A colleague of mine at Google recently shared a new and very interesting Web App that tracks breaking news events by monitoring Wikipedia edits in real-time. The App, Wikipedia Live Monitor, alerts users to breaking news based on the frequency of edits to certain articles. Almost every significant news event has a Wikipedia page that gets updated in near real-time and thus acts as a single, powerful cluster for tacking an evolving crisis.
Social media, in contrast, is far more distributed, which makes it more difficult to track. In addition, social media is highly prone to false positives. These, however, are almost immediately corrected on Wikipedia thanks to dedicated editors. Wikipedia Live Monitor currently works across several dozen languages and also “cross-checks edits with social media updates on Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook to help users get a better sense of what is trending” (1).
I’m really excited to explore the use of this Live Monitor for crisis response and possible integration with some of the humanitarian technology platforms that my colleagues and I at QCRI are developing. For example, the Monitor could be used to supplement crisis information collected via social media using the Artificial Intelligence for Disaster Response (AIDR) platform. In addition, the Wikipedia Monitor could also be used to triangulate reports posted to our Verily platform, which leverages time-critical crowdsourcing techniques to verify user-generated content posted on social media during disasters.