Twitter highlights USGS use of earthquake tweets

Agency provides first government case study of Twitter aiding agency mission

Twitter has posted a case study of a federal agency using its short messaging service for mission-related work. The U.S. Geological Survey mined tweets to expand its real-time information about recent earthquakes.

"Twitter asks its many users to answer the question 'What's happening?' reads the introduction to the case study. "For millions of people throughout the world who are disrupted by sudden shaking, the answer is clear: 'earthquake!' Earthquakes are unique and sometimes terrifying ordeals.

"They are the ultimate shared experience. They strike without warning and, if large enough, are immediately felt by millions. People like to share their experiences on Twitter after earthquakes, and the USGS is listening."


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USGS is using automation to gather earthquake-related tweets, and then maps and summarizes them to provide a real-time window into the experience. The agency's Twitter-based application provides tweet counts for affected cities and lists the tweets generated immediately after the event, the case study reports.

"Nice to see the robust community of [government] using Twitter (nearly 3,000 strong at GovTwit.com) getting some recognition from Twitter itself," wrote GovTwit blogger Steve Lunceford. Lunceford went on to criticize Twitter for not granting "verified account" status to more government officials, an indication that the person posting has been verified to actually be who he or she claims to be.

In the comment thread to the blog entry, Lunceford qualified his criticism. "While I give Twitter a hard time about not verifying more gov accounts (if I’d have to guess, there are more celeb accounts verified), I wonder how many agencies have submitted a request to have their accounts verified," he wrote.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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