Google Glass & Crisis/Disaster Informatics

Stanford’s Computer Science department posted information about the @projectglass winners, including a detailed list of the 4,238 people, who were invited through Twitter to purchase the $1500 Explorer Edition model of Google Glass. Examining the list, there are librarians, first responders, and crisis/disaster professionals. The following are a list of notables, in terms of crisis/disaster informatics, which include links to their original tweets for soliciting selection:

Some of the tweets include offeringaugmented reality information to disaster responders worldwide,” documenting crisis, using the translation feature for working with patients, and sharing or leveraging Glass with patrons.

The Explorer Edition models allows its wearers to take pictures and video with its 5 mega-pixel camera and post the footage on GooglePlus, receive and respond to notifications and emails, and “use google stuff”.

However, there are limitations: there is no Terminator-like search feature that provides information about something simply by looking at it, you can’t email photos, the battery life is only 3-5 hours, you can’t wear them over regular glasses, the screen is only available for the right eye (what happens if someone can only see out of his/her left eye?), the ability to connect to wifi is not seamless, nor is it always easy, and they are expensive.

Despite these limitations and the arguments that Glass is too dorky to go mainstream, I can still see the real-world potential in using Glass before, during, and after crises/disasters. In other words, forget the cool-factor and its infancy phase; imagine the possibilities.

For example, one issue with promoting collaboration and communication among agencies could someday overcome the language barrier through translation of recorded (or possibly real-time in the future) conversation. Another possibility could be recording and cataloging how-to videos for crisis/disaster preparedness. Hazmat responders could quickly assess a situation and determine the course of action through photo, video, communication and search features. Individuals attempting to find help during disaster when a landscape is rendered unrecognizable could use Glass to find their way to assistance. Another scenario is that platforms can crop up around this device, such as leveraging photo and GPS information to create more detailed crisis map. Can you think of other possibilities?


Social Media Use During the Wildfire Evacuation at CSU-Channel Islands

This is an image of four CSUCI tweets that include information on campus closure, evacuation procedures, sources for more information, and words of encouragement for the community.

CSUCI provide information on campus closure, evacuation procedures, sources for more information, and words of encouragement for the community.

When wildfires broke out in Southern California at 7 am this morning and spread throughout the afternoon, one of the many forms of disaster response, regarding information dissemination was the use of social media. Southern California University – Channel Islands’ John Spoor Broom Library has no mention of closures due to the wildfire on its library website (at least, not the landing page or the library hours page) despite the entire SCUCI campus closed today due to the fires.

The JSB Library’s Facebook page does provide information related to the wildfires and evacuation, such as content created from CSUCI’s Twitter account and the university’s website, too:


CSU Channel Islands will remain closed today due to the Camarillo Springs fire. The campus will also remain CLOSED FRIDAY, MAY 3.

Students who live on campus and University Glen residents must remain off campus and can find food and shelter at the Red Cross located at 380 Mobile Ave, Camarillo.

An interesting facet to the library’s Facebook page is the increased participation of followers. For example, one post includes seven comments expressing concern over the welfare of library staff, offers of shelter, and words of thanks to the fire fighters. Additionally, nine people liked the post, and several of the comments were liked.

CSUCI’s website has a message on the landing page with information about the campus closing and where to go for assistance; however, it is a brief press release, and they provide more detailed information via their twitter feed. Examples of information include where to find updates, where to find assistance as an on-campus student resident, and items to take and leave for evacuation.

These organizations’ usage of social media highlight the value of using social media as a source of information dissemination. One area for improvement, concerning information dissemination on a public/government website would be to maybe have a block of real-time information from its Facebook page or Twitter feed. Many content management systems offer a means of providing dynamic content on a website. I recognize that there should be careful consideration, concerning a website’s usability (a busy page is challenging for users and is then often disregarded as a resource); however, if those resources are the only means for providing current information (i.e. the workflow system facilitates a more static website), visibility of these resources needs to be a higher priority.

Information and communication strategies cannot exist in separate vacuums. They need to be fully integrated, allowing users or site visitors to seamlessly maneuver among them.

Digital Volunteers or Vigilantes? Reddit & the Boston Marathon Bombings

My Crisis/Disaster Health Informatics class discussed the role of digital volunteers during disruptive events. A major issue raised in discussions about digital volunteers was the legal aspect. Starbird (2013) explained that “the Good Samaritan Act does not extend to interactions that aren’t face to face,” but that many volunteer organizations are beginning to apply for a type of non-profit status that would provide some legal protections for digital volunteers. What happens when an organization does not seek to organize but is merely the framework for individual action?

The label used in many of the articles about Reddit and its role in the Boston Marathon bombing aftermath is vigilante and not volunteer, and this might be an important distinction here. Dickey (2012) defines a volunteer as “an individual or group working to improve the community without financial incentive,” and a vigilante as “an individual working with support from a group, or a member of a group, who works to protect the community through pro-active patrols and enforcement, perhaps beyond the strict limits of the law (Johnston, 1992, p. 13). Pecuniary gain is not a primary motivation, though restitution for losses may be” (p. 2).

An organization like Reddit merely facilitates communication among communities; it does not train members on proper communication and/or information dissemination. Perhaps we are labelling the Reddit members as vigilantes because we intuitively feel they are somehow operating outside the law–that there is some ethical line that has been crossed and that there will be no repercussions from either Reddit or the legal system for such actions?

The media coverage in the beginning hours of the bomber search appeared to pit Reddit against law enforcement, seemingly attempting to prove the ineffectiveness of government and triumph of the masses. Although oops777, a creator of one of the subreddits associated with finding the Boston bombers, provides a rather innocuous purpose for the subreddit–aggregating group-vetted suspicions and providing them to the FBI, the media coverage of these subreddits elevated these suspicions to a level of hysteria (Owens, 2013). In ensuing days, these digital volunteers have been largely painted as digital vigilantes. If Sunil Tripathi had less gentle, forgiving parents, Reddit and its members might already be facing legal retributions.

Another facet of this issues is that due to this negative media attention, much of the positive digital volunteerism occurring on Reddit has gone unnoticed. Are there dangers inherent in social media use during and after a crisis/disaster? Yes. Thus, is the nature of human communication during and after a crisis/disaster in general.

Perhaps rather than labeling some possibly well-meaning citizens as vigilantes, we can open up for discourse on how to facilitate positive digital volunteerism and to mitigate the threat of negative digital volunteerism, such as the witch hunt created from the media attention that focused on the subreddits. Should law enforcement attempt to engage these social media platforms more and elicit cooperation? What is the media’s responsibility in managing rumors and suspicion? Finally, should our legal system pursue avenues for holding social media platforms accountable for misinformation that causes irreparable harm and/or harassment?


Owens, S. (2013). Reddit’s Boston Marathon crowdsourcing: Digital witch hunt or law enforcement aid? U.S.News & World Report. Retrieved from

Dickey, R. (2012). Vigilante, volunteer, or profiteer? Deploying independent citizen-investigators for law enforcement: The case of Korea’s ‘Caparazzi’. Retrieved from

Starbird, K. Kate Starbird’s replies to your questions. [DOCX document]. Retrieved from Unit 5 Questions for Dr. Kate Starbird Discussion Board Online:

The AP’s Twitter Account: Manufacturing Crises

The Twitter account for the Associated Press (AP) was hacked and the following Tweet was posted: “Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.” Although White House officials quickly corrected the misinformation, this post is still charged with negatively affecting the stock market.

According to Pearlroth and Shear (2013), the AP’s account was compromised due to email phishing. This means of attack reminds me of an issue Gannon (2012) discusses about information and communication technologies (ICT) and user competence. Although Gannon’s (2012) focus is on the ability of Phase 1 disaster response agencies to harness ICTs, Pearlroth and Shear (2013) highlight the importance of ensuring a baseline level of digital literacy in any communication areas involving the dissemination of information to the public and/or critical agencies.

A crucial aspect to digital literacy is the knowledge and application of security and privacy policies and procedures. One major challenge in the realm of social media is that due to the nature of each platform/framework, no two security and privacy policies are alike. For example, Pearlroth and Shear (2013) analyze a couple of solutions to Twitter account hacking–the most notable being two-factor authentication.

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple offer this option. An example of two-factor authentication is signing into an account with a password and then receiving a text message with a PIN that must be entered at the next sign-in step in order to enter the account. Additionally, several online banking services utilize multi-factor authentication. Bank of America requires online account holders to sign-in with their accounts, verify their location, enter a password on the next page, verify a sitekey, and answer a security question if the device from which the user is signing in is not recognized by the site.

However, with Twitter, a purpose of its existence is instant gratification or the ability to quickly and easily share information in 140 character or less. Adding too many layers of authentication dilutes the spontaneity factor (Pearlroth & Shear, 2013). Information organizations or any organization of a certain size usually have workflow measures in place for crafting Twitter, Facebook, and other social media messages, which spontaneity is less of a factor anyway. Making two- or multi-factor verification an optional (like Facebook and Google) could at least mitigate risk for these types of social media clients.

Multiple layers of authentication still do not prevent organization’s social media accounts from compromise. It is still important to educate all staff on security measures related to ICTs. This type of training does not even need to be expensive. Goodwill Community Foundation International’s site offers free tutorials on internet safety and social media.

Newer ICTs, such as Twitter, can be powerful tools for information dissemination and communication during crises and disasters; however, we must be cautious about security and privacy issues associated with them; otherwise, these powerful tools have the potential to actually cause a crisis or disaster.


Pearlroth, N., & Shear, M. D. (2013). In hacking, A.P. Twitter feed sends false report of explosions. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Gannon, S. (2012). The Ericsson Response — a ten-year perspective: In the light of experience. In C. Hagar (Ed.), Crisis information management: Communication and technologies (pp. 103-120). Oxford: Chandos.

School Update and Recommendation

I am six official weeks into school; and I still love it! I agree that an online environment is not the best choice for everyone, but I have had continuous confirmation that I made the right choice. All three of my classes require that I write a discussion post and two response posts almost every week. I feel like I get a more meaningful grasp of the information through these written discussions than I ever did from discussions in a real world atmosphere. A minor example of this superiority for me is that if I am mentioning a more abstract idea or somebody else’s work, I can provide a link to that idea, which allows for both a shorthand in my discussion but also encourages my classmates to analyze sources for themselves and make a more relevant and meaningful response.

There is an argument that students feel lonelier in the online environment. I have group projects in two of my three classes. We have meetings in both of my teams usually once a week in either Google+ hangouts application or with Blackboard Collaborate. Additionally, I feel like I’m having a real conversation with my classmates when we are all engaging the discussion topics each week. Yes, there might be a time lag, but the results are much more germane to the discussion at hand. Plus, the physical act of seeing the threads helps me to keep better track of important information that I might forget in a vocal environment.

Alright, getting away from the library school details, I wanted to share a cool radio show. Growing up in a small town in the Midwest, I listened (with my dad) to the Thomas Jefferson Hour on our local NPR affiliate station. I have trouble finding the program on local stations where I live now, but they archive the episodes now. I used to catch up every few months, but I noticed this last time that they have implemented RSS (Really Simple Syndication) on their website. That means that if you push the orange button and follow the steps to connect it to your reader (e.g. Google Homepage or Google Reader–it’s what I use); you will get updates on when there is a new episode. I enjoyed this recent episode, “The Information Age.” Enjoy!

Preparing for Online Learning at SLIS

Online learning and teamwork can feel like this.
Or it can feel like this, depending on your preparedness. (Imagine my brother on right has an exhausted smile from having to work in a team. Darn it! He just could not cooperate for this photo that I would be using in my blog over six months after taking it!)

After a week of this introductory online class, I am confident that I made the right decision in choosing to earn my MLIS from SJSU’s School of Library and Information Science. Library 203 is the first course a student takes at SLIS and prepares that student for online learning. One valuable unit in this class that could have been easily overlooked in the setup of this class is the section regarding personal assessment and teamwork. The first half of the unit challenges the student examine whether online learning is the correct path for that student both from a personal and practical standpoint. The second half of the unit addresses the benefits and issues of working in teams and the important role teamwork will play in a student’s success at SLIS.

Being from that lucky generation to have had a life devoid of the technologies we see today in the early part of my childhood and filled with technology later (Okay, I was still a kid when this transition occurred; and my husband says my family adopted computers earlier than the average household since we had a family-owned business that required computer-use; but I still count myself as part of that generation since we started out on DOS systems) made me more than computer literate. My family’s first home computer was a Tandy 1000. If I wanted to use the Sesame Street Word Processor or play Space Invaders, I had to know how to navigate the system. If I inserted a disk, the program wouldn’t just run automatically with a magical setup wizard. I had to be disciplined and independent enough to figure out how to run it. As I got older, and computers wove themselves seamlessly into everybody’s lives, I continued that independence and self-discipline. At various jobs, I was the designated geek that fixed everything from the computer, printer, and phone to the coffee machine and toilet (yes, tragically, I cannot turn down even the dirtiest of challenges). Library 203’s unit on personal assessment confirmed for me that these skills and traits would serve me well as an online student.

A few more virtues ascribed to a successful online learner, time-management, organization, and self-motivation, were not necessarily my strong points in undergraduate school, however. I loved my time studying at KU and living in Lawrence, Kansas; but as a young person, I think I often juggled too much at once–full course load, full-time job, and full social calendar. Thankfully, six years of working in “the real world,” traveling, and (don’t laugh but, surprisingly) planning my wedding (while living in another state) have ironed out my issues with those three attributes.

I’ve stubbed my toe on some of the practical requirements online learning, most notably the need for a Windows operating system. I made the switch over to Mac OS X and Linux systems after a poor experience with Windows Vista at my previous job (worst OS ever!); but I’ll make it work. I do like some of the practical tips suggested in this unit, such as using an online calendar, logging in to the system daily, and creating a folder system on my computer.

I also like how they mention the differences between reading online and reading books. I know that much reading has an effect on eyes in general. One my jobs involved working at an optometry practice. We had patients come in with excellent vision one year, then need vision correction the next year because they had started law school or some other graduate program with an intensive reading workload. Little tip from me: be sure to take mini-breaks: look away from your book or computer screen at something in the distance. Give yourself a stretch by standing up, too. This forces you to remember to look away for a bit. Your eyes (and your wallet b/c vision correction can be expensive) will thank you.

I’m glad this particular module included teamwork, as well. I think the ability to work in a team is a valuable tool to successful online learning and to working/volunteering at a job. I like the pairing of both personal assessment and teamwork into one section because I think you have to know yourself before you can work in a team.

This idea was confirmed in Dr. Ken Haycock’s lecture on teamwork, which I was required to watch for the class. He says you should first assess your own strengths (e.g. taking notes) and weaknesses (e.g. getting upset by a certain group member’s behavior). After this initial assessment, he says it’s important to examine what aspects are compatible with and/or inappropriate for the group.

Dr. Haycock also stresses the importance of setting up “ground rules” by coming to a consensus on the team’s goals, responsibilities and accountability. This is a step I have skipped in the past, and it has always resulted in an unproductive work environment or worse. I think my most terrible failures have stemmed from poor teamwork, especially in vertical teams where there were different levels of authority. Discussing ground rules are implied/expected or just avoided because there is this added element of “this person is my boss, so he/she should have more responsibility in this area of the project” or “I’m to busy dealing with x, y, and z; so these people should know that I won’t be doing that part of the project”. Setting up boundaries early on and having the accountability put in place before any roadblocks arrived would have saved a lot of heartache.

That’s the other thing I liked about this lecture. Dr. Haycock admits that there will be roadblocks. He says every team will go through a process of “forming, storming, norming, and performing” (easy to remember when it rhymes, right?). A team begins by clarifying its goals and personal and group responsibilities and accountability. That way it’s prepared when it hits some roadblocks, such as one person taking over the project and steamrolling everybody else, or the group keeps going off on tangents. Every team goes through these bumps, and if it learns how to manage these problems before they start, they can hopeful get to a normalizing phase that helps them to become productive.

I was also required to watch part-time SLIS faculty member Enid Erwin’s lecture on teamwork entitled, “The Monster Inside Library School: Student Teams”. Much of her lecture covers the same issues but in a slightly different way. The two main nuggets I took from her lecture are to have the right attitude about teamwork and that it might actually be easier working with teams in an online environment than a traditional classroom environment, which is something she found to be true in her own studies.

I think I will end up agreeing with her on this notion because I am already finding that I am much more productive and participatory in an online course than I was in a regular classroom setting. I feel more involved in the process. I also like that much of my correspondence has to be visual and not auditory. It’s easier for me to communicate what I actually want to say when I write it than when I say it. My family and friends will tell you that my storytelling is much more concise on a page then out of my mouth.

We Can Do It!

Julie flexes a bicep in front of a mural of Rosie the Riveter.My name is Julie Oborny, and I am starting my first semester in the School of Library and Information Science at San José State University. My usual adventures consist of traveling to new places, trying creative food, and hiking through beaches, forests, or mountains. I have decided to pursue a masters in Library and Information Science because I think it will be another great adventure.

With constant technological advances, leaving society to breathlessly play catch-up, and a shift from the individual and anonymity toward community and transparency; seamless public access to quality information requires the Library and Information Science field to embrace the challenges it has been given recently (e.g. budget cuts, licensing issues with publishing companies, etc). I can’t wait to join the ranks of information professionals!