Typhoon Haiyan on social media

The Philippines struggled to bury the dead and get food, water and medicine to the living Tuesday, four days after Super Typhoon Haiyan claimed untold lives and flattened countless buildings.

“Right now, we don’t have enough water,” typhoon survivor Roselda Sumapit told CNN in Tacloban, a city of more than 200,000 that was flattened by the storm. What they can get may not be clean, she said — but she added, “We still drink it, because we need to survive.”

The government’s confirmed death toll was 1,774 early Tuesday, said Jose Lampe Cuisa Jr., the Philippine ambassador to the United States. The storm has injured 2,487 more, and displaced 660,000 people from their homes.

Patrick Meier already covered the impact of the typhoon on social media here. Meier harnesses the information-gathering power of social media to improve the speed and effectiveness of relief efforts. He’s using a relatively new set of “crisis mapping” tools to assist humanitarian work during the ongoing disaster of Super Typhoon Haiyan (also called Yolanda) in the Philippines. (See “What’s a typhoon?”)

Meier is director of social innovation at the Qatar Foundation’s Computing Research Institute in Qatar. He develops tools, like the just launched website MicroMappers, that quickly sort through online data, from tweets to uploaded photos, and then display the information on satellite maps.

They have been doing an incredible job by continuously feed their TweetClicker and ImageClicker with new tweets and images. I invite all people involved to join this huge collaborative effort us to provide Ushahidi’s UN partners with the situational awareness they need to coordinate their important relief efforts on the ground. The results of all Ushahidi’s clicks are displayed here.

Social Media has become a necessity during a disaster. To help with assessments, OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) has asked the Digital Humanitarian Network to activate their volunteer base to first assist with media monitoring and mapping for Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) then to help scour social media and other online platforms for information about damage and impact that is being posted by affected people in the Philippines.

The purpose of the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHNetwork) is to leverage digital networks in support of 21st century humanitarian response. More specifically, the aim of this network-of-networks is to form a consortium of Volunteer and Technical Communities (V&TCs) and to provide an interface between formal, professional humanitarian organizations and informal yet skilled-and-agile volunteer and technical networks.

Typhoon_Haiyan_social_media Continue reading “Typhoon Haiyan on social media”

The grass is always greener on the other side…and so are analytics tools

There are literally thousands of social media analytics tools out there. When you get accustomed to one tool sometimes you might get the feeling that you are missing out on something and that other analytics tool can offer incredible, flashy and (apparently) indispendible features that would ease your work or provide you with some data which will help the enrichment of your social media reports.

This is something I always try to stress as a social media analysts: the fact that other tools may offer “more”, doesn’t mean that other tools can offer what you actually need.

There are 1000s of tools out there offering more or less the same data, stats etc… and that try to differentiate themselves by adding some (sometimes insignificant) features.

The question you should ask yourself is “what data do I need in order to produce a good report about my social media activity, campaign or project?”

Secondly, you should investigate which tools provide this data.

Thirdly, among the tools you have identified, you can choose the one you think is the most user-friendly.

If you do the opposite (checking what features a set of tools can offer and then go for the most “complete one”) your quest will be biased by some “needs” you possibly don’t have while analysing your social media activity.

Don’t get me wrong, experimenting doesn’t hurt. So, I do encourage you to try different tools (if time permits). But when making your final choice, I would recommend sticking to the points above.

To thank or not thank (for the follow) shouldn’t be a dilemma

Thanking for the follow is a quite common practice especially among consultants, communication experts or people working in public relations. Still, I find it hard to see the added value in “thanking for the follow.” Let’s break it down:


  • You display engagement with your audience.
  • You acknowledge and digitally “reward” your new followers, giving them “social currency.”
  • You look kind and friendly.


  • You look like you’re trying to sell a second-hand car.

Acknowledging your network is absolutely golden, but is thanking for the follow the right way to do so?

What do you think?


QWANTity or quality: what’s qwant all about?

Qwant is a search engine launched by a French-owned and managed start-up. You enter your search query and Qwant provides results based on web pages, news, videos, images and also social networks.

Below the search bar you will also find trending topics of the day. Although, I haven’t managed to discover what this algorithm is based on.

CatturaWe are all aware that Google has (almost???) monopolized the world of search engines by integrating the most used services world-wide under one big umbrella (Google searches, Google maps, gmail, Google earth, Google docs). Ergo, you would think that challenging such a giant should come from a very revolutionary product.

According to their brand, Qwant’s goal is to revolutionize the way a user conducts research on the Internet. I admire the attempt and boldness of a small start up to challenge a giant in a David vs Goliath like battle on the other hand I must point out a few factors:

Here is for instance what happens if you enter “European Commission.”


It is indeed an interesting overview. On the other hand, let’s try to analyse these results from the user’s point of view.

  • Experience matters. I remember when I was 13 or 14 years old (I’m 27) and had this wide range of search engines Altavista, Virgilio, Yahoo, Arianna. Even looking for the most common term was like wandering on a J-STOR list of papers on neo-liberal international relations theory. It is indeed hard to get accustomed to new ways to look for and filter information. This should not however be a point against Qwant.
  • Where’s the added value? The integration with social media seems to be their USP. However, Google does the same, and does it pretty well to. If we take the example of Twitter, I think Google does it even better than Twitter itself especially when it comes to looking for profiles. I use Google and type “twitter [name]” and, wow, it’s right there.
  • Quality vs Qwantity: In an era of information overload, users will be looking more and more for accurate search results. Qwant provides broader overviews but still lacks of targeted result display.
  • Qwant powers its search with Bing. Bing!???

Google are just smart. 15 years or search experience smart, and it’s hard to think another search engine is going to ‘dethrone’ them or even take 0.01% of the search market. As my coach says “good effort” but Qwant is not going to bring the game home.

A few lessons from #Europcom 2013

I only managed to attend one panel at this year’s Europcom. I really like this event. The topics are always very interesting and the participants’ level of expertise is always quite high. I noticed that comms2point0, a regular invitee to this event, made a very good and comprehensive summary of both day one and day two of the conference which I invite you to read.

The panel I attended was about the reputation of the EU institutions. Public criticism of the European institutions is on the rise. What is the impact of this on support for the European Union? What tools and strategies can be developed to fight the myths and clichés, and to set up a balanced dialogue with the public?

The debate was moderated by Rob Heirbaut and the speakers were Simona Guerra from the University of Leicester; Mélanie McCluskey from the Reputation Institute in Belgium; Sjerp van der Vaart from the European Parliament Information Office in Belgium; Sixtine Bouygues, Director for Strategy and Corporate Communication at the European Commission and Antonia Mochan from the Representation of the European Commission in the UK.

In particular, there were three lessons I took from the event.

Sixtine Bouygues, Director for Strategy and Corporate Communication in DG COMM, pointed out the importance of two main factors when dealing with reputation of institutions: “transparency and accountability.” While elaborating on this issue, she noted the effort made by the European Commission to rationalise its online presence and harmonise its visual identity.

At the same time, another challenge for EU institutions is to guarantee that all information is available, accessible and visible. “Being there and providing efficient information services to the citizens should be a priority for public institutions.” Rationalisation means better spending of public money and easier access for users and these are priorities in DG Communication’s work. Web rationalisation was also the topic of our last blog post written by Robert Andrecs, the head of digital communications in the European Commission.

Antonia Mochan didn’t need PowerPoint. She got right to the point during her talk and she discussed some very important topics related to targeting.

First of all, “if you don’t know who you are talking to then it won’t matter what you say.” Knowing who you target and how your target audience communicates is absolutely crucial in addressing institutional messages.

Secondly, it is important to focus on the “big picture.” The EU has over 500 million citizens and it is indeed challenging to address them all at once in all the domains that they could be interested in. Hence, it is important to be able to think out of the box or in this case, out of the “bubble.”

In all places of institutional importance at both national and international level, it is common to get caught up in professional bubbles, such as the famous “Eurobubble” or, as mentioned by Antonia, the Westminster bubble. No matter in which institutional bubble you find yourself, communicators have to think about the concern and the means of the people they are targeting, not the means and the topics used and discussed only in their bubbles.

I hope next year’s edition will include some brilliant insights again and that I will be able to attend more panels.

I tried Google Glass…and I liked it. But, do I need it?

Right, here we go. I finally managed to try Google Glass. It was at Google’s offices in Brussels (lovely offices by the way) some time ago. I had a lot of expectations from this product. I had noticed already that a few well-known communications and innovation experts had been already given Google Glass for trial and test but still it was hard for me to understand what this item could actually do. Besides, the hype around them has been really huge especially since the release of the first teaser video in 2012 so, I was very curious.


The presentation was lovely with a group of well-prepared young American (I think all of them were) Google employees who had been touring around Europe and the rest of the world to provide Google Glass demos.

Google Glass is interesting for specific uses, but you’re going to struggle to find a use for them all the time. It didn’t seem like they’re going to replace looking at your smartphone any time soon.

I’m not a particular fan of wearable computing and I admit I’m not a big fan of people using Siri or talking on the phones directly through their headphones…Brrrrrr They look to me like they have watched too many Wall Street-based movies and they actually look ridiculous. Anyway…

The device lent to me was both light and comfortable possibly also because I’m used to wear glasses . You can wear Google Glass without lenses, so you just have the frame, although Google is planning to make them adaptable for actual prescription lenses. The frame is made of titanium, which you can bend to fit your face without breaking.

Now, let’s talk frankly. When you wear them, you don’t look that cool. Although the Swedish designer did a great job making such device sort of conceivable, you still look a like Vegeta from Dragonball Z who is now claiming that he used to wear Google Glass before it was cool. See picture below in case you were born out of the Dragonball Z generation.


You turn Google Glass on by moving your head up, or tapping the side of the frame. This activates a tiny screen showing the time, and the phrase “OK Glass” floating about 10 centimetres in the upper right part. By saying “OK Glass” you get a menu with a range of options such as “Google…(something)”, “take a picture”, record a video”, “get directions to … “, “send a message to … “, “call somebody”, “hang out with … ” Regardless what I read in other reviews, I actually found it pretty accurate when I asked for instance to get “directions to the Atonium” or to “Google my blog” or to “take a picture.”
The presenter explained that in some cases, it might be good to put up an American accent but that sound recognition is constantly being assessed and improved.

A problem with the voice command is that obviously you are not inaudible. Think about other people’s reactions when hearing a man just shouting things out loud. Can you imagine being on the bus and say “OK Glass, give me directions to the nearest sushi shop…” or something like it, or worse, witnessing something unusual on the streets and start shouting “PHOTO, PHOTO, PHOTO!!!!!” or “RECORD A VIDEO, RECORD A VIDEO!!!!” Let’s not forget that “normal people” don’t do so.

There is a way around this of course. You don’t really need to say: “OK Glass, take a picture”. You can just press a button on the top of the sidepiece, or hold it down for video. But then, why wouldn’t you do it with your smartphone? This brings up the notorious privacy issue since there’s no warning to anyone around you that you’re taking photos or videos. Still, there are plenty of similar conceivable devices already available on the market so I don’t see why this very product would create a different case study.

One of the key strengths of this product is that it shows a considerable effort by Google to impose themselves as innovators. In fact, I see how some niche markets could make good use of Glass like in the medical sphere, in technological research or even (why not?) in sports refereeing.

On the other hand, regular people don’t need to walk around needing to Google things. We use our smartphones for that.

The Nobel peace prize tweet that says it all…

Just for those who didn’t see this, my colleague Pablo Perez flagged me this beautiful tweet

The Nobel Peace Prize 2013 has been given to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) “for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.”

It appears that the people from the Nobel Prize organization were trying to get in touch with OPCW via “traditional communication” without success and that’s why they opted for the public social media sphere way.

Sincere congratulations to OPCW for this extraordinary achievement and for pursuing a very noble cause in a time where conflicts have been reaching unprecedented levels of atrocity.



Blog posts of the week

Every Friday, I post my TOP 5 blog posts about social media and digital communication of the week. It’s basically an #FF for blogs.

By DigitalBuzz

I think we’ve all been waiting to see where this would go, so here is one of the first Google Glass concepts specifically made for the healthcare sector, and in particular to link Philips Healthcare technology patient data into the Google Glass Display.

By Claire Cain Miller

As Twitter gets ready to go public, everyone is keeping a close eye on its leadership, namely its lack of females at the executive level. Claire Cain Miller pointedly shows Twitter that it’s not so hard to find a few women for the board — despite what Twitter execs say — by giving them a list of 25 nominees — including Cindy Gallop, Shelly Lazarus and Indra Nooyi. Continue reading “Blog posts of the week”

The World Leader Twitter & Web Directory

I was recently added to World Leader Twitter & Web Directory a project managed by Barclay Browne which I consider both ambitious and very useful for people working in social media and communication.

As we can see from the about page of their blog:

One essential element to the Electronic Diplomatic Dialogue, is being sure of “Who is Whom” among electronic accounts purporting to be those of governments and government officials. Hence, I assembled The “World Leader Twitter and Web Directory,” and have made it freely and publicly available with the simple goal of facilitating clear dialogue via Twitter both among government and elected officials and between world leaders and their constituents.

Now, I managed to get in touch with Barclay Browne, the man behind the scene and I asked him a few questions about his projects, ideas and goals for the future.

After joining Twitter, Barclay had the privilege of connecting with a group of individuals who care deeply about the larger world and their capacity to give to it. This crew who call themselves the #TFF’s have chirped their support and enthusiastic encouragement of Barclay’s development of the directory for over a year and a half now.

Barclay says she would never have met or connected with any of them if she had not joined the fray of public discourse that is alive and well in the Twitterverse.

Also, Mr. Nigel Cameron (@NigelCameron), and International Diplomacy, Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey (@MuhamedSacirbey), have shared their encouragement with Barclay.

When one has the encouragement of people who have such great experience, it matters.

Barclay is the most part a “Twitterista,” although she does blog a bit and makes use of other digital tools for communication. She represents no formal or official group and labels himself a Twittizen.

Here is the interview I had with her.

index Continue reading “The World Leader Twitter & Web Directory”

Is Storify still useful?

This is a genuine and honest question. Since tweets are embeddable, what is the point anymore of making Storifies? On 9th September 2013 Storify has been acquired by Livefyre. For those who don’t know, Storify is a social media curation site which allows users to cull posts, such places as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on a given event and turn them into timelines or stories. Livefyre is a business-oriented site which claims to help “companies engage consumers through a combination of real-time conversation, social curation and social advertising.” To my knowledge (but I’d be happy to be proved wrong) Storifies are not widely read and other live-blogging platforms such as ScribbleLive (although it’s not for free) offer a much more complete, interesting and valuable product.

I mean, I simply can’t see the point of making Storifies anymore. I keep an open mind and I’m sure there are some reasons to use them. On the other hand, 850.000 users can’t all be wrong.

Can anyone provide any good arguments in favour of using Storify?