbrk/Haiti or #haiticnn).

Of course nearly all news networks and sources have a similar listing of sites to learn the best way for you to contribute – just log into the site of your choice. In California you can contact several great sites, including”

It probably makes no difference which site you use, just find a site with a vettesd and legitimate means of getting your donation to Haiti.

Go to your Twitter account and do a search on Haiti and you will find more sources of real-time information.

Tweeting Reality

Our world is changing. Whether it be a mobile phone with video or photo capability, internet-enabled computer, or wireless PDA, the ability for humans to provide real time event information is now at an unprecedented level. Could Twitter Founders Evan Willams and Biz Stone have envisioned their short messaging service, or micro-blog could potentially change global communications in 140 characters or less?

From wildfires in California, to airplanes landing in the Hudson, to the streets of Tehran, and to the horror of Haiti, Twitter is rapidly becoming the citizen journalist’s weapon of choice in delivering status updates on just about everything, with an uncanny ability to focus on real things when necessary.

Let’s get Haiti under our belt, and then start a deep dive into social networking, real-time information transmission and sharing, and find ways we can structure this tremendous resource into a much more easy, and logical process for users of all capabilities and knowledge. This is one of the world’s true disruptive technologies with a potential to change not only real time communications, but also media and journalism as we know it today.

The Station Fire ripped through communities along the northern rim of Los Angeles in August and September, consuming an area more than 160,000 Emergency Notificationacres. Evacuations came with little or no warning, homes and buildings lost, and the entire ordeal put a tremendous strain on utilities and resources. Including water.

When the city of Glendale needed to quickly alert residents to lower their water and power use to enable fire fighters to gain access to critical resources, they turned to a local company, Everbridge, to reach citizens with real-time notifications alerting them to the emergency.

On Thursday night Marc Ladin, VP of Global Marketing at Everbridge, walked CTC members though an introduction to emergency and incident communications management.

The Need for Emergency Management

Communications technology has made incredible leaps in utility, applications, ands capacity over the past few years. We can reach nearly any point or person in the world through telephone, mobile phones, Internet email, Twitter, Blackberry messaging, radio, television – the list is becoming endless.

Regardless of the technologies, natural and man-made disasters and problems remain a part of our lives, and will always be part of our lives. Our businesses, governments, and even survival, depends on how we prepare for disaster, and are able to respond to events that touch our lives. Good events and bad.

Marc Ladin makes a living solving the problem of communicating during emergencies and events. The residents of Glendale, like most communities in the United States, offers residents the option of registering their preferred communications devices with the city.

This gives the city an immediate channel to reach and inform residents in the event of disasters and other incidents of interest or impact to the city and residents.

In the case of the Station Fire, Glendale was able to immediately reach enough residents, and the city was able to lower residential utility draw to the level fire fighters had adequate water resources to protect the community.

The same model applies across the spectrum of emergency notification.

The Enterprise Business Continuity Plan

Nobody wants to think of a disaster that will hurt people, or isolate them from their family or organizations. However, it is also clear that any organization needs to have a business continuity plan in place, and a disaster response plan in place to allow the organization to quickly respond to, and manage, any event that will potentially damage the organization’s ability to function.

Consider this scenario. A large multi-national chemical products company. Highly visible in the world business community, and customers located around the world.

The worst case scenario happens. At the HQ site an explosion occurs in the manufacturing plant, killing several person in senior leadership roles, and requiring a massive response by emergency services and evacuation in the surrounding community.

Who do we need to notify to respond to the emergency, and who needs to know about the problem?

  • First responders – fire fighters, HAZMAT teams, ambulances, local hospitals, police
  • Local Community – residents, media (radio and television)
  • Company leadership – management, public affairs, operations
  • National and global media

How do you get the message – the real message – out to those people?

How do we determine if somebody is trapped in the disaster area, and needs help?

The process is getting easier. Every person, machine, and device connected to the Internet or other global communications service can be part of the event notification process.

Registering Your Communications Device for Notification

A company such as Everbridge offers as utility for managing emergency and event notifications. The utility (Everbridge) operates as a SaaS (Software as a Service) application, physically separated from the users. The SaaS application resides on several geographically diverse data centers, with multiple communication providers providing the conduit for global device notification access.

An organization will compile a table of their users and devices, with an individual having the ability to register all their available communications devices (mobile phones, email, Twitter accounts, etc), including a preference on notification priority (i.e., mobile phone message first, email second, home phone third…).

The organization then has the ability to sort members into different categories of notification. An example of how an organization might be sorted is:

  • C-level management notifications
  • Persons notified during emergencies
  • Geography (everybody in the Long Beach office, everybody in the Atlanta office, everybody in Japan, etc)
  • Function (operations, engineering, marketing and sales)
  • Local area first responders
  • And any other desired sort

Of course a single entry is easily tagged for multiple notification categories.

How to Make a Notification

In a traditional environment company leadership wants to make a notification. They may have their secretary make phone calls, might call an operations center and open a notification checklist, or other time-tested process.

The modern notification system can use a wider variety of methods for generating a notification:

  • A human being opens a web page and types in a notification message for distribution
  • A human being prepares an email or SMS message, and sends it to an address that spawns the desired notification tree
  • A machine experiences a condition that requires a human response
    • Fire alarm
    • Equipment failure
    • Security break-in or event
    • Etc

Once the message is triggered, and the notifications made, then you need to make a decision on whether or not the notified persons need to acknowledge or respond to the notification. Modern systems also manage and automate the acknowledgement process by logging replies to the notification message, allowing the alert initiator to determine if everybody has received the message.

This is important if you are managing a disaster, and need to determine if somebody could potentially be hurt or in danger, or if you need to escalate a decision situation to the next person in a business continuity plan.

With GPS capability, it is now even possible to determine the exact location of a desired device, further helping locate persons in a disaster. Consider a heart patient with an active monitoring device – that device can be registered in a hospital, first-responder, family, and neighbor notification matrix. This will increase the probability that person will survive in the event of health problems.

Other Creative Ways to Use a Notification System

Of course the same system that handles emergencies can also handle positive messages. The marketing group can use the same notification system for press releases, management can deliver positive company results to employees – basically once the person and device/s are registered in a data base, the entry can be used for whatever desired.

Marc Ladin presented a great vision. His company is putting the vision into reality, and has a lot of exciting features available today, and in the mill for tomorrow.

John Savageau, Long Beach

Twitter Shows Its Real Value

On September 27, 2009, in Internet and Telecom, by Administrator

Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt refers to Twitter as a “poor man’s email.” For millions of individuals, small business owners, and even emergency services organizations, Twitter is rapidly becoming an integral part of their business strategies and personal lives.

That fact is not lost on the private equity and investment communities. Twitter confirmed a large investment on Friday, estimated at $100 million dollars, with a posting on their website:

“Yesterday we closed a significant round of funding with a group of investment firms that we’re excited to publicly thank: Insight Venture Partners, T. Rowe Price, Institutional Venture Partners, Spark Capital, Benchmark Capital, and Morgan Stanley”

Social media is touching all of our lives. Even in the early stages of social media development, it is hard to talk with any network or tech-savvy person without having a conversation that is fairly intelligent on the topic. Some think social media communities and applications are a complete waste of time, some are finding creative ways to make tremendous amounts of money, and others are simply indulging in bringing together long lost relations and newly found relations in an instant contact “matrixed” tool.

All About Bits Twitter, mentioned frequently in a media storm following the latest investment round, is thought to have a valuation of around $1 billion.

While it is difficult to place a hard monetary value on social networking, many investors are starting to jump on the social media venture bandwagon. Microsoft invested $240 million in Facebook, Digital Sky (a Russian company) another $200 million, all in a company that has only recently starting showing signs of generating income. Valuations change depending on who you talk with, largely based on their opinion of social networking. However one fact remains, social media sites are starting to attract serious interest and money from the investment community.

Why? Because even though social media sites and technologies are in the early “stone age” of development, we do understand how this method of bringing people, industries, and events together in a tech-driven community that allows instant global notifications of everything ranging from who is feeding their cat to instant emergency notifications of wild fire evacuations in California.

Twitter has “Become a Verb”

In 1999 we worked hard to startup a new data center business and communications operation for Level 3 Communications in London. It was fairly early in the days of SMS, but gateways allowed transmission of email messages into the SMS system, allowing us to send instant notifications from network management and monitoring systems to both email and mobile telephones.

In addition, as part of our business continuity planning, there was a very clear requirement for notifying individuals, including management, of events that may require a response, notification, or could potentially result in public interest in some level of our business.

The Level 3 software developers in London wrote a very clever, sophisticated web-based notification system that allowed us to meet all our notification and event-logging objectives. Basically a one-to-many broadcast network transcending mobile phone networks, email, pagers, and automated or human information sources. The only real limitation was the length of message, which could either be truncated or rejected based on the individual mobile network’s capacity.

Twitter takes that to a whole new level.

Twitter encompasses all the basic “food groups” of human communications. It supports one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many models of communications. Twitter also supports both interactive and non-interactive (or real time) communications. Your “tweets” are transparent to the media used for either sending or receiving communications. A tweet doesn’t care if you are currently preferring a web browser, a mobile phone, or an email account – it will find you wherever you want it.

Twitter is Understood, Sort Of, and Has Our Attention

Let’s face it, aside from the fact Twitter works, and meets technical specifications and promises, possibly the most compelling reason we’ve adopted Twitter is the cost. It is free. I can send a thousand tweets, and the cost to me is the same flat rate – free.

What does it cost me to use Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or MSN Mail? Nothing, it is free. The only cost to me is the amount charged for accessing the Internet or mobile telephone network. How do they make money? Advertising. Same as the soon-to-be-former print media industry, such as newspapers.

Twitter is taking the cost and flexibility to another step. They have published some of their application programming interface (API) details, allowing private or independent application developers to “plug in” to Twitter’s platform.

An important point – Twitter is, at its lowest common denominator, a communications engine. That engine can be expanded on with much more powerful application support, taking advantage of the powerful interactive and non-interactive design.

Can Twitter Make Money?

Twitter, unlike other social media upstarts like LinkedIN and Facebook, has yet to make any money. Investors, no doubt, are also struggling with that question, and will also, no doubt, force the issue. Is it through introduction of premium services licensed via their APIs? Will our 140 character “tweets” now be truncated further to allow introduction of a MiniURL from an advertiser into each tweet?

Biz Stone, Twitter co-founder, told Reuters recently that “Twitter would not take advertising this year.”

Maybe Twitter is a special case, and will get a free pass on the need for revenue and avenue to “exit” for investors. Not likely. More likely, the development of “plug in” applications that will not corrupt the basic communications engine, such as the addition of geolocation features for both business and emergency services hold a key.

Licensing the communications engine to those who will “plug in” to the platform could be the higher value we are looking for in Twitter. Much like the basic infrastructure of fiber optics, wireless, utilities, and our freeway system, Twitter’s value could be in licensing fees for the additional value layered on top of the basic engine.

Or, other smart people may have already found an answer. Such as those willing to add another $100 million into the investment pouch.

Our User Role

As users we will eventually tire of sending meaningless, worthless noise tweets. The more users become aware of Twitter’s powerful communications engine, even higher value applications will emerge, taking advantage of Twitter’s communications innovation.

Whether it is ultimately Twitter, or some next-generation of Twitter, the concept is valid, and will become a part of the “matrixed” future. This is a good time to take Twitter out for a test drive, gain some tacit knowledge and experience in both social networking and Twitter’s communication engine, and plan for what role this will play in your personal and professional future.

John Savageau, Long Beach

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On 21 July 2009 The Orange County Access Executive Network (AccessEN) sponsored a program entitled “A Panel on Building and Expanding Business with Social Media.”

Many of us old folks have looked at Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIN as interesting, but not essential components of a modern business plan. The panel,

  • Rebekah King, Chief Media Maven, Rebiz Works
  • Gabrielle Pascoe, Director of New Media, Dr. Phil & The Doctors
  • Vicki Tortorelli, Co-founder, System Solutions Inc. 

Had very detailed discussions on how their businesses provide consulting to many different companies on how to best use all three of the above sites for promoting their business, as well as providing various levels of customer support and customer service.

In Rebekah’s presentation she included a very nice chart showing the demographics of different social media sites, with Twitter being the closest to younger users, Facebook with a middle category of users representing up to a university degree, and falling into a 20s ~ 40s age group. LinkedIN sits on top with a 40s + age group, and a generally professional skill and job level.

It took me a good week to understand how those intelligent ladies could possibly make a living out of providing marketing and PR support for companies wishing to adopt social networking media in their businesses. Here I am, a 30 veteran of the Internet campaigns, and these people were going to open my eyes on social networking?

OK, so maybe they did. Just a little, but my eyes cracked open just wide enough to do some more thought development and homework on the subject.

How Can Business Possibly “Tweet” Professionally?

Earlier this year we discussed how Twitter was effectively used in the Jesusita fires which hit Santa Barbara in May (2009). Students from UC Santa Barbara “tweeted” each other to give status updates on the fire, and even make recommendations on how to avoid getting caught up in the rapidly advancing flames.

This is an example of a real-time rapid notification system, which does not exist within a standard text, email, or web solution.

The same rapid notification system can easily be modified to meet the needs of a customer service or operations organization. For example, in my own industry of telecommunications, we occasionally have events from many different sources that come together in our facility, ranging from natural disasters in the Pacific (cutting submarine fiber optic telecom cables), to wild fires disrupting high voltage electrical systems running up and down the state of California, to virus and spam attacks within the Internet.

If our network operations center has simple, fast, 140 character access to potentially thousands of people, then the immediate notification there may be disruption or problems, as well as recovery status messages becomes very easy.

The trick is to get information into the hands of people who need it, without the overhead of generating a lot of “tweeting noise.”

The Marketing Tweet

Marketing people are finding Twitter a great means to get product announcements, promotions, and other events out to a very large number of people and organizations with very little effort.

Personally, I tweet when posting new blogs. It does bring readers to my blogs, and has increased my readership by about 5 times since I started tweeting the articles. Also, with correct use of hash marks (or hash tags) you can narrow down the focus of who reads your tweets, which is particularly useful during disasters or when you want to limit what you read or post to a better focus niche.

Chris Brogan wrote a blog entry entitled “50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business.” There are several great ideas, and I’ll list a couple here:

  • Have two Twitter accounts. One for your personal use, and one for your professional use. Try not to mix messages between the accounts.
  • Be care when promoting your own material – you could fall into the noise category
  • If you are promoting your own stuff (or product), make sure the message is useful to the reader. Give them something to bite on.
  • Use Twitter to create a “Back Channel” for use during events. This will help you keep locals and distant contacts informed of events at a conference or meeting as they occur. God bless real time information in a meeting!

Future Tweets

Any new technology or major shift in technology takes time. Skeptics at the turn of the century thought automobiles were an annoyance, and interfered with the business accomplished with horses and carts.

In the mid-1980s my colleagues, even in the US Air Force, thought Email was stupid, would never take off, and was a waste of time.

In the early 1990s most people thought the web was a toy, and would add very little value to anybody’s life or business.

Things do change. Today Twitter is just emerging as a technology to combine blogging (micro-blogging), email, SMS/text messaging, and phone calls into a single platform. It is new, but people are starting to learn more about the concept and vision behind Twitter every day. Like it or not, Twitter, or a system that is born of Twitter, will drive much of instant communications in the future.

So the call to action is, simply, open a free Twitter account and gain a bit of tacit knowledge and refine a few skills. It costs you no more than a bit of time, and will give you knowledge that will no doubt be part of our futures. Or in short, play now, or pay later.

 How do you use Twitter?  Good for business?  Noise for business?  Please feel free to comment with your thoughts.

John Savageau, Long Beach

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Citizen journalism (also known as “public”, “participatory”, “democratic” or “street journalism”) is the concept of members of the public “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information.” Wikipedia

On Wednesday, CNN frequently showed amateur videos, with a graphic that labeled them “unverified material.” It showed a YouTube video of the aftermath of an apparent raid at Tehran University. The video showed rooms that appeared to have been burned extensively.  New York Times

Citizen Journalism took on a very clear role this week as the Iranian government continued to deport journalists admitted with temporary visas (to cover the Iranian elections).  As western journalists were told reporting on the demonstrations and protests against perceived election fraud was illegal (“We warn those who propagate riots and spread rumors that our legal action against them will cost them dearly,” a statement from the military force said), the burden of reporting fell on the shoulders of Iranian citizens participating in the demonstrations.

Most of the reporting comes in the form of videos uploaded to YouTube, email, and updates to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  The reporting is generally a recording of events, which is then commented upon by western news media.

During the 1993 Russian Constitutional Crisis citizen journalists used email and Usenet newsgroups to transmit near real-time updates on activities as the Army moved to occupy the White House, and many Russian citizens were killed or injured.  This supplemented the very limited news media, which was not officially allowed near the events.  Perhaps one of the first examples of the “Internet Age of Journalism.”

Even in the United States, visual accounts of events involving police brutality become instantly available to the rest of the world.  This was clearly demonstrated when Oscar Grant was shot on a Bay Area Rapid Transit train platform News Years night.  Dozens of citizens recorded the incident on their mobile phones, uploading the images to YouTube and social networking sites directly from the platform within seconds of the event.

Now as mobile phone and computerized video files continue to flow from Iran to the rest of the world, keeping people up to date with events in Iran, we can reflect on changes taking place in the Internet age of information.  CNN reporters, who have been with us providing news since the 1980s, are now barred from providing real time views of Tehran.  They are taking “iReports” provided by Iranian citizens, and providing commentary on videos that cannot be independently verified.  We need to assume that video being used is an accurate record of events – perhaps a big assumption in a world also well known for use of media deception and propaganda.

However one message is very clear.  Regardless of the validity of visual and citizen provided accounts of events, it will be very difficult for governments to contain or suppress news in the future. The Internet has provided a means to instantly globalize information and news.  Governments will forever be held accountable for their actions in the court of world opinion.

 

John Savageau, Long Beach

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SocalTech.Com reported on Friday (22 May) that Bill Snitzer has created a new Twitter robot pushing real-time earthquake information to subscribers. @earthquakesLA is a good utility, providing both text and graphic information using data supplied by the US Geological Survey (USGS), including expanded location information.

Twitter is rapidly gaining interest as not only a social networking tool, but also a utility used for emergency notifications. Recent fires in the Santa Barbara area (Jesusita fires, May 2009) moved so quickly that normal city emergency notifications could not meet the needs of residents and students in the affected areas. Students took the lead in quickly establishing a notification system through Twitter, giving Twitter users the information they needed to both evacuate and avoid getting caught in the path of a killer wildfire. While it is hard to quantify actual results of “TwitterNet” on personal safety in the Jesusito fires, it is safe to assume immediate information at a minimum served the purpose of alerting many people they were in harm’s way, and to get to a safe location or rallying point.

There are other notification systems available. The USGS has a direct SMS system alerting subscribers of earthquake information (https://sslearthquake.usgs.gov/ens/). You can subscribe, and even set additional parameters such as specific geographic locations and magnitude thresholds. If you have a PDA phone or handset which handles web pages, the USGS SMS notification will also link you to a very detailed chart showing all known automated and reviewed data related to a quake.

The US National Weather Service weather warnings and alerts are also available via Twitter (@laxweather for Los Angeles) and SMS. This is a very good thing to have if you are planning to drive through the Grapevine or Cajon Pass while leaving the Los Angeles area, and need to know if you are going to get stuck, require chains, or find an alternate route on your way to Las Vegas or Northern California.

Reverse 911 calling is available in San Diego and Santa Barbara, allowing emergency services to make immediate notifications to all “land lines” and registered cell/VoIP phones when an evacuation or other disaster presents an imminent danger. As many are now shunning land lines in favor of wireless or mobile phones, it is important for us to ensure we are registered in locations we live or spend a considerable amount of time. You can register your phone by logging on to your local emergency services website, such as Ready San Diego (http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/oes/ready/signup.html ). Ready San Diego is also Twitter-ready.

Social networking and telecom utilities are entering their next phase of development. No longer the realm of students and the Millenials, social networks such as LinkedIN, Facebook, and Twitter are maturing into very useful utilities. A further indication Internet-enabled applications are here to stay. The challenge for us baby boomers and Gen X-ers is to better understand new social networking utilities, accept the change technology and social networks bring in a global society, and make them work for us.

 

John Savageau, Long Beach, California

www.linkedin.com/in/johnsavageau

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