Facebook and Disasters

Posted by – October 22, 2014

Facebook's Safety Check
In a Oct 15 blog posting, Facebook introduced a new Safety Check feature that asks Facebook users within the vicinity of a disaster if they’re safe. Users that answer “I’m Safe” will have an automatically generated News Feed story posted to their Wall for their friends to see. This is one more way – in addition to the American Red Cross’ “Safe and Well” site – to let friends and family know you’re OK in the event of a disaster. (Via Emergency Management)


Data the Best Preparation for Disasters?

Posted by – October 14, 2014

At a recent GovTech forum in Los Angeles, experts from the USGS, academia, and industry assessed that open data and analytics have become fundamental tools in disaster preparedness – but public officials aren’t using them enough. Citing examples of seismological data, post-Katrina New Orleans, and FEMA’s Disaster Assessment and Assistance Dashboard, the experts illustrated the value of data and analytics to protecting lives and property. They offered that the primary reasons to defer investment in emergency management tools and infrastructure stems from the mistaken beliefs that such expenditures are unjustifiable because they don’t serve immediate needs and large emergencies are infrequent.



Posted by – June 17, 2014

One website I visit repeatedly is the New York Times’ Upshot blog, edited by David Leonhardt, because I find its graphical analysis of politics and economics help me think and understand. For example, they take a look at the monthly employment statistics that are often cited as economic indicators, and show that the typical level of randomness in monthly jobs numbers masks the underlying trend. They illustrate this using an animated simulation of random errors added to an average or a trend – i.e., a Monte Carlo simulation of jobs numbers – showing how easy it is to be fooled by randomness. The Upshot’s interactive forecasting model of the upcoming Senatorial elections, created by Amanda Cox and Josh Katz, is also worth a look.

Monte Carlo Simulation of Jobs data

First Responder Mobility

Posted by – May 17, 2014

Recent research by the Center for Digital Government shows that slightly under half of surveyed emergency respondents said they lack access to smartphones and tablets that could provide up-to-the-minute communications and data vital to emergency response. The report, sponsored by VMWare, assesses law enforcement and first responders’ adoption of mobile technologies, their mobility challenges and what they hope to gain from current and future devices. The research suggests that, although the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 created FirstNet, an authority tasked with designing and building a national broadband network dedicated to emergency response, at this point, almost half of first responders would have to bring their own devices to access that network.

Note: On May 21, Emergency Management will host a free webinar discussing this research with its author, Joe Morris.


Maslow 2.0

Posted by – April 18, 2014

An Internet-era update to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:
With thanks to Björn for the tip!


My Network, Visualized

Posted by – March 31, 2014

The experts say effective networking begins with examining your existing network, so I thought I would see what InMaps, LinkedIn’s visualization tool, could reveal about my professional network. As you can see below, InMaps shows each of my connections as dots with lines showing how they are connected, colors denoting groups, and the dot’s size increasing with the number of cross-links within my network.
My LinkedIn Network

I was struck by how many of my connections are from my AAAS Fellowship in 2010 (blue); while these are valued contacts, it does prompt me to network outside of that group to expand my reach. You might note that my network is relatively small, (< 200 contacts), and that is because I find that can't keep up with a set much larger than this (probably related to Dunbar’s number, somehow).

LinkedIn has also developed Swarm, an animated word-cloud visualization of the most actively searched job titles and company names.


P.S. Thanks to Alex for the tip!


Posted by – March 9, 2014

Forest fires of great intensity, size, and consequence – megafires — are becoming the new normal, according to a paper in the journal of the Ecological Society of America by Stephens et al. The article, flagged by the Washington Post yesterday, attributes the increasing frequency of megafires to climate-change induced drought; housing developments encroaching on forests; and the U.S. policy to suppress fires rather than letting them burn naturally, reducing the brush that fuels future fires. An NPR series from 2012 provides more detail.

The above map, from the U.S. Forest Service’s excellent Wildland Fire Assessment System, shows the current Fire Danger Rating based on current and antecedent weather, fuel types, and both live and dead fuel moisture (the classes are explained here).


Adams’ Resolutions

Posted by – January 7, 2014

While sorting my priorities for the New Year, I’ve browsed the InterWebs for ideas and found lists of resolutions – some that are profound and others that are less so. To me, the greatest list of resolutions of all time remains John Adams’ from February of 1776 written as he travelled to the Continental Congress, listing the tasks for establishing a new nation as casually as I would list “Lose ten pounds”. Coincidentally, Scott Adams, the creator of the cartoon Dilbert, provides what I found to be a useful perspective New Year’s Resolutions, arguing that one should use knowledge rather than willpower to achieve your annual goals and get some happiness.

Happy New Year, and the best of luck with your list for 2014!


Best Use of a Drone

Posted by – December 28, 2013

In addition to their use by the military and potentially in emergency response, George Zisiadis and Mustafa Khan bring us the Mistletoe Drone, just in time for your New Year’s Eve party:

If you have $300 or so you can make your own romance drone, complete with video streaming (mistletoe is extra). But keep in mind that privately-operated drones are quasi-legal for the present, since the FAA is not expected to issue licenses for private drone operation until 2015.


This Christmas, Say It With Minerals

Posted by – December 19, 2013

In the spirit of the season, I reblog the Merry Christmas interactive infographic from the National Mining Association:
Minerals for Christmas
Previous year’s holiday edition posts included A Graphical Analysis of Christmas (2011) and The Economist’s Advent Calendar (2012).

(Happy Holidays)