Crisis Commons project enables public to report oil spill info from their phones

Crisis Commons
Oil Reporter, a new project from Crisis Commons, is a data initiative that seeks to gather any and all public data on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The group has released iPhone and Android apps to enable the public to upload geotagged photos and information on the spill.

Using an open API, response and volunteer groups can customize Oil Reporter for their own use, submit data to the larger project and build more data collection elements. The project makes it clear (through a welcome screen on the site and through the apps) that all contributed data beyond the official sources is both public and unverified. Response groups can ask to be matched with a volunteer mobile developer to get their own apps up and running.

In addition, the open-source code for both mobile apps is stored on GitHub.

Crisis Commons is a volunteer group that aims to create "a common community through a mash-up of citizen volunteers, crisis response organizations, international humanitarian relief agencies, nonprofits and the private sector."

There are a couple of interesting takeaways for news organizations. First, since this uses an open API and the app code is open-source, the data and the application code are available to your newsroom.

Second, and probably more important, is the idea of building a community-contributed crisis site. Could you develop a template for community data that could be quickly adapted and released when a hurricane, tornado or other disaster strikes your area?

  • Regina McCombs

    Regina McCombs is a faculty member of The Poynter Institute, teaching multimedia, and social and mobile journalism. She was the senior producer for multimedia at in Minneapolis-St. Paul for 11 years.


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