Strata Gems: Usahidi enables crowdsourced journalism and intelligence

Built for emergencies, now available as open source and as a web service

We’re publishing a new Strata Gem each day all the way through to December 24. Yesterday’s Gem: Make beautiful graphs of your Twitter network.

Strata 2011 Usahidi is a software platform built to crowdsource information over multiple channels such as text messages, email and Twitter. Originally built in 2008 to map reports of post-election violence in Kenya, Usahidi has evolved into a non-profit company with a suite of tools that enables crowdsourced information aggregation, with applications ranging from citizen journalism and crisis management to the more commercial side of brand monitoring.

You can use the Usahidi tools in two ways: by downloading the source code and running it yourself, or by taking advantage of their hosted platforms SwiftRiver and Crowdmap.

CrowdMap is a minimum-fuss way to use the Usahidi tools to collect and visualize geographical data. Though built for emergency use, it has many applications for representation of local knowledge.

A free-to-use web hosted service, CrowdMap has been used to help with reporting floods in Pakistan, and to aggregate reports from citizen journalists about the Pope’s visit to the UK.

UK Tube Strike Map
Crowdmap of the UK Tube strikes, created by the BBC

SwiftRiver is a media aggregation and filtering tool. It aggregates sources such as Twitter, blog, email and SMS, and provides features that help identify relationships and trends in the incoming data sets. Through semantic analysis, incoming content can be automatically categorized for review.

As well as data stream management and curation, SwiftRiver places an emphasis on adding context and history to online research, enabling the location and reputation of data sources to be taken into account.

You can use SwiftRiver as a hosted service, including a free individual plan, or download and run it yourself.

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